My life as a member of the Pack Rats started long before I had children. I would gladly keep a school term paper rather than throw it away. A souvenir T-shirt? No problem. I’ll take it. If I like it, I will wear it out in public. If I don’t, I can use it as a night shirt until I wear it out for rags. I often kept small items knowing one day I would need that garlic roaster or souvenir deck of cards. Then I had children. My stuff nultiplied faster than two rabbits. My house had more stuffed animals than Noah had animals in his ark. Toys? Half of my subdivision could come to my house, pick out a toy, and I would still have more toys than the toy department at Target. School papers and photographs take up much closet space as I keep promising myself I would go through them and sort them out into what to keep and what to trash.
Life as a Pack Ratter has a way with catching up with you, especially if you live in a house with five other people. One day you look around you and you realize you either need to get rid of some stuff or move to the Biltmore Estate. Since my last name is not Vanderbilt, there is no possibility for my moving to the Biltmore, so downsizing my stuff while increasing our living space became a major ongoing project. My wonderful hubby and I decided to finish our basement in order to use the space in it. The first problem, however, was navigating our way through our basement in order to let people come give us estimates on how much it would cost to finish it. Once we decided on a company to finish the basement, we had to clean the basement. This was much easier said than done. Not only did we have a lot of stuff in the basement, but the previous owners of the house left a lot of stuff: a humongous metal workdesk, not to code drywall, hardwood floor remnants, and unusable insulation. We filled a huge dumpster sitting in our driveway all the way full with all the stuff we discarded. I thought we had done pretty well. While we rented a storage unit for our Christmas decorations and family mementos, we had an empty basement. After the workers finished the job, we emptied out the storage unit and I’ve begun to realize I still have a long way to go. The one room we left as a storage room in the basement is filled with boxes and storage bins. Along with my grandmother’s cedar chest which I cannot even bear to think of not keeping is a school desk belonging to my great grandmother-in-law which is sort of becoming an albatross although a sweet one reminding us of the selfless hours my great grandmother-in-law devoted to her students. I keep thinking of the full dumpster and wonder how we ever lived with all the stuff that ended up in it before it ended up in it.
We are beginning to get the clutter under control, however. My checking out two books about decluttering your clutter have not really helped because I haven’t taken more than a cursory glance at them. I’ve been busy shredding medical receipts from the 1990s. I’ve also been reorganizing Cupcake’s new room and Chunk’s room that he now has all to himself. The fact that we rented that dumpster and filled it gives me hope that we are making a start in the right direction. When we brought the boxes back from the storage unit in a U-Haul, we filled up the U-Haul with furniture to donate to Goodwill. All of this has made me think about which possessions I truly cherish and which I can eliminate from my life. Sure there are books and photos I cannot think of not having, including my grandparent’s wedding album, but it made me realize I can live just fine without the Monopoly game with half the pieces missing. This step in the right direction is making me believe that we will eventually be organized and not focus so much on old stuff but instead will focus on making new memories.

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