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Binge and Purge

My husband’s company has been growing so rapidly, that they’re running out of room in the office. Since Bill is rarely ever actually in the office—he’s usually working from his laptop at the various locations he manages—he has to give up his office. He’s still going to need a place to work occasionally, and a place to store files, so we’ve been cleaning out our office at home.

When we were sorting through it this weekend, wading through books and boxes and stacks of crap, I was convinced there were hidden cameras though the house and we were being filmed for the new A&E reality series called Horders. It’s like “Intervention” for pack rats. Instead of drug addictions, we jones for our stuff.

For the most part, our house is pretty clean. The dog is shedding like crazy, leaving puppy-size hairballs everywhere—but our house isn’t what you’d consider dirty.

However, we have so much junk in our house that it gets a little overwhelming. It’s not so out of control that it leaves us with only one path through the house, but we have a lot of knick-knacks, do-dads and whatnot that we just don’t need to display all at once.

When we moved in together, we merged two full apartments worth of furniture, clothes and appliances. It was a lot of stuff to squeeze into an apartment. Before we got married we moved from the apartment to a 2,700 square foot house with a half acre of land behind it. Our stuff fit. In fact, we didn’t seem to have enough stuff to fill the space. But a couple of months after we got married we bought a house that was only about 1,650 square feet. It’s the perfect size for the two of us, but we had a hard time cramming in our crap. Gradually, we figured out what we wanted to keep, what we needed and what fit. Everything else we gave away and donated to Good Will.

Right about that time, Bill’s parents started giving us bags and boxes of things every time we saw them. These were things they thought we’d need—32 containers of dental floss—and things they wanted us to have from their house (full sets of china)—just in case. Bill’s mom was never able to part with a single piece of paper (you never know when you’ll need that phone number), and to some degree Bill has inherited that. He pays most of his bills online, but we still get an obscene amount of mail. I try to stay on top of mine, but there’s stack on the dining room table, so tall it threatens to eat the kitchen. Bill never looks at his. If he does, he opens it, reads it, folds it back up, and places it on top of the envelope it came in. And there it stays. And stays.

We argue about his piles of mail. He’ll put it aside and swear he’s going to shred it soon. And then another pile builds and threatens to take over the dining room. Then he sweeps it all into some place—usually the office at home—where it sits. We have about 10 of these piles stashed everywhere. It’s like contraband.

Add this to my insane collections of stuff. I have collected just about every single Bearista Bear Starbucks has ever produced. I started collecting them in the late 1990s, when they were on Bearista Bear #10 and I will still grab one every time I see them. I have even sent friends in other parts of the country on missions to track down regional bears. I used to display them in my office at my old job, but now they’re all in massive Rubbermaid bins in the attic. All 60 or so of them.

Da Bears

Da Bears

On top of that, neither one of us have ever thrown out a birthday card, anniversary card, letter or postcard. And I have never been able to part with a book.

I still have my Norton Anthology of Shakespeare and Norton’s Chaucer from college. Bill has them too. I also have every book I had to read in college. Some are cherished. Some of there because I never really did read them but I hope to one day. Every trashy novel (not those bodice-ripping Harlequins, although I used to love Kathleen Woodiwiss) by Jackie Collins and Olivia Goldsmith is stored lovingly on my sagging shelves. Every crime thriller (Michael Connelly, Patricia Cornwell, John Grisham) is packed so tight I can’t jam another one on the shelf. My beloved chick lit (Jennifer Lancaster, Jane Green, Emily Giffin) is lined up neatly in all their pastel-covered book jacket beauty.

But there’s no more room. The bookcases are on overload, the closets are bursting, and we can no longer cram all that other stuff we have no idea what to do with into the corners.

So yesterday we got brutal. We went through the office ruthlessly tossing old mail, junk, papers, newspaper articles, warranties to appliances we no longer own, and other random crap that has no purpose.

Then I sorted through the bookshelves in the office and the ones off the family room. I pulled out piles of books that I know I will never read, books that I kept because I wanted people to think someone read them (C’mon, like you don’t do that) and novels that I read, hated and will never look at again. We even got rid of one our our Shakespeare anthologies. I stacked them all neatly, lovingly, by size and genre. Then I packed them up to be donated, hoping they find good homes.

And then I cried.

But I have to say, the house looks so much better, more organized. Cleaner.

There’s more to do. I’ve slowly been tackling my dresser and closet. I donated three garbage bags full of clothes, and I’m sure I can purge more. I sorted through one of the closets down the hall and I need to go through the one in the guest bedroom. It’s stuffed with old pillows, blankets, a computer that hasn’t worked in 10 years, old suits that my husband will never wear, picture frames and god only knows what else.

It’s embarrassing for so many reasons.

But we’re thinning things out, paring down and purging.

Because if we don’t? You’ll see us on Hoarders next season, buried under our own junk.

