Purging: It's Painful

Over the past few years I've had to do some painful purging.  Not biological (that would be too disgusting for even me to talk about), but the purging of physical things.

In 2012, after my brother's death I did some purging of items left behind in his condo.  Then later in the year, after the horror that was known as Sandy, I helped to purge just about every item in my family's home at the NJ Shore.  Neither experience was easy.

Recently, my husband decided it was time to purge in our home.  I have done many "mini" purges in the past (although it hardly felt mini); now was the time to do all full on purge and to stop our basement from becoming a maze of boxes, bags and general piles of junk.  It was a HARD project that for the most part of husband handled on his own.  It was a project that left many black garbage bags in front of our house on many different days.

Before I delve too deep, let me say again, that we have a very small house.  Designed and built in the 1920s it isn't equipped for the needs of the 21st century and we do not have the financial resources to make changes that might make our storage issues easier.  (Like having our basement water proofed and turned into a finished/livable space; installing a 2nd bathroom; making the attic accessible, etc.)  When we moved in together twenty years ago both of us brought our "stuff" and over the past twenty years we've added and collected more "stuff" as well as having a son who has his own collections.  Three people, even on a limited income, can manage to accumulate a lot of stuff.  With limited storage space you do your best to come up with creative solutions.  (Have you looked under my china cabinet?  Or behind the love seat in my living room?)  But eventually you have to purge.

I did some serious cleaning and purging of the closets after the first of the year.  My husband has done a good job on cleaning up (and out) our home "office space."  Even the music room/sun parlor is starting to look usable (though it still has a long way to go in my mind).  Now it was time to hit the basement.  The last frontier (remember we don't have attic space otherwise that might have become an issue too).

We've tried to store things in plastic containers in the basement.  I say tried because we don't always do it and anything that is down there NEED to be carefully stored.  (As we have found out in the past; even though we continued, in some cases, not to follow up on what we learned.)  Although we don't get water in our basement (or at least we haven't recently) it IS damp.  And, as I have learned the hard way, where there is damp, there is mold.  I expected certain things to have to be "sacrificed" due to mold and other issues.  The first round of throwing away books from my childhood (cherished, but not looked at) was not easy.  I knew it had to be done; after all I hadn't re-read any of these in years.  However, they still held memories of my childhood.  Looking at them I could tell you when and where I got them and read them.  So in many ways it was less about the story and more about the memories they held.  The memories don't go when the books do, but still it was hard to let go (no matter how hard the books stank...and I had known for a long time that I needed to get rid of them, and yet I couldn't bring myself to do so until my husband started this purge/clean up.)

The final stretch for me was the hardest because it involved the unexpected.  Things that I *thought* I had taken care of, but somehow became "compromised."  To throw out a bag of stuffed toys that had been stored inside a container that I thought would prevent damage was harder than I could have imagined.  It hurt.  It was emotional.  Logically I could say that I hadn't looked at these items in years.  I hadn't chosen to store them in a safer place.  (To why my emotional side replied:  "There was no more space in a "safer" place.)  I had to let go.  I did so sadly.  I did so angrily.  And then I went about purging some more...including photos. (While I am a firm believer in keeping and looking at photos, in this digital age there is no longer any need to keep those crappy and blurry copies of photos that never would have been printed out or even kept if they hadn't been taken by a "film" camera.)

By the end of the day yesterday, there were another dozen or so garbage bags in front of our house waiting to be picked up by the garbage truck this morning.  I have resolved that what is gone is gone.  It had to go.  They were just "things."

While I'd like to end on that note, showing that I am NOT materialist, that would be a total and utter lie.  If it were possible, I would have kept practically everything that I got rid of.  Maybe I would have stored it differently, more practically or neater, but I would have kept most of it.  If I didn't HAVE to make the choice, I wouldn't have.

I want to be philosophical and say that it was a spiritual cleansing for me.  That my mind and heart are now less cluttered.  I must be shallow because they are not.  While throwing away much was easy, there was that 10% or so that I will regret not taking better care of and that I WILL miss even though I didn't take these items out more often or package them with care. (It was my husband who said I wasn't showing these items respect by the way I haphazardly threw things in storage.  I wanted to kick this "new ageism" in the butt.  He may have been right, but I sure didn't want to hear it.  And, I confess, still don't.)  I AM materialistic.  If I had more money, I sure as heck would have more stuff AND more places to store it.   Looking at it honestly, I can say that if I had big bucks, I could very easily turn into a pack rat.  (But NEVER, EVER a hoarder…or so I say!)

Logically I will say that purging of material items is good.  It does clear you house and probably your soul of clutter.  But emotionally, it's something I never want to do again; even though I know I will.


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