The Weight

It’s easy to trace elements of my constitution to parental influences.  From my Father?  Intellectual curiosity, empathy for the less fortunate,  love of music and the arts, and complete comfort among people from diverse backgrounds.

From my Mother?  Cold, dispassionate strength*.  The kind of strength that would allow me to bury a body…  Umm… if ever needed.   She is fierce, in her way.  Good Appalachian-American breeding stock.

Unfortunately, i also inherited one of her more crippling afflictions.  She is a hoarder.  Excavating her house prior to renovations took three months.  i have to fight it, or fear that i will become buried in my ‘stuff’.

It’s not bad.  Yet.  But i catch myself saying “Hey, i might need this someday…” as i find a stash of wood scraps in the garage.  That old coffee pot?  “It might come in handy if…” Rubber bands that i’ll never need.  Twist ties.  Plastic storage bags.

i fight it.  i recycle aggressively, and throw things out regularly.  It’s there, though.  Percolating beneath the surface.  It isn’t obvious to others, since i’m fortunate to have a LOT of space.  Plenty of storage space lets me squirrel it away.

January is when i have traditionally launched my “winter project”.  Last year?  Organizing the office, and building the Murphy Bed.  This year?  i want to finish my theater room/exercise room/bar downstairs.  To do this?  Excavations are required…

But…

It is hard for me to let go of a cardboard box.  You never know when you’re going to need a box, right?  i like a wide selection on hand.  As i started to dig, i was surprised at the number of empty boxes i had stashed in the storage room.  Round one?  Break ’em down and send ’em to the recycler!  Boom!

Reluctant at first, now i’m in a “GIVE IT ALL AWAY” state of mind!  The local thrift shops will be delighted to get the Jeep load of appliances, clothing and odd housewares!  Bed, book case, shelving unit?  See ya!

The “stuff” now feels like it weighs me down.  Makes me less mobile.  Pins me to the floor.  i am making progress…

Not only at home, but at work.  Last week, i started a new assignment.  New building.  New office.  This required a move.  After 31 years working for the same employer, i’ve got “stuff”.  i thought i was pretty brutal when i packed it all up – filling two large boxes with papers and documents for the industrial shredderator.  Many trips to the dumpster, too.

This week?  Unpacking and setting up the new digs.  Is there anything more promising than a clean, empty desk?  Vows to “get organized” sproinging around in my head.  Such promise!

And the purging continued…

Not too hasty, mind you.  This little pic?  A gag crafted by my colleagues.  Appeared on my office door.  While getting hammered at a conference team building during a business trip, i’d mentioned that i find intelligent men attractive.  i was challenged – “What about the smartest man on earth – Stephen Hawking?”  to which i replied “i’d have his love child”.

He wants me...

And this.  i have an obsession with post-it notes.  As the boxes were unpacked this morning, i threw post-its in a heap.  All shapes, sizes and colors.  These?  i’m keeping…

i can quit anytime i want to

Memories.  i discovered a map of Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris, along with photos taken from my hotel room balcony.  My first trip to Europe in ’92.  i can keep these a few more years…

We'll always have Paris

At the end of the day?  Boxes.  So very tempting to break them down, and stick them behind the desk.  Prepare for the next move.  Always be prepared to move.

boxing day

Perhaps the best aid for rapid deployment?  Travel light.  The boxes went to the recycle bin.  Weight reduction.  Lean up for the new year!  i’m getting better at this…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* It occurs to me that i haven’t told her full story here.  Future blog homework.

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42 thoughts on “The Weight

  1. “Get rid of what you don’t want, to make room for what you do…”
    Boxes, excess Christmas stuff, old ideas…

    Got a story for you. It’ll take a day or three, but I think you’ll like it. (now I’m committed).

    • It’s starting to feel good to shed the ‘stuff’… in my imaginary universe, i want to live in a sparse, simple dorm room, with just the bare essentials. But i haven’t figured out where to put the bar! 🙂 Looking forward to your tale, sir!

    • It will take me quite some time to work through all this… i’m also consolidating many of the things the kids have collected, as one is living overseas, and the other is using my address, but lives on the road. But i suppose i could make a housecall! Would do it for the price of a cup of tea, glass of wine and good company!

  2. Good for you! Sounds like you’re starting off this year clutter free….well, almost!
    I’m a hoarder of kids old things. Just can’t seem to get rid of them. You know, baby clothes, first shoes, school grades, trophies….etc, etc… I told hubs that if he threw them away, it would be grounds for a divorce!

    • It was hard for me to ‘consolidate’ their artwork and childhood treasures. i got a start on that when i moved in 2008. It helped to sit down with both of my children, and have them help me pick out the things that meant something to them as well… We managed to pare down the collection from a four drawer file cabinet, plus several other boxes, to one plastic storage tub for each. But i couldn’t throw the other stuff away – they had to do it! i saved baby shoes, too, and just a couple items of clothing. the rest went to the thrift stores…..

