It’s Just Stuff

Photo by tu tu. From www.unsplash.com.

The Great Stuff Purge of 2017 has begun. It started innocently enough a few days ago, but once the ball got rolling it has gained in size and I am not sure where it will end.

When did we accumulate so much stuff? Where did we get so much stuff? Why do we keep so much stuff? Is it the feelings attached to the stuff? Do we think the more stuff we have the more successful or well-off we are?

I have realized over time that the more stuff I have, the more complicated life seems to be. More stuff to take care of, more stuff to clean, more stuff to deal with. As we have had children the amount of stuff in our house seems to have skyrocketed. There is more kid stuff in my living room- an easel, a play kitchen, a small table and chairs, a pack and play, a baby swing, and more- than regular furniture and adult stuff. I have to pick up all my kid’s toys each evening; I have to have a clean sink and empty counter top, if I don’t it drives me crazy. Maybe I am just weird. Maybe I am just a product of my environment, my mother’s house is always neat and tidy.

I have also come to realize that lots of stuff, messes, and disorganization seems to enhance my anxiety. I don’t think most people are bothered by that kind of thing, but I have noticed that places, like a certain family member’s house which is full of wall to wall stuff pliled on stuff really bothers me, almost to the point of having a panic attack. It is really difficult for me to spend holidays with family there, especially when the house is crowded with people.

For an embarrassingly long time there has been a pile of mail, mostly credit card pre-approvals, paid bills, junk mail, and other stuff that has needed to be sorted and either recycled or shredded and recycled. It has always been on my list to do but has always been put aside in order to take care of something more important. A few days ago I finally told myself that I had to get motivated to clean it up and get it out of my house before my maternity leave ended. I hated working on shredding it, waiting for the overheated shredder to cool enough to start again, clean up the tiny peices of paper left all over the floor, and then take out the bags for recycling. But when I was done it felt so good to be rid of it. That helped motivate me to take care of some other tasks I had been putting off or hadn’t had time to take care of yet.

Next, I decided to take all my maternity clothes off of their hangers and box them up to store in the basement. I took the three trashbags full of pre-pregnancy clothes down from the shelf in the top of my closet and began to sort through it. That lead to making piles on my bed, which after getting interrupted dozens of times over the next few days, never got folded and placed in my drawers.

Yesterday while Oscar was asleep in the baby swing I went to work to tackle the piles. I started to weed out old clothes that are too worn out to be anything but rags. They went into the trash. I separated all of the out of season clothes, like shorts and tank tops, to store on the closet shelf. I made piles for t-shirts, sweats, pajamas, around the house work clothes, and then hung everything else. As I began to put the clothes away in my dresser drawers I realized that it would not all fit.

I then decided to further sort through everything. Uncomfortable underwear and bras that always get shoved into the back of the drawer? Toss. Socks with holes? Toss. Trouser socks that don’t have a match but I was for some reason holding on to in hopes that it would appear? Toss. After matching up all my socks I decided that I didn’t need a trillion pairs of both white and black socks. Donate. Old belts that came with pants but never matched any of my outfits? Toss.

Then came the shoes. I struggled to get all the shoes hiding underneath the bed, out of reach. I pulled all the shoes out of the bottom of the closet. If it was too worn out it was thrown away. My feet got bigger when I was pregnant with Abby and never returned to their original size so I had several pairs of shoes that either didn’t fit right any more or were very uncomfortable to wear. I had continued to wear most of them because I couldn’t justify the cost of spending money on myself to replace so many “perfectly good” shoes, to the disadvantage of my poor feet. Into the Goodwill bag they went.

I now must admit that there are still two tubs full of clothes in my son’s closet. These are clothes that I haven’t been able to fit in for several years and have always hoped to wear again. I haven’t been able to bear getting rid of them. They are nice clothes, they were expensive. Am I an denial that I will never be that small again and will never be able to wear them? A voice in the back of my brain tells me that if I do lose weight (you know, that plan that is always a plan but never really materializes?) then I will have to buy all new clothes. I know I need to let them go, I am just not there yet.

In the bathroom I threw out a lot of old cosmetics that were incredibly old and hadn’t been used in forever. I recycled the random bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and lotion that had just a little bit left but had for some reason been placed under the sink or sat in the corner of the shower unused.

What’s next? I think the bookshelves downstairs need to be thinned out and books donated. The top of my dresser has been a catch-all lately for random things and it needs attention. My craft room needs reorganized and boxes of left over wedding stuff needs photos taken so it can be listed on the local buy/sell/swap page on Facebook. I need to go through both of the children’s dressers to pull out clothes that are out of season and too small. My pantry and kitchen cupboards need reorganized. My office filing cabinet needs cleaned. I could go on and on.

I know, I know… That sounds like a large undertaking, in fact, it is most certainly more than I will get done before my maternity leave is over, but it feels so good to keep going. I want to see how much I can do. We certainly don’t need so much stuff. It’s just stuff.

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