Monday, August 1, 2011

Letting Go

Over the years, I have accumulated a lot of stuff. Which is kind of like saying, the ocean is rather big.

When I left my husband, there was no deciding what of my belongings I really didn't need, which clothes didn't fit right, what books I really wanted to keep vs. donate. Instead it was just a quick sorting of "mine, mine, his, his, mine, his, mine, his" as I tossed things into boxes. Then, most of it went into a storage shed for a year. All my art supplies. All my fabric. Bins and boxes of books, clothes, papers, momentos. My little apartment just didn't have room for it all, and then came my shoulder injury, divorce filings, custody issues, surgery, and moving again. In between it all, going through the storage was far down my To-Do list and usually forgotten about completely.

When I moved again this January, the shed was emptied. All the boxes and bins were stacked on my patio, filled my closet, stacked almost fort-like around my home office area, and lined along a wall of my bedroom. Bright orange bins with black lids clashed with the pink lanterns hanging in my bedroom for months. I learned that when the first rain heavy rain floods your patio, cardboard boxes will prove to be no match for the elements. Eventually, I enlisted a friend's son to help toss the soaked and ruined boxes into the dumpster, and after slowly going through a few boxes here and there, I enlisted him again for help loading my car with the boxes that I had filled with things for donation and to be sold at my parent's yard sales. But, our house was still packed. To the point of embarrassment. Every time I watched the show "Hoarders", I became more and more fearful that that was to be my future. But between work, school, recovery from the surgery, and all the little day to day bits that keep a parent busy, I could never seem to find the time to just go through it all.

Finally, I have had enough. Enough excuses, enough wishing I could find something, enough with not inviting friends over because my place is messy. Over this last month, sort of enlightenment set in and I became focused and determined.

My enlightenment is not all to my credit though. It came in the form of a visit from one of my closest and dearest friends, who I had not seen in over three years. He commented that my place didn't look bad, I just had a lot of stuff. While looking at a map one day and talking about all the places he has lived, I got to thinking. He's former military. He's moved countless times, lived in more places than I will ever visit, and his last move was from here to half way across the world, where he lives now. This last move I was witness to his packing process: the purging of most of his belongings, the packing and shipping overseas of what was left (and the nightmare as the shipping company tried to charge him extra once they had his things, and the frustration when half of his things were "lost"). The more I thought about it, the more I realized if I was to move that much, I wouldn't want to move half the stuff I have. It would not be important enough to move that many times. The clothes overfilling my closet, the drawers filled with cards, momentos, and little dust collectors, the unused art supplies I've had for years just in case I need them. All of it would be costly dead weight on a move halfway around the world.

In the weeks after his visit, this all kept eating at the back of my thoughts. Every trip to the store, I found myself buying less and more thoughtfully. As I did things around the house, more and more began to be tossed into our perpetually-waiting-to-be-being-filled "To Donate" box. Then, on one sleepless night, I started to pull clothes out of my closet. Shirts that "looked nice, if I ever have jury duty" - tossed to the floor. Dresses that "looked good but need a few alterations" - added to the pile of shirts. Like a woman possessed, I soon had half my closet cleared out and an impressive pile of empty hangers at my feet. I slept soundly that night, happily dreaming up a plan to finally let go of years worth of stuff.

With Agent M gone that week, I spent every moment of free time going through each drawer, each tucked away box, and even the bins of costumes and nicer dresses that were stored under my bed. (There were two, now there is one) Every inch of free space, every card, every sock was analyzed over the next three days. I  emptied every single box and bin that had been sitting in my room and filled five boxes with things to be gotten rid of. The day Agent M came home, I was working on the main part of our three-section upstairs bathroom. After two hours of going through each cabinet, the formerly overstuffed linen closet had more open space than filled and the unmarked travel sized containers of "mystery soap" had all been tossed.  Yesterday, we began working on Agent M's room. What had been almost impossible to walk through at the start ended up having enough room to put up a play tent and table after three hours of sorting, tossing, and reorganizing drawers. I plan to finish his room and my vanity area (the third part of the upstairs bathroom) this week, which will finish off the upstairs.

Once done with the upstairs, the real job begins. The downstairs. Where I have most of my art and crafts supplies, where my home office resides, and where I have the bulk of my magazine "collection". It's going to be a long process, but I am ready for it. I just keep repeating the same phrases to myself when I get stuck - "Would this be worth packing and moving again? Would this be worth shipping halfway around the world?" - and like a former addict reciting the 12-steps, I feel solid in my focus and keep moving forward. In a lot of ways, I feel renewed and excited about all the purging. Finally, I will have the home I have wanted for us but always held my self back from having. My goal has become to get rid of between a quarter to half of all of my things, and I plan to have a "Pay What You Want" sale on my parent's lawn this weekend. I am even considering finally breaking down and buying a camera to document this process. No more excuses, no more procrastination. All I have to lose is junk I don't need anyways.

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