Monday, January 26, 2009
I have too much stuff. Physically (hello, cellulite!), mentally (hello, thoughts that won't stop running through my head at night) and especially around me. Confession time: I'm a pack rat. Well, not in the negative sense of the word - I don't hoard old newspapers and magazines and things that out to long since have been thrown away for decades so that one day I'm discovered like this person was... I do, however, have a highly sensitive sense of nostalgia, which leads me to hold on to certain stuff.
Stuff has been on my mind lately, so much so that I'm not even sleeping soundly. You see, my days are now consumed by stuff, because we're in the midst of step one of selling our house and moving: decluttering. (Funny how Blogger doesn't recognize "declutter" as a word, because my own brain has issues with it as well!)
Over the weekend, we rented a storage unit up the road and began the process of decluttering our house. We've lived in this house for nine years now, and let me tell you, that is plenty of time for a sentimental sort like myself to amass a lot of stuff. Heaps of it. Stuff crammed onto bookshelves (and let's not forget all the books themselves, either, as Hubby and I both are Bookworms Extraordinaire and Kiddo is quite a bookworm as well), stuff squeezed into drawers, stuff jammed into cabinets, under beds and on top of other stuff. Now, with the decluttering? It is so not pretty.
Hubby and I used to be quite good at moving. Back in the early days of Hubby-n-me, we moved a lot - between 1994 and 2000, we moved six times, winding up here in our first owned home in January of 2000. During that period, there wasn't much chance to accumulate stuff, and our belongings were regularly purged as well, the better to fit our stuff into the back of first our Festiva, then our Tercel, along with the smallest U-Haul we could get away with for maximum affordability. We'd donate books to the local Friends of the Library, drop boxes of clothes and linens off at Goodwill, etc. We were lean and mean and had room to spare in our bookcases, hutches, cabinets and drawers.
Well, now we've had nine years in one place (with a lovely, large basement) in which to collect stuff. Also, five years ago we added Kiddo to the mix, and Sweet Godmother of Wilma Flintstone (™ Anna Lefler), did the stuff just exponentially explode! Let's face it, when one has a child in one's home, the stuff starts flowing in pretty much at birth (bottles, onesies, burp cloths, diapers, diaper accoutrements, rattles, teething toys, binkies, et cetera et cetera et cetera....)
Oh sorry, got carried away on a wave of musical nostalgia there. I'm back now. Shall we dance? No, no, back to the topic at hand.... Stuff. So, there's baby stuff that takes over your entire world. Then, as the baby grows into a child, not only do the number of toys and books and clothing and shoes and mittens and hats and DVDs and stuffed animals grow as well, but so does the art work. Dear me, the art work. The precious scribblings that eventually mature into actual pictures that resemble actual things and people (well, assuming said people have gigantic heads from which their arms protrude and no bodies beyond legs that may or may not include feet)... then they start school and the art projects become multi-dimensional and take up even more space... and then there are the photographs. Oh, the photographs. Now, Kiddo is an only child. Lucky for us, in this regard, as I have, and I am only ever-so-slightly exaggerating here, ninety thousand framed photographs of her hanging on our walls and displayed on shelves and end tables and the piano and, heck, on any mostly-flat surface in my house. (I also have several nieces and nephews, so there are actually additional kiddos who occupy frame space too.) I mean, I had lots of photos in frames before I became a mom; pictures of Hubby and me, our family and friends, even beloved pets... but since Kiddo was born? Egads.
And now, all the stuff? It must go. Tucked into boxes, hauled off to the storage unit, never to see the light of day again until the summer (or late spring, if we're really lucky). Oh, the agony. The good news is that Hubby is not nearly as much of a stuff aficionado as I am, so we aren't hopelessly mired in things. He also is much more likely to get rid of something, to just throw it straight out into the garbage without a second thought, than I. (I must steel myself against looking into the bag after bag after bag he carries out to the garbage bin in the garage. I will confess, in previous moves, I've been known to Dumpster Dive in my own home to rescue some picture or memento or another from the trash.) It is true, most of the stuff Hubby tosses out is stuff I never miss, stuff I haven't thought of in years, but that doesn't mean he's right, right? And you never know when you might need one of those things........
