The exciting news is: We are moving! My husband has taken a new position within his current company in its New England territory. While we are sad to leave family and friends, we are excited for this opportunity for him, and see it as a new adventure for our family.
The not-so exciting new is: we are moving. And now I have to pack.
I hate packing. And because the more stuff you have, the more you have to pack…I am steadfast in my commitment to Operation Throw Shit Out.
From the influx of TV shows like Hoarders it is clear that many people have a hard time parting with their belongings. Of course, there is a big difference between someone who holds out the hope of fitting back into those pre-baby skinny jeans and the person who can’t find the toilet because it’s buried under a mountain of Tupperware, Star Trek dolls and a dead cat.
Many of us, I believe, fall somewhere in between the two.
In general, I think I am pretty adept at getting rid of stuff. Just this past week, I had no problem parting with the seven pairs of Old Navy khaki pants I haven’t worn since 2001. I heartlessly recycled stacks of Emma’s artwork from what we call the “Cats on Rollerskates” collection.
I would like to say this ability to minimize possessions comes from yoga and practicing nonattachment. The reality is, I am so impulsive and impatient with decision making that I would rather just chuck the damn thing than sit there and mull over its potential or significance. When in doubt, throw it out.
That being said….we all have our thing(s). Phil, for example, is a sentimental hoarder. T-shirts, mixed tapes, fortune cookie messages, and concert ticket stubs fill many a box in our basement. Any time I go to toss one of these seemingly antiquated items, I am met with considerable resistance and a rambling story about the origin of the item in question: “You can’t throw those out! Those were my lucky football socks in high school, the ones I wore in the big game of ‘88 against Lansdale Catholic!” or “But I found that (woman’s) fleece in the bushes I was peeing into on my way home from the bar with Derek, and OMG it was so funny because then we met these Swedish exchange students who wanted to see the hottub and then…”
Ok, Phil. Keep the ladies fleece.
I, on the other hand, am a paper hoarder: how-to books, magazines, newspaper articles, and recipes stuffed in file folders can be found tucked in desk drawers and wicker baskets. Phil collects relics of what once was; I am a collector of what might be…someday. SOMEDAY I will teach myself how to crochet, and read every back issue of Yoga Journal, and learn how to meditate by reading the 20 books I have on the subject. Oh, and juggle. I have a bunch of stuff on juggling.
For Phil, it might be an attachment to the past and a longing for his self-perceived glory days….for me, it’s a dependence on outside information borne out of my own insecurity of not being smart enough. If I read the Yoga Journals and how-to writing books, I will feel like a legit yoga teacher and “real” writer. If I learn to do crafty things I will finally feel like a good mom, and if I learn how to juggle…yeah. No comment.
In her book Throw Out Fifty Things, author Gail Blanke suggests looking at the thing you are struggling to get rid of, and notice the emotional connection that thing carries.
A good question for a sentimental hoarder might be: Does this thing reflect who I am right now, or who I used to be? This doesn’t mean you should toss treasured photos or significant milestone memorabilia, but does the tattered Snoopy snowman sheet that Phil sported for toga parties in college really represent the best of what he has to offer the world? No, that’s not a trick question.
For a paper hoarder like me, a relevant question is: Does this book make me feel inadequate or not yet good enough? As I sift through boxes of books with titles like, “Shut up, Stop Whining and Get a Life” the answer is usually yes. While I still believe that it’s noble to be committed to personal growth, a basement filled with your own private self-help library may suggest the need for a little self-acceptance.
So far, we have made some progress. Phil agreed to part with the toga and the mixed tapes. I have donated boxes of books, and the college research papers I thought might “come in handy.”
There is one area, however, where Phil and I are both still struggling – where the emotional baggage carries significant weight. We call this category: “The Fear of Burning in Hell.” I am talking about our Jesus box.
Over the years we seem to have accumulated a menagerie of Jesus statues. I have never actually purchased one, but they seem to find their way into my house. Let me state firmly that I love Jesus. I just don’t love the statues. They kind of scare me. But how do you throw out Jesus?
When we moved from our last home four years ago, we attempted to “accidently forget” Jesus in the basement. Yet at the closing, the buyer’s realtor said, “Oh, and did you know that you left a Jesus statue in the basement?” Busted!
We didn’t even try to lie about it. “Oh..yeah. We are kind of trying to…part ways with it and didn’t want to, you know, throw Jesus out.”
Our sheepish confession evoked sympathy from the new owner. “No worries,” he said. “I’ll take care of it.”
Nice! Problem solved.
Yet two days later, we got a call: “I can’t do it. You have to come and pick up Jesus.”
Because you never know when this might “come in handy.”