    • my grand challenge is “things that are useful” rather than “things that are decorative”. but my definition of “useful” is pretty broad, and i can find a purpose for just about anything! i’ve almost worked through enough that i can start painting the walls! that will be exciting!

    • The guidance i read when we were helping Mom was: Make four piles – keep, sell, donate, trash. Since i have no patience for selling things, i’ve got it down to three. When i moved, i had a friend help with a garage sale – and moved about 2,000 pounds of ‘stuff’ from the house – vowing that none of it would return. It was a drop in the bucket, and half of the income went to my “helper monkeys” – my friends children, who worked the sale with us. The other half? i am pretty sure i drank that…

  3. My bride is no hoarder but she keeps far too many gift bags for “re-use.” We have a basement full of them. We don’t need so many gift bags. We’re not that generous.

    LOTS of storage space can be a curse. Just like too much talent.

    In a momentary fit of 7:10 a.m. dyslexia, I misread “winter project” as “writer project.” What would Freud make of that?

    I had a dream once that I was trapped in a conference room at work. I was completely naked and the only thing in the room was a big pile of post-it notes. Well, you can imagine what I had to do! But instead of making post-it briefs, I made an entire outfit. Neck to ankle. It was a dream.

    • but…. gift bags? they fold flat! and are quite handy! you ever buy one of those damn things? they are expensive…. (yeah. i got a few stacks of these too). wouldn’t know about that ‘too much talent’ thing, but i do have too much space.

      i wonder if it would be possible to live inside an office building, wearing a post-it loin cloth, scavenging left over donuts and pastries and cold coffee for sustenance.

    • Howdy! i do need to write that – she has lived quite a life, and i’ve put snippets out there, but the tale is interesting. may have to be a multi-part series…

  4. It’s a constant battle for me both at home and at the office. I’ve been in the same office for over ten years now and I have to purge regularly or else it starts looking like one of those old freezers where the ice builds up and you have a tiny space in the middle. And it’s probably a good thing I got remarried (for the last time, dammit!) eight years ago and moved into her house. Otherwise I’d be going on 24 years in my old house and by now I’m sure the basement would’ve been reaching capacity.

    • the recent office moves (the one 3 years ago, in particular) forced me to purge work stuff. i was surprised at how easy it was to send files to the shredder, but it was hard to let go of all the goofy memorabilia collected through the decades… oh, and coffee mugs. when i moved last time? i had 20 coffee mugs. those all went to a thrift store…. well, not all. i have 3 left. one that says “Briar”, one that i use, and one that says “Pardon me, but you’ve obviously mistaken me for someone who gives a shit…” that used to belong to lizzie poo!

    • coffee tins in particular… good for holding little parts and odds and ends. they also feed my OCD, because they can be stacked neatly and come in standard sizes. unfortunately, coffee now comes in bags and plastic tubs. it’s just not the same in the garage…

      • I know – tins just aren’t what they used to be… Seriously I was in the attic recently trying to find a tin up there that I knew was there – it has rolls of wire in it. I couldn’t find it, my wife of course did in seconds of her going up there after my two trips and lots of stomping and swearing! Anyway my daughter saw this tin which was for a famous brand of sweets and sad “How old is that?!” About 30 years or more actually at least I had it as a teenager. She then posted a picture of it on Twitter as they haven’t come in tins in her lifetime at least.

        • and there is now a generation that barely remembers telephones attached to walls, or payphones in public places. (sigh) we’re old…

  5. Boxes. Recycle them. There are always places to get more if you need them. Produce and liquor stores come to mind. On the other hand, there are very useful sized boxes for mailing small things that come from amazon and other places and I always like to have one or three of them on hand.

    Speaking of boxes, I have been intrigued by how the computer 3D design has revolutionized box technology. All of the time I receive items in boxes that break down into one piece of cardboard; they are put together with tabs and slots and folded and you have a box with a lid and it winds up being one big flat piece. i really think that is cool, for some reason.

    What I hoard? Rocks. And shells. It’s really bad; the piles of interesting rocks that I have accumulated over the years. Every once in a while I go through the “house” rocks and if I can’t remember where they come from or why I thought they were so cool they go out into the rock pile along the north side of the house. They can be decorative out there and not have to be dusted and serve as the barrier between garden and house.

    When I think about that particular collection, I wonder how in the world I would ever be a nomad.

    • i recycled a stack of 10 boxes at work, and perhaps 15 from home. letting go of the shoe box collection is next – they are so nice for organizing little things! but i realized this week that i am getting rid of the little things, too! so i don’t need the boxes….

      somewhere in my storage room is my rock collection. the one that goes back to my childhood, and includes iron pyrite (fool’s gold), geodes and other amazing finds. those? i might keep. or donate. to a school maybe?

