The (roughly) Memorial Day Volunteer Fire Department Benefit Rummage Sale approaches and the slowly growing stash of culled kitchen equipment and my superfluous desk chair were all ready to go.
A couple of weeks before, faced with the realization I’d developed active distaste for an old research topic, I purged a section of my office bookshelf and found that four of the relevant background books were acceptable for Amazon’s trade-in program! Off they went.
This success fired me up to amass a bagful of I’ll-never-read-these-agains with which I planned to tempt the interest of our local used book shop. My husband found himself caught up in the wave and added an old c.d. of his own to the stash! Our book shop accepted more than two thirds of the books and his c.d. for credit…
(So it was that he too experienced the sweetness of learning that his discard is a treasure to eyes in the wider world!)
It was in the aftermath of these literary successes that I commanded gaily, “Now you must find Five Things of your own to add to this Fire Department Sale pile!”
He promptly delved into a closet and produced two superfluous functioning desk lamps, three functioning fans, a small space heater and something we think might be an air purifier. I asked to keep the I-hope-it’s-an-air-purifier. He decided to keep the smallest fan.
But there they were: his Five Things we’ll never think about again.
We added to the pile the set of introductory math books the bookstore hadn’t wanted and carted it all to the Firefighters’ Auxiliary this morning.
I had a dream.
I remembered it.
Taken one way or another it seems I want a change of life direction.
So, with no clue as to just where any turn should be made I tackled the obvious detritus that has accumulated since the last big change.
I shredded a few years of uncontested bank statements. I shredded my rental lease terminated two years ago. I shredded the mess of expired post-retirement, pre-Medicare health insurance policies. I shredded a ream of paperwork documenting an assortment of hassles, miscommunications and snafus involving my cross-continental move.
I had celebrated tax day by shredding all of my sufficiently musty income tax returns. But while I was sorting and shredding those old bank documents I found the two years of recent tax returns that were missing. Light shines through where there had been a mess!
Now there’s a thirty gallon bag full of shreddings and recyclable paper down by the trash.
My file cabinet is no longer a jumbled jungle.
Clearing out the rest of it seems almost a satisfying prospect.
But, although I do remember those old days when I was an $8 / hour contracted office temp, usually hired to sort towering piles of paper; I’m pretty certain that’s not the direction I am supposed to go this time around.
Yesterday my husband and I attended the wedding of a widower and a widow. It was lovely to share in the union before heaven of two people who have been through a couple of thick slices of life.
The invitation said, quite firmly, No Gifts. Of course not! Two fully-equipped homes were marrying each other that day…
I smiled remembering our own later-in-life wedding not so long ago. Everyone had known it was soon to be followed by a cross-country move. Everyone understood why we were quite firm about No Gifts. But of course folks had snuck in a few store gift cards into their greetings and it was so sweet to find them. We decided we would pass that blessing along.
This morning I persisted with shredding old tax returns and found myself battling ghosts as I fed pages and pages documenting half-forgotten memories of old jobs, unanswered questions, questionable decisions and discarded plans past the steel teeth. If we could put time in a bottle, uncork it once we KNOW, and get to do some of this over again….
This stirring up of memories. If we look hard and deeply at our reluctance to clear out our closets, I believe we’ll find it’s to avoid facing the memory, both sweet and bitter, of who we’ve been and how we’ve come to here.
I mislaid my credit card and delighted I am that we have the Internet because without any fuss at all I logged on and “froze” my account.
I was SURE I would find it fairly easily.
I tore apart, culled, then reassembled, the piles of books, writing equipment and blankets by the living room lounger where I do a lot of my grading. (Two more books went into the discard box.)
I removed and sorted everything on my desk and a lot that was in it. In particular I sorted months of correspondence into: recycle, shred, file. Then to make room for stuff to be saved, I sorted half a drawer of the filing cabinet and shredded another hill of papers.
I scoured my car; took out the floor cushions and crawled in with a flashlight, peering into every cranny. Pulled out a bag full of trash, found a missing glove, a penny, an old snow scraper and two paperclips…
I emptied my purse and my school bag, discarded all sorts of old receipts and Kleenexes, and checked the linings for holes.
And so forth.
I still haven’t found it. I stopped looking. They’ll send me a new one soon.
But driving to work today I opened up a c.d. and found TWO discs nestled inside. I’d been LOOKING ALL OVER for that Lonesome Ace String Band recording….
Once we have bull dozed through the mountain of clutter left by departed loved ones; dispersed it by the truckload to family, to yard sales, to charity, to the dump… Sooner or later we are left looking at our own stuff. Even though mountains remain, the game changes. Unless an interstate move looms in our future, no longer are we likely to measure decluttering successes by the truckload.
The phrase “developing a heart for decluttering” occurred to me as we dropped off a box of twenty-eight books in hopes the resale bookstore would accept them into inventory. They took fourteen of them for store credit which we promptly applied toward three new books. Net success: eleven fewer books on our shelves. But I believe the far better measure is that we have ample room on our shelves for three books we’re already in the midst of enjoying.
On a visit to dear friends awhile ago, we brought a couple of small family relics, usable pieces we’d pulled out of storage to set aside with them in mind. Net success: half a storage shelf cleared. The better measure? Beautiful things put back into use and bonds of friendship strengthened through shared history.
Developing a heart for decluttering… For me it’s loving to know things are out of the cupboards, being used and appreciated.
The half emptied book donation box sits in the living room inviting more books to jump in. It’ll go to the library soon. There’s a bag of good quality clothing discards slowly slowly filling up in my closet soon to make it’s way to the thrift store. And I gave a pair of extra needles and a ball of leftover yarn to a new knitter last week.