Thursday, June 09, 2011

OCD tip: to regain a sense of control, try scrapbooking

I know I owe a Philadelphia blog, which is mostly written, I just have to add pictures to it. (Don’t even mention the Mexico blog. One of these days…)

Before that, I’d like to briefly talk about the mental struggle I’ve been experiencing since I got back from Philadelphia, which was a delightful trip and has me thinking about moving back, which happens every time. (Today it’s 100 degrees there which dampens my desire to relocate.) Seattle weather has been wintry and depressing and it has everyone Down in the Dumps, which affects us all differently.

For me, for whatever reason, I feel a loss of control over my environment; I'm fractured, disorganized, without direction. I tried to alleviate this by hiring my friend Brian to finally hang everything that’s been leaning against the walls since October while I simultaneously cleaned out every drawer, nook, and cranny in my house. However, as a minimalist I haven’t gathered much and that didn’t give me the satisfaction I was craving. Then I saw it: the giant plastic tub filled with 11 years’ worth of scrapbooking material.

Back in November I bought a bunch of scrapbooking supplies and was determined to make a winter project out of it. My last major scrapbooking initiative was when I was a senior in high school, 11 years ago. I put together books of school work, written work, photos, and random memorabilia, and I’m still grateful to my young self for taking that initiative. Since then I’ve been collecting memories and storing them in a variety of manila envelopes and plastic bags at best, with most items loose which I gathered into the one bin the last time I moved all my stuff.

For whatever reason, that didn’t happen this winter, and it’s been a persistent, unfinished nag since then. So on Tuesday night, when I got home at 8 with a few drinks in me and the urge to do something productive, I busted out the bin and got to work.

Four hours later, this is what my living room looked like, and still looks like:

It’s hard to see but there’s a little semicircle against the couch where I was sitting, and surrounding that circle are about 9 stuffed manila envelopes and several filing folders, plus all the stuff on the floor. Believe it or not, this is Highly Organized.

I got through all the organization of items into categories and/or chronological groups. Simply sorting through everything was really the hardest part, since I had to look at every individual item, ascertain what it was, whether or not it was important enough to scrapbook, and if so, find its appropriate category or year. A few observations/random notes:

  • It’s scary how terrible my memory is. There were things that didn’t jog my memory, even a tiny bit. For instance, I was a volunteer English teacher in Philadelphia for two years and I saved all the class rosters. Out of 4 classes, only ONE STUDENT’S NAME rang a bell. This actually made me so upset/depressed that I had to put them away in a folder.

  • Even on the things I did remember, I have always been dreadful at remembering WHEN things happened. So, to get things in the right place, I sent many texts asking random questions like “What year did you act in the Twilight Zone?” and “What year did I visit you when you were that band’s tour manager in Philadelphia?” I was often cursing myself for not dating items with the year – so many notes and other items with just the day and month. IDIOT. (Likewise for first names vs. first AND last names.) Also it's strange to me the things that don't have years on them, such as airline ticket stubs.

  • I think it’s sweet how many things I save, but not practical to scrapbook them all. So, I enjoy the items for the memory jolt they give me, but discard quite a few of them in favor of saving the really good ones and not being overwhelmed by too much material down the line. I have a similar approach to photos - I delete a lot of them so that when I'm old I don't have 500,000 to sort through.

  • I found so many cards from my dear Grandpa Joe that I actually had to put them away to read later because every time I came across one I got a little teary. He was a wonderful letter writer and card giver and it was just too touching to deal with in my high-gear sorting OCD headspace.

  • Speaking of things I found, a $200 savings bond that Gramma and Grandpa Archer gave me for my high school graduation - score! I knew I had it, I just didn’t know exactly WHERE it was. It’s now worth $148, which I suspect is the same it would be worth once it gets to $200 once adjusted for inflation, so I’m going to cash that sucker in.

  • I may be a recluse for the next few weeks. Once I start a project, I can’t go back...


Desomniac said...

For the most part, the only people I've heard complaining about the weather are transplants. Real Seattlites know this is how it is. I for one love it. As for scrap booking, wow. I thought I saved a bunch of random stuff. You put me to shame it sounds like. Good luck. I'll look forward to seeing the final product?

ElizaBeth said...

I also love the Seattle climate, but I've heard plenty of locals complaining along with me. I think the big issue is that last year's summer was such a bust that people are impatient for this year's to start, and also terrified that it won't ever come.

Anonymous said...

I've lived here my whole life and used to mock those who complained about the weather - sometimes I still do. But I have to admit it has been getting to me the last few years. Part of it might be that the weather has been cold, cloudy and gloomy even by our standards the last couple years. I've been feeling the urge to move somewhere warmer and sunnier, at least for a time. - Nick