Friday, June 17, 2011

the things we keep

A few weeks ago, I tasked myself with sorting through the basement, drawers, closets, and tiny spider-filled spaces to gather items for a yard sale. We're not running out of space; on the contrary, we have more space than we can handle.

And as often happens with extra space you don't need, we've rushed to fill it with extras things we don't need. An empty drawer is like a haunting siren song, playing over and over again in your head, saying, 'why would you leave me like this.'

It took longer than I thought to get started with the sorting process. Each time I would imagine myself tromping down the basement steps and tackling the mess, my chest would seize with fear. What would I find down there? Would it take days? WEEKS?! MONTHS??!!!

And more urgently: How would I part with these things that are apparently so important to me that I stashed them under my house?

Setting deadlines proved to be the push I needed to get it done: I had already placed an ad in the paper about the sale, and it was looming in the not-so-distant future. People would show up on that day, and if I wasn't ready, they would judge me.

Reluctantly resigned, I made myself a reward snack (for all the hard work I had yet to do), and headed into the chilly darkness.

It didn't take long for things to get weird.

The questions I had struggled with before about my unnatural attachment to inanimate objects quickly flew out of my head and were replaced by incredulous terror questions such as these:

  • Why do I have a two-year supply of low fat popcorn and instant mashed potatoes?
  • Whose tupperware is this? WHY ARE THERE NO LIDS?!
  • I own a hamster ball?
  • What made me think I needed to keep four inflatable flamingos?

Spartan. Organized. Functional.

These are the words I would have used to describe my house prior to my basement adventure.

Now I know the truth.

I have allowed myself to use out-of-the-way spaces to hide my inner pack rat. Areas of my house where visitors rarely tread are a safe haven for my irrational hoarding impulse.

Some people keep extra water and food in their basements in case of emergency. Not me; oh no.

I could sleep easy knowing that my basement had enough pink sparkle crap to get me though the worst of times. Do you need a glittery mouse pad? I have three! How about an assortment of unused tumbler cups with shiny Hello Kitty faces emblazoned on the sides? Have you ever wished that you had pink, rainbow-patterned shoe laces? Wish granted!

But no longer. This had to stop.

It was brutal. I moved without mercy. I was like a machine.

I've cut my collection of random Hello Kitty items by more than half. HALF!

Mainly, I've tried to keep only the things that I've had since I was really little, since they have actual sentimental value.

Somewhere, I have a picture of myself at the age of five running away from home with my little red Hello Kitty snack box (a girl's gotta eat). There's a picture of this event because I told my mom I was running away...and also where I was going...before I left.

She told me to be home for dinner.

I found that snack box and the tiny thermos that nests inside, it was one of the things I chose to keep.

The more I sorted and dropped items into the 'sale' box, the easier it became. My criteria was simple: if my house burned down, which of these things would I miss? Everything else goes.

What now takes up the most space in my home are my boxes full of photographs. My summer project is to scan them and back them up, so they will always be safe. My memories are more important than anything I could buy at the store.

Those are the things we keep.

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