Excess Baggage: Day Two

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

I am really feeling the subject of living simply. So I'm going to continue. If you have a this again? blank stare, I understand. It's just that epiphanies don't happen often around here. And this was a big one. The realization that living more simply could be synonymous with living with more happiness has been freeing, indeed.

A little more background: My husband and I grew up very differently. He lived on a ranch and was taught to save everything. They had more space than money, and you never know when you'll need something again. Throwing things away, for him, feels ungrateful, wasteful, and frivolous. It's in his nature to save, save, save.

On the other hand, I grew up in a family with four kids and little stability. I was a middle child who never had my own room and never felt like I had things that were truly my own. I also have few things from my past. Most of what I own I bought with my own money and represents a milestone. Independence. Survival.

I mourned the loss of my old car when I upgraded last spring. Full on ugly crying. More than once. I felt like I was giving away a collection of mobile memories. Remember the time Jared threw up in the back seat when he was three? That melted crayon mark in the back seat is a memory I can never get back! I drove to my wedding in this car.

Letting go of Jared's old clothes and toys feels like I'm giving up on his childhood. For me, it is the emotional attachments that prevent me from moving on. But I'm coming to the realization that spending time with him now is much more important than the things he used to play with or wear. Keeping his first pair of big boy Underoos isn't going to freeze him at 6 years old.

Can you see why, between the two of us, things tend to accumulate? We had to deal with our emotional baggage before we could deal with our actual baggage. 

Not only that, the amount of stuff that needed to be sorted, organized, and thrown away felt overwhelming. So I avoided it. And so did he. My basement craft room went half-cleaned for almost a year. Last week, I sucked it up and finished. It felt so good I wish I'd tackled it sooner. I know where everything is and don't feel bad every time I enter that previously neglected, unorganized room. When I have time to resume some old hobbies, or simply need some glitter, I will know where everything is.


The rest of our basement got a facelift as well. I can see most of the commonly used items from the bottom of the stairs. All those cumulative hours spent digging for some obscure object? I'll never get them back. But the scavenging stops here.

Every year when we take down the tree and repack all of our decor, we ignore the unopened bins marked rather vaguely as 'Christmas Stuff'. This year was different. Last week all the bins and junk in the basement holiday closet made the pilgrimage to the living room for sorting. One bin had 8+ year old liquified candy canes in the bottom, making it really easy to dispose of its contents.

Broken ornaments? Gone. Ugly decor with forgotten origins? Buh bye. If we didn't use it or love it, it's in one of three places: the garbage, the Salvation Army, or the free pile at the recycling station. Most importantly, it's not in our home.

Our newly organized holiday closet.

I even tackled the disasterous bags of wrapping supplies. We had several dozen holiday gift bags, many of them brand new. Remember the quote I mentioned yesterday? "We know what we have, we know where to find it and we know what we use." Our lack of organization led to shopping for more things we didn't need. Just that day I had purchased several packs of tissue paper on clearance for future Christmases, only to discover that we had loads of them buried in bags and bins. I sat on the living room floor and sorted, sorted, and sorted some more. Vista supervised. Now we have two totes: one for Christmas wrapping supplies, and one for non-holiday wrapping materials (i.e. birthdays, baby showers, etc.). I know where everything is and how much I have. Mario suggested we use nothing but gift bags next Christmas in an attempt to reduce our rather large stock.

We are country bumpkins at this point in our lives, which requires that we haul our own garbage to the 'transfer station'. That's a classy way of saying 'The Dump.' Between the recycling, the trash bags, and the unwanted items, Mario's SUV was packed. Satisfyingly full.

As he drove away, I think I heard our house breathe a huge sigh of relief. It's astonishing how many trash bags a person can fill when they are dedicated to purging their lives of clutter. I think I also heard the collective cheer of all the local hoarders. We restocked the 'free shed', code for 'shed full of crap', with all of our unwanted items. I should say, unwanted by us. 

More to come. The last, I think. The best, perhaps. Until tomorrow...

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