Saturday, August 2, 2008

How Trashy Are You?

Our house is going through some major renovations right now.

No, we aren't getting new flooring. We're not getting new furniture. We're not knocking down walls. We aren't even painting (yet).

We are purging. Big black trash bags full of everything under the sun are beginning to line our garage in preparation of their final destinations: either Goodwill or the dump.

The kids are amazed at how much more room they have now that they only have half of the "stuff" in their rooms. I'm mortified to have neighbors witness our gluttony as the seemingly endless stream of trash bags head out to the curb for trash pick up, or into the mini-van for Goodwill drop off.

As we're cleaning, the kids have a few rules to go by when deciding the fate of their "stuff."

1. Any item that gets, "Oh wow! This is COOL!" gets thrown/given away. If they didn't know it was there for this amount of time, they won't miss it after the fact either.

2. Every item that is kept must have a "home"- a place where it goes back to each and every time it is taken out for use.

3. Items are not allowed to be kept out of guilt. I don't care if Grandmother Moses gave you that scrap of paper. She doesn't either. She wants you to remember her. She couldn't care less about the paper.

4. Any item that takes longer than 15 seconds for a decision gets thrown/given away.

5. Mom retains ultimate veto rights. She may choose to keep or discard any item as she pleases, even in direct opposition to the children.

I have invoked my veto privileges very few times. Once for a sweater that Keith didn't think he would ever wear. I decided he may not wear it with a lot of regularity. But, that a nice red sweater was something to keep around for the holidays. So it went on his closet shelf.

I also vetoed the children's choice to keep a game with only half the pieces. I mean, come on! We have enough other games and/or forms of entertainment that I really don't see the need to keep something that will never work. They went along with me, and the game went to a big black trash bag.

During our "Ultimate Trash/Give Away" event, we also culled through clothing. The kids begin school in a week (eeek!) and I needed to find out where we stood with uniforms. Keith will need everything. Apparently I have been feeding him some super-growth food over the summer, and all of last year's uniforms were so small they didn't look like they could have really been his. Amy and Emma were much better off than I had imagined. I was pleasantly surprised with our outcome.

We still have some to go on the cleaning/purging thing. We have a spare bedroom that hubby wants to turn into an exercise room. I'm not convinced that the BoFlex will get any more use inside than it did outside, where it stood in as a glorified car cover holder. But hubby has grand plans that involve him getting buff. So, who am I to stop him???

The spare bedroom already has the bed dismantled. And I have gone so far as to take all the junk (oops, I mean valuable treasures) and sort it in to some sort of loosely organized piles. I'm dreading having to go through it all for a final purge. I just don't know where some it is going to go. And, according to my own rules, stuff without a home must go away.

So before I even begin I'm feeling like a guilty hypocrite. Because I know how I am with indecision when it comes to my stuff. I will admit that I break every single rule I make the kids follow. What's the saying? "Do as I say, not as I do." Yeah, that's me.

I also need to go through all of our storage. Ugh. We have stuff upon stuff in there! Most of it should be thrown away/given away just on the "Oh look, how cool!" rule. I couldn't even begin to tell you what was in there. If there was a fire and I had to make a claim to insurance I would just be making stuff up: "Uhm, yeah, I think we had a big screen TV. In fact maybe two of them..." Because, while I know our storage is full from top to bottom, I really don't know what it all is.

I know we have a bunch of big pictures we have hung in our home(s) over the years. I would gladly ditch them all. But hubby feels some sort of nostalgia looking at pictures that are so dated- and not even of people we know-that I can't imagine his connection.

We also have a spare hot tub cover. Why? Because it's worth so much money, according to hubby. Hmm. Okay. Well, since we go into the hot tub exactly two times per year, and we already have a cover on it, wouldn't it be OK to let the extra one go? Apparently not.

We also have boxes upon boxes of the kids' memorabilia and photos that I have kept since they were born. I'm sure that some of the things I carefully wrapped and stored in boxes when they were tiny would now look merely like a hormone-induced frenzy to try and remember every breath and every moment of their existence. Time has proven to me that there's no way to bottle, record or remember every second, even though we really want to. Instead, we try and live in each moment as it happens, so that, at the very least, we will remember it was a joyful moment- even if we have no recollection of what actually happened.

My mother is experiencing some of this realization now that she is retired and going through my and my brother's boxes. She has enough pictures to wall paper the Great Wall of China. And that doesn't even count the endless boxes of slides they also have in storage.

I'm really trying to take a cue from her and start minimizing the "stuff" now. Oh, but it is hard to do! Especially when there are soooo many other things I need to do and/or want to do besides sifting through a bunch of musty boxes. Reliving happy times, yes. But also, and probably more so, wondering what on earth I kept the popped balloons and strings for. What was I thinking when I saved the pacifier? Was it incredibly necessary to keep the pictures that didn't come out at all, except for a blur or a bright flash?

The kids went to bed tonight satisfied with themselves. They had taken back their living spaces. There was order, and even (gasp) a floor! They gave hubby the grand tour, as though he had never been in the house before. They beamed at him as they opened up drawers and closets, proving their organization went past skin-deep.

Truth be told, I don't have the first clue how long it will stay that way. I would imagine that birthdays will be a challenge, for sure. Any time we introduce new "stuff" to the space, it's easy to just "stuff" it in somewhere, instead of finding an actual "home."

I'm sure by Christmas we will have to re-evaluate our spaces, and perhaps do another purge. But I sincerely hope that this Mega Purge will be the last of its kind. It was incredibly ridiculous to have this gross amount of excess. Mini Purges are acceptable, expected and necessary. But this Mother of All Purges should only ever occur once in a lifetime.

How lucky for me that it is happening now... Oh well. It will be nice to be able to have people over without having to shove all stray "stuff" into one room and then lock the door from the inside so that company doesn't see it. And it will be good for the kids to be able to locate their possessions to play with them or use them for school work. And, it will be nice to feel like the house is clean, organized and spacious, instead of looking like a candidate for a cable television home clean-up show.

I know the garbage men will think we've moved out and abandoned our home. And Goodwill will think we've won the lottery and decided just to start over again. But, in truth, we still have plenty- in fact more than enough.

What a blessing. It's a blessing that I hope we can pass along to others in the form of our donations. And it will most certainly be a breath of fresh air to go to bed tonight in a clean(er) home.

1 comment:

ThePrincessMommy said...

Hey - when you are done, you could just skip on over to my home and help me purge, right??? I have chocolate martini mix - Here Kristi, Kristi, good girl !!!! LOL