Monday, April 16, 2012

Clearing Out

It's time for the latest wave of Clearing Out -- it's a process I love, in which I winnow, winnow, winnow my possessions until they are few enough to manage. It's part of a larger effort to be in charge of my stuff rather than my stuff being in charge of me. It's hard to do but then sometimes when I get into it, it's hard to stop!

On Thursday I got a lot of worky work done in the morning, so I had the afternoon for housework. The weather was absolutely beautiful that day, cool and dry and sunny, and I opened up the garage and started flattening out boxes, etc. My uncle was over to watch Norah while I worked, and he came out after the kids went down for their naps. Between the two of us (with Ben offering helpful hints from a barstool in the corner) we cleared it out, and then I got all the trash hauled to the road, and Ben called the junk man to come get the usable stuff that we didn't want. I am sorry now that I didn't take a picture of all that garbage -- there was so much of it! It's shocking what can accumulate when you are not paying attention. If I were to try to describe the amount of space the garbage took up, I might say... imagine your fridge in your kitchen. Now imagine three of them. Now, lay them on their sides end-to-end along a curb. That is about the amount of space that all the garbage took up -- bags and boxes and cartons and piles.

Then -- and this is the best part! -- the garbage pickup came in the morning and they took everything! Even though it was way more than you are "allowed" to put on the curb at once. Ben gave them a tip because they hauled it all by hand into the truck.

Now, Ben has his "man land," as he calls it, or the newest nickname, "the Square of Peace," in which he can relax and heal in peace and quiet, and I can do more around the house because I don't have to worry about being too noisy or leaving a mess where he could trip over it. He has been out here in the Square of Peace for the past four days, happy as a clam. I can't explain it, folks, but if it works, it works. The lovely weather helps, too.

I have to pause and say that in the picture it still looks a bit cluttered and junky out there, but when you are actually in the space, it is bright and airy and there is lots of room. And no matter what it looks like now, it's at least better than it was.

Most Senseless Thing Found in Garage:
Every single piece of a deep fryer I bought in 2006 that never really worked right.

Most Shameful Thing Found in Garage: About a year's worth of cardboard boxes -- every time something came in a box, we just chucked the box out in the garage in a big pile. Fire hazard, and also shameful. Shame!

So, on the back of that great triumph, I feel like clearing out other spaces too. Lately I am caught up in this idea of only having "out" the things that you need on a daily basis. I start thinking this way every time I go on a vacation and survive just fine with the contents of one suitcase. One of my biggest pet peeves is dealing with mountains of things -- toys, clutter, dishes, laundry -- so I am clearing down until the things can't make mountains. I have most of the dishes put away, and I pared down the kids' clothes quite a bit. I cleared out their toys a few months ago, so the toys are actually almost under control; I just have to go back and pick out the broken stuff, etc.

My latest campaign today is the bookshelf in my room. Friends, it's time for the soft music to play, the lights to go down, and the fuzzy spotlight to pick me up where I sit on stage, telling my story to Oprah. It is hard for me to get rid of books. I realized that every time I read a book and enjoy it, I almost create a "relationship" with the book -- I remember the times we had together, where I sat when I was reading, what else was going on at the time; even the yummy snacks I may have been eating as I read. Yes, I know, I'm a weirdo. So I have to consciously separate all those lovely memories from the physical object of the book. Now it's not so hard. I am glad to say that it gets easier with time. Now, I just look at the book and think, if there was a fire and this book got burned, would I be sad? Usually the answer is no. And thanks to the great public-domain Kindle books available now, I can let go the paperback Shakespeare and Chaucer that I have. I keep a few here and there, but I can be much more selective and really only keep my favorites.

So, the bookshelf looks like this now:

I have to learn to take "before" pictures! For the rest of this clearing-out process I will see if I can remember ;) There is still a bit of work to be done, but every book has a place.

Most Senseless Thing Found on Bookshelf: A book of photos commemorating an old TV show that I love (Northern Exposure! Go early 90s self-conscious big-sweater-and-leggings television programming! Woot woot!), which was given to me by someone I had a huge disagreement with. The book makes me sad and wistful and slightly enraged every time I see it. Gone!

Most Shameful Thing Found on Bookshelf: An old tube of half-used shaving cream. GROSS.

Next, I have my eye on the front hall closet, which is one of those closets where you open it, throw the thing in, and then slam the door before everything falls out. It should yield some interesting results...

1 comment:

  1. I used to take "before" pictures and then never finish cleaning...