  6. Intelligent men attractive huh? I’ve never thought of myself as particuarly attractive, yet some of my female nuclear physics colleagues at the chess club tell me that my foot long IQ has a lot of appeal. “I think were gonnae need a bigger box” must point to my collection of Ludwig Wittgenstein mathematical equations.

  7. I have a Post-It obsession.
    Well, technically, I have an Office Supply obsession.
    I don’t know why.
    I don’t know when it started.
    I just know that I get giddy going to Staples.
    *sigh*
    Pathetic …..

    Intelligence and humor are very attractive.
    Also MUST HAVES in my world.

    Good luck paring down! 🙂

    • Oh, office supplies! Yes. It’s broader than just the Post-it notes. Organizers. Pens. File systems. Highlighters. It’s all of that… i can’t get out of Office Depot without spending $50…. but i must stop. they will get donated, recycled or pitched. (sigh)

  8. Man, I know this one. I used to be like that too, saving all kinds of stuff that I really have no need for but kept “just in case.” After so many years of that, somehow something in me clicked one day and I started purging and cleaning. Now I’ve gone to the other end of the spectrum, throwing out stuff and saying “I’ll never use this again,” only to have a need for them a few months later. One day I’ll find a happy medium, hopefully.

    • i need to catch that ‘purge and clean’ bug. suspect if i ever moved to a smaller place in the city, i’d need it. i love the idea of living in a sparsely furnished, utilitarian space. space that has magic, hidden, storage areas where i can squirrel away all of the shit that i might need some day!

  9. ooh it’s tricky….the more space we have the more we fill it…..when I had a teeny tiny apartment in NY I was forced to cull the crap every 6 months and still managed to get rid of several trash bags full each time…..where does all the stuff come from??

    • in theory, if i take OUT more things than i bring IN, i should eventually get rid of everything, right? but it just doesn’t seem to work that way. even bringing in the mail leads to clutter. i need to be more vigilant… Oh, and welcome to The Park! Thanks for stopping by!

  10. When someone made an offer on our house in October, we purged, cleaned, ‘Thrifted’ and boxed up everything that we could for the big move. When the house sale fell through, we sadly unpacked all the boxes and put everything back, unsure as to when and if we would put the house back on the market.
    That indecision left us with at least 75-100 empty boxes. We left them flattened in a very tall pile, in the vacant guest room, but things started to heat up in the real estate arena and now we’re back on the market. Every time I walked by that room, I shook my head at its unsightliness…so with the help of my husband we created a faux bed out of all the boxes, some lawn chair cushions, and plastic totes. The room looks like a guest room now and we managed to hide all our cardboard in plain sight. I think I have an idea for my next blog post. 🙂

    • how cool! i had an apartment in DC for a year – and shipped many belongings out there via UPS. rather than throw out the boxes, i nested them for strength, built a side table for the dining room, and threw a table cloth on top! wouldn’t hold much weight, though, and a damp glass was deadly!

      Hope you do the post – and include pictures! That’s one for ‘pinterest’…

  11. Didn’t tell a full story? i believe that’s what the academics call a post-modern blog entry, very avant-garde Ms. Daisy… now i must clean my house cuz you made me feel guilty for being such a lazy bastard.

    • and since i posted this? i have done exactly Jack Squat to further the excavations. so much for motivation…. but it’s been a busy and festive week, so i can’t complain. not meaning to be avant-garde, good sir. just making a note to myself that i really need to get back to what i started out here – which is sorting out the trailer park quagmire, and Mom’s story is kind of where it all starts. odd that i hadn’t realized it…

  12. If it gives you a push, you may want to know that corrugated cardboard is the top choice that cockroaches/palmetto bugs have to lay their eggs. Also, bedbugs nest in those grooves too.

    The exterminator told us cardboard boxes are the number one invitation to nasty bugs in the house.

    Ick!

    • that definitely helps! blechh! i have booted the old boxes to the recycling center, and am now thinking i need to unpack/excavate/repack things i already have stored in cardboard. those nice plastic see-through tubs are great, aren’t they? (shudder)

  13. i LOVE knowing this about you, sugar! the new accountant said 1. learn how to use quickbooks. 2. buy a receipt scanner 3. then, use your shredder. i am in heaven. of course, now i have to do this stuff AND open the office door… *sigh* xoxoxoxo

    • what? you’re just now figuring out that i’m completely nuts? when i reorganized my office last year, i was brutal with the shredder – and have managed to keep it reasonably organized. but it’s time to get in there again and shred old documents, as i prep for tax time…

  14. An old friend calls that weight “the tyranny of things.” That single phrase alone has probably helped me avoid hoarding more than anything else. Except maybe for living in a studio apartment. Because you’re right: extra space is the enemy.

    • “tyranny of things”. appropriate. the more “stuff” you have? the more it impacts your decisions. “Should I stay or should I go?” i am still making progress, but there’s a long way to go…

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