Monday, July 25, 2011

Purge, baby, purge…household inferno

Dear readers, I haven’t forgotten you. I’ve thought about you frequently. And I’ve missed writing to you. Please forgive me, but I’ve been preoccupied. I’ve been engaged in a purge-athon. As part of my year-long preparations for my Fifty and Fabulous agenda, I’ve become a rip-roaring, whirling dervish through the house to rid myself of unnecessary belongings.

Why do I have a Mexican sombrero, beat-up dorm fridge, and fish tank accessories, along with a mostly defunct 35-inch screen TV, in my garage? Why are there three college apartments worth of junk in my basement? Who is feeding oysters to paper piles in our home office, for certainly they are breeding while we sleep? These are interesting questions I ask myself frequently.

And I don’t know about you, but if there’s an unused room in our house, it’s an easy target for a dump. Rooms under review are three adult children’s former bedrooms:

Room one belonged to the oldest and first child who left the nest over five years ago. Moving to another state, he left a lot behind in his room and in our basement. Just like in the commercial, the minute sonny moved out I was planning the overhaul. I was quick to clear out the room and it’s now a confirmed guest oasis. A success story, many visitors over the years have enjoyed the peaceful ambience of the Tuscany décor, along with our hospitality and some good eats.

Room two belonged to the youngest daughter who’s been out of the house over two years. Her room is still full of shower and wedding memories and gifts, along with all her winter clothes, since she went tropical. And of course, it’s a great place for mom to pile shopping bags with items to be returned. Unfortunately, it's uncertain whether those will ever make it back to the stores once placed in the “forgotten zone.” At least I finally picked up the wedding dress on the floor and got it to the cleaner (but now that box is sitting in my dining room, until I have a dinner party and move it back to her former bedroom or said daughter can claim it, one of the first things I’ll ask her to do when she’s back in the contiguous states).

Room three belonged to the oldest daughter who’s only been out of the house for a year. She moved within easy driving distance and was able to take most of her belongings, but her room slowly became another forgotten zone. A combo of what she's left behind and some of our own so-called treasures moved behind an all-too-easy door to close make for another room we need to deal with. You know, out of sight, out of mind.

So, a mother's plea for all children: Take the best and deal with the rest! As any parent of young adults can testify, this is never too soon. And so we patiently wait. In the meantime, there's plenty we can do. Stop the madness, I say! This is the year to be fabulous, so it’s all changing!

To begin to meet the challenge of my resolution, I took off this past Friday and worked three days straight through. I got lots done, but there’s still so much more to do. I had to stop periodically to look at the bags collected for trash, the Salvation Army, and recycling full of shredded statements and receipts to know I was making progress.

I am certainly motivated and I’ve had a few good role models. And a good show on organization always inspires. Can’t watch the hoarding shows since that just makes me feel okay. Well, at least we’re not hoarders, we say. I need tough love and no excuses. Yes, I’m tired after work and want to relax on the weekend. But it’s time to become the drill sergeant my fun self needs!

I look to a few friends I’ve admired who’ve down-sized and let go of the bulk of their earthly belongings in pursuit of simplicity. They all mention a feeling of relief, a “bearable” lightness of being, if you will. I’m at a stage in my life where I’m ready for that lightness.

So friends, please don’t ever buy me another tchotchke or Christmas decoration. It’s just not necessary. Your company is gift enough. Or some good food is always welcome, of course! Even better, let's go see a Broadway show and have dinner as a treat to each other! That's always way more fun than a new belonging to manage and clean.

Now back to the dilemma of grown kiddies: Although it was always a rewarding moment to visit each of our adult children when they made their own homes, it was always amusing when they were proud for us to notice how neat their humble abode was. Sure it’s neat! You left all your stuff at our house! Haha! The age-old story! I remember when my parents gave hubby and me the ultimatum: Pick up the rest of your stuff in our basement and your room or it’s outta here! And so we gathered our belongings and made the hard decisions about what we really needed to keep and what we’d schlep to our new digs. And some things we brought we knew we’d never need, but again, these are the hard decisions.

Well, maybe for some. When the kids were little and I hung out with the play-group moms, I always marveled at those who were outright heartless and threw away anything in sight to keep things clean. Find one Barbie shoe on the carpet? In the trash! Oh, no, don’t you want to find its mate? No, too bad. Susie’s outta luck if she can’t keep them together. Find a puzzle piece behind the sofa? Ditch that sucker! I could never do that! I’m the mom who stayed up after the kiddies were in bed and put back together all the puzzles and organized all the Barbie shoes with their long-lost mates. The kiddies would have probably never noticed, but throwing them out would have hurt me more because it was our hard-earned money that bought those toys.

And so it’s a personality trait: You either have a penchant to organize and protect your belongings or you don’t. Neither is right or wrong. We’re just all different. And so that’s why we have lots of stuff. We take care of it and keep it. But I’m tired of managing the inventory.

Let’s be clear, though, I’ve purged plenty over the years. Don’t picture me drowning in piles of clutter. But I'll admit I am a perfectionist of sorts and tend to make a mess pulling everything out of closets and drawers because they also have to be just as neat in my ideal world. And as we know, tempus fugit, and there’s only so much time in a day, in a week, in a weekend. And before you know it, if you don’t stay on top of things they start to pile up. But I’m all signed up for active duty now. There’s no better time than the present. Soon I’ll be starting what I hope is the second half of my life (!) with more time to travel and explore, but also prepare for the idea of grandkiddies in the next few years. I want to spend my time with people and in fun places! I don't want to spend my time on stuff! I want to be free and light!

Yes, it’s amazing how one can be so inspired by a milestone birthday! The time is right and I’m ready to be brutal and purge, baby, purge, to have even more time for fun and adventure. So look out, Barbie! Pick up your shoes or weep. It’s a Brooks household inferno! And I’m ready to redecorate two new guest rooms. This ain’t no storage facility and mama’s got to have some fun! Now to figure out my next three-day weekend to get some more done...

Until next time, yours in fun and purging…Therese


  1. This essay made me smile:) Now if you could just bottle your purging enthusiasm - I would buy some! Maureen J.

  2. Haha! Thanks, Maureen! I could use a bottle for myself! Funny, now that I'm back to work I struggle to look around and see where my recent purge-athon made a difference. There's still so much more I want to do. Rome wasn't built in a day...and I'm hoping to find some more energy this weekend! Good luck to you, too! Thanks for writing!

  3. I purged a bunch for my move west, and now I'm dreading getting reaquainted with all the stuff that's waiting for me in my storage unit. I know I didn't purge enough. It's so hard, and I don't think any of us even begin to qualify as hoarders.

  4. Purging is good for the mind & soul. It not only relieves our living space from clutter but relieves the clutter from the mind.
    Living in the city we have the forever trash pickers driving down the rear driveway and looking for our tossed out treasures.
    I was able to stop one of these treasure hunters last week and asked him if he was interested in some 5 large bulky items. He said he was and proceeded to load them out of our garage into his truck. That was so cleansing it encouraged me to continue my own personal purge. Thanks for the nudge Therese. Aunt B

  5. Jamar, I know what you mean! Before any move I always thought I purged a lot, but then when I unpacked I wished I had purged more. Maybe you'll find that you don't miss the stuff from storage and you don't need to unpack it. Straight to donation or craigslist!

    Aunt B, you are absolutely right! A clear space does clear the mind. Glad you were inspired. I need to read it again myself, so I can get ready to purge some more this weekend!

    Thanks for your comments!