Friday, July 16, 2010

More thoughts ....

... because I need to sit still and take a break.
I found out today that my van will hold 30 boxes if I take out the back seats and leave the middle two in. I also found out that I can, in fact, survive working in temperatures above 100 degrees, but I don't really like it. Finally, I learned that my girls are even more awesome than I thought.

Even though I have done this whole moving thing 6 times in the last 11 years (I've said that before, haven't I?) I still have never been able to get it done without major help and wearing myself out. In spite of have the same amount, if not more, time to prepare, I have never been this far along at this stage before. Part of it is that I refuse to allow myself to be paralyzed by fear and depression. Only a few of the moves have ever been for a positive reason, and even the positive moves have been heavily dosed with stress. After two weeks of wondering where to begin, I always end up watching, with shame, as DH does all the lifting and moving. The last few days are spent shoving whatever we can grab into boxes or bags and moving it car load by car load only to shove it into a corner where it will be forgotten until the next move. Recently, I stumbled upon boxes marked "Miscellaneous" that were packed up in the move six years ago.

There have also been elements of my life that I have neglected to de-clutter either before or after the move. Seeing and moving the "baggage" from one place to another does nothing but add to the guilt I have from letting it build up to begin with. I keep telling my self 1) that I will go through it later, and 2) that I will never do it again. Still, I end up with box upon box of neglect and regrets, filling up my garage, closets, and any other free space it can find.

I have always longed for one of those crisp and clean homes where no papers are lying about and there is nothing on the floor except furniture. The art and school supplies are tucked neatly away in fashionable, but tidy, containers. The garage is a wide open place used only to park the car and sometimes work on a project or two.  I can even imagine that the inside of the refrigerator is sparkling clean and the bathroom cabinets have nothing to show but clean folded towels and sweet scented soaps. Is this an unrealistic goal for me? Probably. It doesn't hurt to have something to work for, does it?

Over the past three years, sometimes because we wanted to and sometimes because we HAD to, DH, the girls and I have gotten rid of approximately half of what we owned. It started when moved from a four bedroom house with two living areas and the converted into three separate offices into a three bedroom house that was half the size. The big house was a dream come true in many ways, but it  wasn't perfect. It was, however, much more space than I have ever lived in before. I didn't think we had a lot of stuff when we moved in, but we had WAY more than we should have had when it came time to move out. The "stuff" we owned that didn't fit into the new house filled the garage as well as a moderately sized off-site storage unit.

Paying for extra storage was a pain, at best, but when it came time to move again, we had to put everything we owned into storage for at least a while and that was when we really could see how much we had accumulated. We filled the largest storage unit they had and then another smaller one, and we still had stuff that wouldn't fit. It was the first time I had ever seen all of my things all in one place. It was an eye opening experience and I can tell you, I was embarrassed. Seeing all the "stuff" we had but didn't use, I was shamed thinking of all the people who had so little and lived every day without ever needing more. How could I raise my children to value the right things in life when they were so surrounded by needless clutter?

We started by going through the toys. 15 lawn sized garbage bags were reduced to 6. Then we sorted through the nic nacs and decorations. Over the next year, we donated or sold portions of DH's book collection, arts and craft supplies, clothes, movies, games, even more toys, and what I like to call "dust catchers." We held a garage sale and offered anything that anyone would buy. We put out all the books we never read, clothes we never wore, toys that we didn't play with, and kitchen appliances that we never used - even the very shelves we stored them on. Not only did we clean out half the garage full, but we made a sizable chunk of change, as well.

Still, the house felt cluttered and messy. The one thing I had never conquered was the paper clutter. I have always felt the need to hold on to papers, notes, receipts, and anything else I had written down, "just in case." In case of what, I'm still not sure. WP was the one who helped me first let go of this massive amount of documentation filling up every corner of my home. We started with the oldest items first and shredded, burned, or recycled anything that was not legally necessary to keep. I had been careful to keep the most important documents all in one spot and away from the rest of my papers (thankfully) so it was easy to sort through things quickly without the worry of getting rid of something vitally important. Still, I found a few treasures along the way and the effort payed off very nicely.

It took about a month, but I eventually cleaned out every storage box, accordion file, and cubby hole that I had filled with needless clutter. The amount of weight lifted off my shoulders increased with every envelope that I gladly threw into the fire. Not only was I able to reduce our total number of boxes, but I was able to gather the stashes of photographs, keepsakes, and artwork into central locations. Every since then, I have been extremely diligent about keeping the paper clutter to a minimum. Anything not directly related to money coming in or going out gets recycled almost as soon as it comes in the door. I have a filing system for keeping the important things and I am able to find whatever I need whenever I need it. I still have about three years of bills and pay stubs, but at least they are all organized and sorted neatly.

The last area of clutter has been the hardest to part with. I have collected almost every piece of artwork, school paper, and story my girls have ever created. Believe me, they are all three prolific artists and authors. We have plastic storage bins stacked up holding papers dating back to pre-kindergarten for all three of them. Part of the problem was that I would put it aside to go through it later, and I never did, so it just piled up higher and higher. The other part is that I just love looking back at all the the things my girls have done. I enjoy seeing the progression of their art work from scribbles, to stick figures, to amazing art. Their first little attempts at letters make me smile, comparing them to how much they read and write today. I also believe it has to do with the fact that I have so few things saved from my own child hood. The things I do have are so precious to me. I want my own children to be able to go back and see how much they have grown the same way I do.

The time has come, however, to let go - of most of it at least. Today, I have no idea how small or large our next house will be. I only know that I will be paying to keep our things in storage until I do find a place. Space is money, now, and I can not afford to pay for storing anything that I do not absolutely love. DH gathered the dozen or so boxes into one spot for me, and I have been spending the past two days sorting through them during the breaks from packing and moving everything else. All three girls have gotten in on the act, too. It is much more comforting having them there with me as I examine each piece to decide if it is something worth saving or not. They are there with me, remembering the occasion when they created something or letting me know that they really have no desire to keep it anymore at all.

School papers have unanimously been delegated to the "trash" pile unless it was a project they spent a great deal of time on. School art is only kept if it was memorable and well done. The home art work is my favorite to look at because you can really see the personalities of each girl as they are given free time to do whatever they want. LH has very simple and plain drawings. She prefers to write stories and make little books for her sisters to read or color. TD has more of a romantic side to her art. There are princesses and princes and girls with flowing dresses. Usually she draws in pencil or uses only a few colors to complete her works.  Simple but elegant. EG has the most fantastical and original art of the three of them. She uses lots of colors and wild shapes to represent things. She actually has a Picasso-like style of drawing common items but representing them in a more colorful and surreal manner. It isn't like a preschoolers drawing of a brown square and red triangle for a house. She actually intends for her pictures to turn out exactly the way they end up. She can draw very realistically when she feels like it. I think she just prefers a more impressionistic or abstract style.

My goal for the evening is to finish sorting through the other two boxes I have not even opened yet. I hope to reduce the "keepers" to one plastic bin per child. I am well on my way to succeeding. I have filled two garbage bags so far, and I will probably have another filled by the end of it all. Surprisingly, I don't feel regret for the papers I am choosing not to keep. I thought I would feel sadness at seeing it go, but I feel no remorse at all as I grab handfuls at a time and pitch it into the trash. Knowing that I will not have to move box after box of things that "I need to go through" is comfort enough for me.


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