Beyond the hassle of actually boxing stuff up (and the aches of actually loading and unloading it thereafter) is the time-suck involved. Again, this is an area where Hubby does a better, speedier and more efficient job than I. I spent a good hour yesterday thumbing through a pile of random, old things that I'd managed to save for decades now (and which had been living on the topmost shelf of the bookcase that stood in our bedroom for the past nine years, but now is off in the storage unit, leaving a weirdly blank wall in its place). Case in point, this photo, which is a Polaroid (I don't think they're even making Polaroid film any more...) of me surrounded by my sisters, brothers and one of my best friends, taken sometime during the winter of my senior year of high school (oh, and while I'm on the subject of stuff, the dresser you can partially see on the right hand side of the picture? Hubby and I just moved that out of our basement and off to the storage unit yesterday...):
or this newspaper clipping also from my senior year of high school (note: it was January. I was wearing white pants. WHITE PANTS. Granted, they had a black pinstripe, but seriously? White? In January? I don't know that I can even use "it was the 80s!" as an excuse there... I mean, yes, we hadn't been told our picture was going to be taken for the paper that day, but still, I chose to wear white pants in January of my own free will and thought I looked good that way. WTH was I thinking?) (I wish that I could say those white pants were the worst of my youthful fashion transgressions - other than the hair, of course - but alas, I am having horrific flashbacks right now to a different pair of pants. A pair of cream colored, corduroy, jodhpur-style pants. That I wore with knee-high, high heeled, black leather "riding" boots. Thinking I looked good, hip and fashionable. Oh Sweet Godmother of Wilma Flintstone. Why am I even considering going to my upcoming 20th reunion?!) (also note: I blacked out the names of the other kids in the photo here because they may not be so keen on having ancient pictures of themselves bandied about the interwebz):
or this picture, which my youngest brother (then 6 years old) drew for me to hang up in my dorm room my freshman year of college (he and I share a common love of Garfield, which Kiddo now has developed herself):
Yep, I've saved them all for decades. How could I throw them out now? I couldn't, so into a box and off to storage they went yesterday, along with two mismatched socks that Kiddo wore when she was first born, that are so insanely tiny that I can't believe a human being could ever really be small enough to wear them. Kiddo didn't believe it either, when I showed them to her before tucking them into the box. And to think that even though they were "preemie" sized, they still were so large on her that the heel part went halfway up her leg... *sigh* Whoops, sorry, carried away by nostalgia again, my bad.
Other stuff, I am trying really hard to get rid of, though. (Beyond the cellulite - though I must tell you about the Zumba class I did for the first time last Friday morning. That's another post though.) Stuff like old Christmas cards. I never throw away Christmas cards, or at least, not easily. The record for oldest card I came across during this weekend's decluttering? 1991. In my defense, it was a photo card... I also have wedding cards (hello, 1995), congratulatory cards from Kiddo's birth and subsequent baby showers (by being born 5.5 weeks early as she was, she managed to be a guest at all of her baby showers), her baptism, Mother's Day cards (okay, at least those only go back to 2003), anniversary cards, etc. I found in one stash a few cards and notes that Hubby gave me back when we were first dating. Awwwwwwww. I showed a few of them to Hubby when he came upstairs to check on my progress - or more accurately, as he suspected, lack thereof, and he just rolled his eyes. Romance and nostalgia really are the stuff-keeping enemies of Operation Declutter.
So, in closing, 2009 is turning out to be the Year of the Great Decluttering here in Heather's world. Just promise you won't laugh if you spot me rooting through the trash bags to reclaim some of my stuff, or sneaking off to the storage unit to visit my stuff in the months to come, mmmkay? As you can see from what I've already shared above, if I've known you (IRL) for any length of time, the odds are quite good that I still have photos you might not want me to make public...!
What about you guys? Is anyone else a victim of nostalgia and sentimentality like I am? Any other pack rats (no pejorative connotation intended) besides me? What do you do with old cards and letters? Should I try to sell some of the more valuable stuff on Craiglist or Ebay, or just go ahead and freecycle it all like Hubby wants to get rid of it faster? Anyone want to buy a ladies' Movado Museum watch, never worn, new in box? (I would've worn it but the dang strap is too delicate and short for my ginormous man-hand wrist.) What was your worst teenage fashion mistake, and would you care to share a photo of it with the blogosphere? *grin*