Monday, May 6, 2013

It's the Big One

I feel like I’m neglecting you, dear readers. Forgive me, but I’ve spent the last week going batshit crazy cleaning house and getting ready for a garage sale.

That’s not an exaggeration. Just ask the Farmer. He’s afraid I’m going to slap a price tag on him and put him on the sale pile. Ask Phoenix, who has been helping me in his very special malinois way. Ask Jamie, who is highly annoyed he can no longer make it up the stairs to the second floor rooms to supervise the proceedings.

It all started when I ran across this on the web. Actually it started before that, but this kicked it into high gear.

“When there is visual chaos, as opposed to clear flat spaces in our home, it creates tension that keeps us from truly relaxing . . .  Clutter robs us of peace, tranquility, time and enjoyment, and instead gives us stress.”

It’s true. Clutter causes stress. I had to de-clutter. The more I de-cluttered, the better I felt. I’ve discovered a new hobby - throwing stuff out. I’ve spent the better part of a week throwing stuff out and I wonder why I didn’t do this before. The weather has been so rotten (icy rain and — gasp — snow) that working indoors has been quite appealing.

I’ve started the Great House Purge of 2013. There have been previous house purges but this is The Big One. My goal isn’t to have a house that looks like a Better Homes and Gardens layout. I just want it to be tidy and relatively clean and I want to be able to find stuff when I need it. Most of all, I want to not feel claustrophobic because I’m surrounded by a bunch of stuff that’s just taking up air space for no good reason. I’d rather have the closet space. Floor space. Counter space. Open space.

It’s been 25 years since I graduated from college. Two and a half decades of accumulating stuff, 22 years in one house. The rooms the Farmer and I live in and use daily aren’t bad. I’ve kept ahead of the clutter there, out of necessity. It’s the second floor of our two-story farm house that’s reaching critical mass. That’s were old toasters go to die. And jeans I will never wear again because the five pounds I needed to lose has turned into 10 and ya know what, sister? It ain’t happenin’. And odd bits of detritus from two decades of marriage that simply defied being re-homed or just plain thrown out when they should have been.

So I’m cleaning house. Room by room. Drawer by drawer. Closet by closet. The previous house purges I’ve done were mere warm ups compared to this one. I got rid of a lot of stuff during those previous purges, but it was always easy to be indecisive about something and just put the box back into the closet because it was easier than actually opening it and dealing with what was inside. I wasn’t ready to part with high school trinkets or 4-H scrapbooks yet.

This time, it’s different. I’m a ruthless, brutal, clutter-whacking fiend. I have a box of Hefty trash bags and I know how to use them. I’m hauling enough stuff to this garage sale to start my own second-hand shop.

If I start feeling bogged down, I ask myself the Magic Question: “If we moved, would this be worth packing up, hauling to a new house, unpacking and finding a spot for?”

We’re not moving, but the Magic Question is very helpful when it comes to making decisions about what stays and what goes. There is some stuff that promises sentimental attachment on the surface but when faced with the prospect of requiring more energy to maintain it, the sentimental glow fades quickly.

It’s easy to be brutal when you’re lazy.

I’ve started on the second floor rooms first because: A) they’re more work than the first floor rooms (they’re where all the “let’s keep that, we might need it some day” stuff lives and B) I’d like to get them done before summer, when it gets hot and the central air doesn’t quite make it all the way up there. I’ve been pushing hard to get ready for this garage sale but I know the Great House Purge of 2013 will last long into the summer.

Last summer I helped my aunt clean out her house and move. It was stressful. There were so many things she did not want to say good-bye to. I understood. They were reminders of her childhood, of days when she and loved ones were young and strong and life was a happy frolic. There was no pain or illness or the looming threat of nursing home care. They were reminders of dreams, some gloriously realized, some not. Throwing them away, either in a burn pile or on an estate auction, meant those days and those dreams were gone forever.

Over the weekend, I sat on a bedroom floor in our house with Phoenix’s head in my lap and paged through scrapbooks filled with dusty newspaper clippings and truly awful photos of 4-H club activities. I’m pretty sure I’m the only person in the world who cared what the Wapello Busy Bees were doing to prepare for the county fair in the summer of 1981. I laughed. I reminisced. I threw it out.

I kept some things - my grandmother’s engagement ring, the tassels from my high school and college graduation caps, my bouquet from our wedding, Jess and Connor’s scent articles - things that are worth packing up and moving. Someday.

In the meantime, I’ve called the local theatre company about donating stuff for props or costumes. I’m selling some of the “What was I thinking?” antiques I’ve bought over the years. I’ve got my eye on a few things that need to go to the local furniture refinishing shop for a makeover. I’ve tried finding a place to recycle the eight (count ‘em, eight) jam-packed boxes of 4-H dog show trophies my mom so cleverly insisted I take out of HER house.

My garage sale pile has reached gargantuan proportions. I’ve made numerous trips to drop things off at Goodwill. I need to make an appointment with a coin dealer to have my grandmother’s eclectic collection of coins appraised and, hopefully, sold. I need to take my old Nikon and accompanying lenses to a camera shop to see what kind of deal they will make me. As usual, there’s a tote filling up for my obedience club’s garage sale next year, and I’ve been tossing garbage bags full of things I’ll never miss into the Dumpster at the office with deranged glee.

Who knew cleaning house could be so much work?

It feels wonderful.


  1. Wow, good for you!!! My sister did that not to long ago and her house is like a show house.

  2. Last year I had a house fire...fortunately 99% was just smoke damage but I had to throw A LOT of stuff away. When I moved back in, it felt good have been forced to de-clutter my life and living space...although I don't recommend a house fire as the way to get it done!

    As for your trophies, there are a number of handicapped riding programs that take recycled ribbons and trophies from horse or dog shows that people no longer want. Just Google "recycle ribbons/trophies" and you might be able to find someone in you area that would love to have them for their programs.

  3. Good for you and indeed clutter does make me crazy as well and since I've worked (and still need to do more) inside the house, this summer, the garage is the next thing I tackle.

  4. I threw away so much stuff when we moved. When it comes down to pack it or toss it turns out there a lot of things I could live without!