November 11, 2010

Puzzle People. Or, Being a Pack Rat Has Benifits

I'm a culler. Meaning that I like to sort through our things on a regular basis and cull out what we don't use and get rid of it. Well I can't really say that I like it. Sometimes I like it, but mostly I like when we aren't overflowing with stuff, so I feel compelled to do it. But it's not my natural state. Really, I'm a pack rat. A recovering pack rat. And the two sides of me really battle it out over craft supplies, or even things that might be craft supplies. It's hard to toss out/recycle/donate that bag of this and that which could, at some point, be useful. I suppose that's what the definition of a pack rat though.
Like a bag of puzzle pieces which has been sitting in my art chest in the mudroom taking up space for about eight months. Every time I open that drawer I wonder if I should just toss them in the recycling. The organizer in me says yes, they are taking up space. The pack rat in me says no, you never know when you might need a few puzzle pieces. So far the pack rat has won out. And you know what? The pack rat was totally right! Yesterday Evie and I colored puzzle pieces and turned them into wreaths and trees and people and I couldn't help thinking "what if I'd thrown these out?" Happy that I hadn't.
Last week I was interviewed for an article on living in a small space. At just over 1100 square feet and with two work at homers, I suppose we are living small, although most of the time our house doesn't feel particularly small to me. I guess part of that is due to finding that balance between culling and saving. The reporter and I talked about the importance of organization and how people don't need as much "stuff" as they have but that you also have to have spaces and times when things can be all over, because with two kids, two pets and two grown-ups who are prone to projects, that's just how it's got to be.

With our playroom gone, we have been doing some experimenting around here, especially as the temperature has gotten colder and the nights have come earlier, with using the spaces we do have in a way that accommodates everyone's projects and activities. It doesn't always go smoothly, and we haven't faced any long periods of "too cold to go outside" days, but I'm far less worried about the prospect of the winter than I was last spring when we decided to make this switch. Maybe that is, in part, because that longer than long, snowier than snowy winter that we had has faded a little from my mind.
Or maybe we are just starting to figure it all out. The office is a family space. The coffee table is the spot for puzzles and checkers and playdoh and doodling. The hallway is the perfect place for a train to rumble along. It's still a balancing act. Keep, toss, pull out, put away, you work here, I'll work there, they'll play over there. But I'm finding that I am much happier to have this balancing act than the ones we might be having if we lived different lives.

Do you live small? Does it even feel small to you? Or do you need space to stretch and sprawl and run? Although I definitely have some strong feelings about living small, or smaller, I know there are people who wouldn't dream of it. If you are living small, how do you handle that balance between what to keep and what to toss and where to put and do all the things that happen in a house?