Saturday, June 07, 2008

Time to toss.

I finally figured out why it gets harder and harder for me to conduct my periodic purges of all our excess stuff--it's because the older I get, the more things I have that have memories attached to them, and the less I want to toss either the item or the memory.

Even things that might not have meant much to me when I acquired them develop this coating of meaning--where I bought them, what I was doing then, places they've lived with me.

Knowing why doesn't make it any easier to figure out what to keep and what to toss, though. In particular, since we've moved to this house, I've disposed of things that I'd held onto for years. Most of it went without a backward glance on my part, but now after three or four clean sweeps in 2 1/2 years, we're getting down to the nitty gritty.

The crazy thing is that this house isn't small--I mean it's certainly not on the level that most people seem to be living in nowadays, but it's a three bedroom, two-and-a-half bath normal medium-size house with the requisite amount of closets and whatnot. But with no basement and a one-car garage, we lose out on a lot of storage space that people in other parts of the country take for granted. Oh, for a basement!

And we're losing storage space, if you can believe it--the new bed is too low for all my under-the-bed storage boxes, and the vanity we've chosen for the guest bathroom, when we get around to tackling that, has drawers instead of cupboards, so all my little boxes and our games will have to find a new home someday. So silly!

So, like I said, it's nitty gritty time. Time for all those projects that never got done and all those bits of things I've been saving to be hauled out and disposed of. We're planning a yard sale in a couple of weeks, and I plan to go through every closet and box!

It's funny to contrast our situation with what my grandparents' lives have been like. Married for 65 years, and in the same house for all of those years, they both went to an assisted living facility this spring, and my parents and various other family members have been slowly emptying the house of years and years of accumulated stuff. Grandma and Grandpa never had to throw anything away--they had six bedrooms, an attic, a basement, a barn, Grandpa's old auto body shop, and a few other outbuildings to store things in.

Even if they could have thrown stuff away, they probably wouldn't have--growing up in the Depression years, raising eight kids on very little money, they hung onto everything because they never knew when they might need it. Mom found boxes full of Styrofoam peanuts and plastic bags in one of the bedrooms. I've personally witnessed the fortress of National Geographics in the attic over the kitchen.

Part of me wishes I could live my life that way. Although I don't like clutter, and I get weighed down when my belongings start to pile up too much, it would be interesting to just live in one spot forever and hang onto whatever I wanted. We've moved seven times in 16 years of marriage, and we still haven't gotten to a house that can hold us and all our hobbies comfortably!

On the other hand, maybe it won't be as hard for us when the time comes for us to purge our stuff once and for all and move into whatever old age facility we can afford. (The way the 401k is looking right now, that may be a cardboard box!) Having moved pretty regularly, having gotten used to assessing what to keep and what to toss, maybe we're gaining a flexibility that will be a benefit to us later on.

Now if we could just curtail our yard sale addiction...!