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20 Responses

  1. i love doing the big purge from the closets. it’s so freeing to get rid of “stuff” that just ties you to the past. the books are tough, i know. i’ve been selling some of mine on amazon. this way i know they go to a good home.

    my next trick is to get rid of some of the journals that i keep buying, thinking “this is the one i’m actually going to fill”.

    good for you. 🙂

  2. before we moved I went through my closet and donated 20 bags of clothes. it felt good until I realized I still have too much stuff for my dressers, and none of it is flattering or fits well. ugh.
    I laughed reading this because A) I just finished reading an Emily Giffin book, and B) I’m actually watching Hoarders right now!

    • My first pass through with my clothes was to get rid of clothes I haven’t worn for years because they didn’t fit very well and were not flattering. I also got rid of tons of t-shirts and sweats—apparently there is going to be some kind of apocalypse and the only way to survive is to have surplus of that stuff! The next round will be more ruthless.

  3. Hey. I have a bunch of Starbucks bears too! WHOSE FAULT IS THAT? Heh.

    Isn’t it weird what an emotional effect our “things” can have on us. There are few things as satisfying as getting rid of a bunch of things and actually feeling physically lighter and (this is key) noticeably less stressed.

    Good for you for binging and purging in a healthy way that didn’t involve any self-induced vomiting!!

    (And holy crap. Hoarders is a DISTURBING show. And usually very sad.)

    • I was going to watch Hoarders because I love Intervention, but there’s something so profoundly sad about the whole thing I couldn’t do it.

      It’s funny—you think things are going to make you happy but I’m actually happier when I get rid of things. We’ve been holding on to a lot of stuff because it makes other people in our family happy, but I think we’re beyond that now. We’ve kept the things that are important and everything else can go. Except my books!

  4. You can take the approach that Mike and I did before we moved back: get rid of 50 things a day. I think we did this for two weeks. It was awesome to get rid of all the crap.

    As for books, at first that was hard but not any more. We donated them to the library. And instead of buying more books, we borrow from the library. Now magazines are a different story in this house.

    • The magazines are next. I probably have 5 years of Bon Appetite and Cooking Light. There are handful of special issues that I want to keep, but the rest are going to go. It doesn’t make sense—you can get everything online now.

      You guys are hardcore with your purging! I like the idea of 50 things a day, but it would be more like 20! But it won’t be my books—it’s so hard to part with them.

  5. I swear. to. God. it is like we are married to the same freaking Bill. The mail thing? Oh, sister, if you only knew how it used to be at our house. Tomorrow, you will know as this has inspired a post.

  6. […] post reminded me of the things I could do to get through this, and the DailySnark’s post Binge and Purge reminded me that this is probably the best time to sweep away some of the relentless accretion of […]

  7. […] her fault that I’m here posting. She wrote something about packratting and how good it feels to start decluttering. It reminded me a lot of our house, actually. Bill and I are both terrible about […]

  8. Crazy man! I’m pretty obsessive about getting rid of stuff. If I had to move tomorrow, I think I could be packed up in a couple of hours. Clutter makes me twitchy — even when the fridge starts to look like it has a few too many “leftovers” containers I have to get in there and sort stuff. Keep being brutal, it will fee great!

    • I do get rid of stuff regularly. I go through my mail every couple of day, I throw out old magazines and newspapers as soon as I’m done with them, and I’m grossed out by anything remotely old in the fridge and that goes right away. But somehow we still have piles of things. I attribute it to us both being busy and not being able to deal with stuff right away, but whatever it is, it’s going to stop.

      I don’t know that I’d ever be able to pack up and move in a couple of hours, but I’d like to be able to do it in a day!

  9. Clothes have been the easiest thing for me to get rid of. In the last two years I’ve gotten rid of over 500 items, mostly from my closet but some from my husband’s. And I still have probably another round of 50 – 75 things I can donate and not miss. We have files of paperwork going back easily 13 years that we need to get rid of and that is the task for the year. My father in law died unexpectedly in 2007 and after going through his house and seeing all the stuff and papers that he saved and didn’t need and trying to make heads or tails of it all, it really made us realize that keeping all the junk we have is not the way we want to live.

    • Both of my husband’s parents passed away within about 18 months of each other when we cleaned out the house, I made up my mind that I just didn’t want to live that way either. The worst part was, trying to find the important papers we DID need from there. And now those are in our own piles. *sigh* Slowly but surely…

  10. I strongly recommend you consider getting a Kindle from Amazon. You’ll look at your old dead tree books in a whole new way, and you’ll really enjoy reading on it. It’s been a hugely liberating experience for me, and I was a big time book hoarder (ok, and I still have a bunch from college, now that you remind me).

    Loved this post.

    • My husband has a Kindle and loves it. I like the idea of it—it’s portable and holds a lot—but I still love books. I love the feel, the smell, the weight. I just need to learn that I don’t need to keep every single one that comes my way!

  11. Please tell me you kept Da Bears. Please? Poor little bears. 🙂

    • I have every last one of them. I keep thinking I’m going to put them up on Ebay, but I can’t seem to part with them. (And I do pull the special ones down for the holidays.)

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