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Letting It Go

Last summer we had a pretty gnarly hailstorm, which has ultimately resulted in the need to replace shingles and siding on the house (among several other things). As a result, this has become a launching point for getting some insulation work and window replacement on the project list. Because if we're gonna do the siding, we might as well get those other things done, too.

Time to Purge and Consolidate

We've been in various stages of 'collecting' things for many years, as is the natural effect of everyday life. "That'll be used for..." and "We'll get rid of that another day..." are catch phrases, along with "Put that in the attic/basement/garage/shed..." and similar things.

With the need to better access some areas of the house (attic spaces) and just because it's really been over fifteen years since the last time we reevaluated some possessions, it was time...for a dumpster. A big one. And so a six-yard dumpster was procured in early October while I took some time off work, and thus the process of purging and consolidating (simplifying) began.

As expected, the first few 'passes' were pretty straightforward. We had old beds, mattresses, table frames, chairs, all sorts of random things that had simply accumulated or been replaced through the last seventeen-plus years. Yeah, we got a new table and set of chairs, "...but those old ones still work...put 'em in the basement." Except in the basement they were only really used as step stools or makeshift sawhorses like that time I moved the washer and dryer across the basement and had to solder new water lines. Pretty sure we only used those things once or twice in their intended manner. The "worst" part: unlike our real best intentions, those and many other items really had outlived their useful lives. These were worn to the point of no longer having value (donated or otherwise) and were headed for the landfill.

The Second Dumpster

Turns out it didn't take long to overfill the six-yard behemoth that was parked in the driveway. So a call to the disposal folks resulted in a pickup/empty, which was an interesting opportunity to chat with our route driver.

So we started a second dumpster filling. This time there was more delicate determination, since the "big" stuff was already gone. This entailed most of the attic spaces and some stuff that had been deliberately stored/packed away in the basement. Much more of this material went out to be recycled (in the case of old college textbooks and paper-related stuff), but we had amassed a huge collection of random crafts-in-waiting and other stuff that had some sentimental value (or was just out of sight, out of mind). If that stuff hasn't been dealt with in over fifteen years (some stuff we moved with us) or craft materials we've not used in over five, it went away. No questions asked, really.

As I/we proceeded to clean up this stuff, the process got simpler for everyone involved and we found more stuff winding up in the outbound pile. Within the week, we had a second six yard dumpster overflowing. But this time it was time for a pickup/haul away, because we really were pretty much done.

Fourteen Yards

My back of the hand math indicates we got rid of about fourteen yards worth of...crap. A lot of this stuff had accumulated over ten years earlier...and we just kept it around for that rainy day. None of it sparked any sort of joy. While it was bittersweet to see it go, I have zero remorse. We've cleaned up a lot of our storage space, not necessarily so we can store more stuff but we don't have to feel like we qualify for an episode of Hoarders or something.

What was interesting to discover in this process is just how different our household consumerism has changed in nearly twenty years. In a good way, we're really not just buying shit for the sake of it anymore. We also don't have small children anymore, which takes a lot of "stuff." And it's great to feel like we can actually breathe without all of the accumulated (but out of sight) clutter and stuff in the way.

The Paper Records

I spent time during this purge going through all of the paper records I'd kept around since the mid-1990's. A few times each year, I consolidate the paper by service provider or other criteria, and then do it again at the end of each year. There were effectively ten boxes of papers from that time period. With little regard to their contents (though each was thoroughly gone through), most everything pre-2012 simply went away. It was about a bag's worth of recycling (envelopes and stuff without identifying material), and many, many bags worth of stuff to burn. And burn it did...but it took an hour and a half to get through it all.

Cleaner on the Other Side

So we've let a bunch of stuff go. It's been remarkably freeing, and also an interesting exercise in reviewing one's shifting priorities over time. Sometimes humbling, sometimes inspiring, sometimes a slap in the face.

Regardless, we're in a much leaner situation than before this started. And this is something I hope to keep on top of as we start the new decade. So far, so good!

Headline image via giphy

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