Consumer confidence might be constipated, but New Yorkers aren’t: They’re voiding and releasing with an unprecedented bravura. Shrieks of delight are issuing from every orifice of this great city of ours, as the formerly fiercely acquisitive, often tight-assed inhabitants are now discovering the joys of evacuating both body and home. Do try it. It’s the new post-boom, pre-recession, self-punitive asceticism, and it feels fantastic! It has even hit the art scene.
As reported last month in The New York Times , a bunch of American artists (Trong Nguyen, John Freyer and Michael Mandiberg, to be precise) are selling all their possessions online. The lofty purpose: They claim they are exploring issues about how one’s personality is defined by one’s possessions. Which makes perfect sense … oh, wait–no, it doesn’t! The current generation of artists–the post-skill movement–seem to love nothing more than to “explore issues” without ever reaching any conclusions. Small wonder they all take to drink! But I digress.
Are these artists really initiating a dialectic about possessions and identity? Or have they merely discovered–and become addicted to–that garage-sale laxative high that only de-accessioning and purging can bring? And isn’t their schtick made more addictive by the fact that they are converting their detritus into cash? Mr. Freyer even flogged his friendships; last December, he sold an invite to his birthday party to a complete stranger on eBay. The purchaser, a Mr. Brian Troyer, claims it was the best $1.25 he ever spent; he now hangs out with Mr. Freyer’s friends.
In The Times , Mr. Freyer claimed that “people are the objects which surround them.” Sorry, girls, but isn’t this a bit of a cliché? And is it accurate? Every day, gazillions of people lose everything they have through tragedy or general pillaging and emerge with their identities vigorously intact. Sometimes they even seem delighted–e.g., the recent Drew Barrymore and Tom Green fire. As the two fresh-faced thespians drove away from the charred remains of their Hollywood Home, they were unable to hide their euphoria. They weren’t just glad to be alive; they were possession-free, and high as kites.
Since artists don’t draw conclusions, I will: People are not defined by their possessions; they are confined by them.
Now it’s your turn.
Here are my five tips for evacuating chez toi , inside and out:
1. Stockpile your psyllium.
I knew a man once–across-dresser, actually–who ingested volcanic ash wheneverhe wanted to have “a good clear-out.” I content myself with Kellogg’s All-Bran Bran Buds ($4.89 for 17.07 oz. at Gristede’s). They are pleasantly crunchy, and they contain the magically efficacious husk of plantago ovata (psyllium). They are also a hell of a lot easier to come by than the aforementioned ash, though since the de-accessioning hysteria started, my local supermarket has had a hard time keeping any high-fiber cereal in stock. Even though it contravenes the fundamental precepts of de-accessioning, I strongly recommend that you accumulate a secret stash.
Another fave: Swiss Kriss. Endorsed by the great Gayelord Hauser (or so says the package), this herbal laxative comes in flake form: wash down half a spoonful before sleeping. According to the good people of Swiss Kriss, the flakes also make a fantastic pore-purging herbal facial which will “wake up the sleeping beauty of your complexion overnight” ($6.29 from Integral Yoga Vitamins, 234 West 13th Street).
F.Y.I.: Gayelord Hauser was a glamorous international health-and-diet guru with strong ties to Hollywood and a villa in Taormina where the Great Garbo used to stay. In the 1950’s, when his book Look Younger, Live Longer became a best seller, he whipped everyone into a frenzy about molasses, wheat germ and yogurt–including my aunt Phyllis, my mother and, consequently, me. Thanks to Herr Hauser, my mother went on a high-fiber health-food tear that included growing her own bean sprouts and eschewing white sugar and white bread (known at the time as “white death”). As a result, I had the healthiest bowels at Caversham Primary School.
2. Get yourself a guru–at the very least, you will have a damn good laugh.
Two years ago, my endearingly messy sister-in-law Amy consulted with New York-based clutter guru Michelle Passoff. Her verdict at the time: “Michelle is fantastic–she’s changed my life.” When I called Amy to get Michelle’s number for this article, she was unable to locate it: Michelle’s particulars were lost forever under mounds of re-accumulated clutter.
Despite my backsliding in-law, I think Michelle could really help you, particularly if you are the type of slob who responds to a bossy, sensible woman with a slightly school-marmy tone (reminiscent of Miss Jane from The Beverly Hillbillies ). E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Less authoritarian and a million times more woo-woo is U.K.-based Karen Kingston, the author of Clear Your Clutter with Feng-Shui . She’s not sensible at all. Go to www.spaceclearing.com and check out Karen Kingston’s mystical accouterments for “Space Clearing ceremonies”: bells and altar cloths from Bali and suspect items called Harmony balls. The ceremony itself involves, among other things, sprinkling holy water, tinkling that Balinese bell and clapping in the corners of your rooms “to disperse static energy.” There is a certain irony in acquiring these tchotchkes in order to get rid of all your other junk. When you’re finished, you can always call Housing Works Thrift Shops (366-0820; ask for Blanche). They will cart away your bells and balls along with all your other stuff.
3. Become a Boxy Lady.
Allow yourself a modicum of functional detritus (credit cards, contraceptive pills, keys, asthmatic inhalers, baubles, fashion magazines), but shove it all in a spiffy box. Keep one box in each room of your apartment–but not those nasty transparent ones from Staples ($12.98), which allow you to stare at all your garbage as if it were a pet turtle. Hold Everything has a good selection, and there are three branches in Manhattan (Second Avenue at 69th Street, Seventh Avenue at 16th Street and 57th Street at Eighth Avenue).
Run into the branch nearest you, find a good-looking sales person and, after making a few cheeky double-entendres (e.g., “You look like the type who could”–pause and kittenish giggle–”hold everything”), ask him or her to show you the Craftsman Office Collection (left), which comes in various sizes (starting at $8.00, and not in the Hold Everything catalog). They have a pleasing 1940’s office feel to them.
If you want a more szhooshy look, visit Troy (138 Greene Street), where you’ll find gorgeous red-linen-covered storage boxes in various sizes (starting at $32).
4. Bulimia is good for you.
There’s a new type of bulimia in town–it’s bad news for e-tailers, but I’m a big fan. This binge-and-purge disorder does not involve food or keeping a feather in your purse, but rather online shopping. Smart binge-aholic shoppers are filling up their shopping carts online and then, at the last possible minute, barfing it all out instead of punching in their credit-card numbers. Whirl through your favorite sites; shop, shop, shop; and then sign off without making a purchase.
5. Candida, we can make it together.
If you have cleared out your bowels, consigned your junk and jingled your feng-shui balls, but you still feel tragic and mood-swing-ish, your issues might, according to Brenda Watson, be “yeast-connected.” Relief is at hand in the form of CandiGONE, a fab candida yeast-vanquishing product developed by Brenda herself–and, believe me, she knows far more about your bowels than you do. She is the vice president of the International Association of Colon Therapy and the formulator of ReNew Life products.
Call 1-800-830-4778, ext. 3, and ask about CleanseSMART, ParaGONE and the candida-fighting CandiGONE ($23.99 at Integral Yoga Vitamins; $32 at www.intohealth.com). If Brenda’s products don’t render you yeast-free, you could always explore a few artistic issues by selling your yeast infection on eBay.