Sunday, October 9, 2016

A time of renewal

Last Monday was Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish year. It's a time for reflecting on what was good and bad about the past year and what you'd like to change in the year to come. There's even a ritual called Tashlich, in which you toss bread crumbs into a river or lake to symbolize casting off your sins—or, if you're a more modern type of Jew, your personal shortcomings—so you can start the new year with a clean slate.

Well, I didn't go to any actual services this year, but I have been spending this past week cleaning up my life in a variety of ways. For starters, last weekend I finally took the plunge and decided to upgrade my computer. Ever since I got this computer five years ago, I've been using the same OS it came with, Snow Leopard (MacOS 10.6), never daring to upgrade because I feared that a new version of OSX would break all my software. Before I got this refurbished model, I'd tried a new one running Lion, or 10.7, and it was so impossible to work with that I decided I was just going to stick with what I had as long as it still worked.

However, for several months now, I've been seeing signs that "as long as it still worked" wasn't going to last much longer. Various websites started warning me that they would no longer work with my current browsers (I use both Firefox and Chrome), and I couldn't upgrade the browsers without upgrading the OS. Then the browsers themselves started popping up warning messages saying they were "no longer supported." Wordpress, the online editor I use with one of my clients, took to crashing unpredictably; without warning, my work would disappear and Chrome would pop up a message saying, "Oh snap! This page could not be loaded." Fortunately I always saved a backup copy in Word on my hard drive, since Wordpress had always been persnickety—but then Word itself started crashing when I tried to paste content from Workpress into it. I eventually realized that I was going to have to either upgrade or replace the whole machine, and I figured the upgrade would be—if it worked—the more ecofrugal option of the two.

Unfortunately, Apple came out with a brand-new OS about a week before I came to this conclusion—and this latest version, Sierra (10.12), was so advanced that I couldn't upgrade directly to it from Snow Leopard. So I had to upgrade first to the "interim version" of the previous OS, El Capitan, and then upgrade from there to Sierra. And once that was done, I had to download new versions of all my software: browsers, mail program, productivity software, and so on. The whole process took most of the weekend, but aside from the time involved, it actually went pretty smoothly; all my old documents are still readable, my old e-mails are still accessible, and my old bookmarks are still working. And the only piece of new software I actually had to pay for was the latest version of Office, which set me back about $150. (I would have just gone with the free open-source version, LibreOffice, but another of my clients requires its documents to be in Word form, and my editor there said that conversion between the two doesn't always work smoothly. So I had to spring for the paid software, but at least I can deduct it as a business expense.)

While Brian was busy fiddling with my computer, I was in the bedroom cleaning out my closet. This was another move that had been sort of brewing for a while; over the past year, I'd been pulling the odd unused item out of my wardrobe and tucking it into a bag of stuff I intended to either donate or discard—eventually. But after a while, I decided that the bag was just cluttering up the bedroom, and I should really go through my entire wardrobe properly, cull all the unwanted items, and donate the lot. So last weekend, I was in and out of the bedroom, trying on pretty much everything I own, periodically popping out to model an outfit for Brian and get a thumbs-up or thumbs-down from him before deciding.

Some of the choices were difficult for me because they were items I'd only bought recently. Like the velvet jacket I found at a rummage sale that was, on further examination, really too long for me—and not something I'd ever really have an occasion to wear, anyway. Or the pair of shoes I picked up at last month's town-wide yard sales after only a brief try-on, which proved, after more extensive wear, to be uncomfortably snug. If I decided to give these items away, it would be like throwing away the money I'd spent on them—which is something I just hate to do, even if it's only three bucks. But looking at it rationally, I was forced to conclude that there was no way I was going to get my money's worth out of these items by keeping them unused in my closet; they'd just be taking up space that could go to clothes I would actually wear and enjoy.

So item by item, the pile of clothing on my bed grew: pants I'd bought online that had never really fit me properly, too-long sweaters, oversized shirts. I refused to be swayed by sentiment: gifts from my late grandmother and the dress I wore to my sister's wedding were not spared the axe. The one exception was a long-sleeved shirt I've had for years, which I always loved because it looked so good on me, but which has now worn out to the point that the sleeves just develop new holes the minute I stitch up the old ones. So I merely cut the sleeves off that one, and I'm planning to try stitching up the armholes so I can continue to wear it at least a little while longer as a tank top.

Aside from that one item, all the clothes got sorted out into three piles. Items in good condition that I thought might look good on my friends or relatives were set aside to be offered to them the next time I see them. Items in good condition that were the wrong size for everyone I know went into a big box to be picked up by the war veterans' association. And items that weren't fit for anyone to wear went into a small bag to be dumped in the nearest textile recycling box. (It's a couple of miles from our house, but less than a mile from the H-Mart, so we just made a small detour to drop off the items on our latest grocery run.)

And while we were at it, Brian and I took the opportunity to do the "recycling rounds" of our town as well and get rid of some other hard-to-recycle items that had been accumulating in our house. We took a big batch of cereal-box liners, along with a couple of toothpaste tubes and deodorant canisters, to the Terracycle bin at the Reformed Church, then deposited a collection of plastic bags in the bag bin at the local Stop & Shop.

So, as the new year begins, our waste receptacles are empty, my computer is functioning, and my closet has been stripped down to the stuff that actually fits and is useful to me. I know, of course, that this situation won't last forever. The bins will fill up again; new "improvements" to software and websites will inevitably slow my computer down again; and the items in my closet will wear out or become less useful as my shape and/or my lifestyle change. But for the time being, at least, my year is off to a fresh start.
Post a Comment