If you were one to simplify, you could say that there are two kinds of people. Bingers and purgers. My husband is a binger. He loves to shop garage sales and thrift stores. To his credit, he runs a pretty successful eBay business from the spoils of his foraging in the wild. His biggest problem is that has so many years of “inventory” built up that he can’t possibly get through it all. He’s been working hard to dig out, even hiring a couple employees, but he’s got a long road ahead of him.
Every month or so I get totally fed up with the constant piles of clothing and goods that cycle through the house/garage/storage unit and I throw a little fit. We have a pretty nice house but any flat surface is fair game for a contractor bag of clothes, crates of vinyl records, or some kind of vintage minutae. Certain areas of the house (the sun room, the dining room table, the couch on the porch, the counter just inside the kitchen) act as eddies in a stream where debris gets trapped in a cycle. Any lapse in vigilance on my part results in our house looking like something out of Hoarders and I’m not even talking about his “office” where he processes the stuff.
Lonny loves me so when I stage my regularly scheduled freak-out, he will act abashed, back off the thrift stores for a few days, and maybe even throw some offending items out. He’s made it clear that he would rather have me than his junk vintage clothing business. This period comes to an end when he sells some piece-of-shit coat for $500 on eBay that he picked up for 50¢ at an estate sale, thus reminding me that although something looks like garbage, Lonny’s keen eye knows better. This is the exception, not the rule, BTW, if everything sold for that much you wouldn’t hear a peep from me. For better or for worse, it’s what he does and I have to take him as he is. And I’m not exactly easy to live with so I have to appreciate him putting up with my, um, idiosyncrasies. For example, I am a purger.
Meanwhile, I still feel like I am drowning in my own stuff. A high school friend of mine is in the midst of his own purge. He’s got it a little easier in that he lives on his own in an apartment, not an old Victorian with a hoarder collector for a husband and two kids who have a knack for garage sales themselves. The other day I was checking out his blog and it inspired me to think about what I have and what I need. While I don’t aspire to his level of austerity (I think he wants to own no more than 200 items) I would like to have drawers that shut with me tamping the contents down, or closets that don’t act like booby traps when I open them.
It is shocking how much stuff I’ve accumulated, especially since the vast majority of it has been acquired in the last eight years. I had an enormous house-fire in 2003 which torched most of my possessions, but that’s fodder for another blog. Most of it weighs me down and depresses me. I’m trying to spend less money lately and pay down my debts but I, like most Americans, enjoys the endorphin rush that comes from shopping. I, however, get an equal rush from purging items from my possession.
One day I took apart my kitchen and got rid of any old dried foods, half eaten boxes of crackers, etc. and cleaned and labeled my pantry. My then housemate, Jeff, came home from work and said,
“You’ve been organizing haven’t you? I can tell, you’ve got that glow.”
Jeff knew me pretty well. If he wanted to torture me he’d leave a can a Pringles in the pantry so he could laugh at me when I ate the whole thing for breakfast and then spent the rest of the day in a pit of self-loathing. Jeff was onto something that day, though, and I’m not talking about the Pringles. I get as much of an endorphin rush from getting rid of stuff as I do from buying it. Plus, I don’t have the inevitable buyer’s remorse or smoking gun (i.e. credit card receipt) to set me on a vicious cycle of depression.
So, my project is thus: I will get rid of ten items a day for an entire year, leaving me with 3650 less things in my life. They may be big items (clothing, shoes) or little (a CD, a defunct computer cord) but there will be ten a day. To be reasonable, I’m not going to go by a calendar year so it may not be 365 consecutive days, but it won’t be over until I’ve gotten rid of 3650 items. I will photograph and post each pile, if it’s something of value I will list it on eBay (I’m going to open my own account with a corresponding Paypal account) and hopefully I can turn my crap into space to breathe and maybe that trip to Thailand for the family that I have always wanted to go on. If you see something you want, let me know.