I really wanted to avoid writing the cliché of “It’s a new year! Time to shed all of your stuff!” type post just because I feel like you have heard it all before. But then fate stepped in and I was forced to do a purge of a different kind.
The Thursday before Christmas I had not one gift wrapped and not one Christmas card addressed. I had a lot going on the week before both with work and with family and made the mistake of planning to pack all of my prep work into the Saturday and Sunday before Christmas Eve. On my side of the family Christmas Eve is our big main event, with my sister and I swapping back and forth over who hosts. I like the idea of hosting in theory but in practice it makes me break out into a cold sweat. Cooking and setting a sit-down table for nearly 20 is way far out of my comfort zone.
After a very long work day Thursday I decided to delve into my hidden shame (aka my basement) to go unpack the essentials I bring out only every other year to host dinner. Our basement is not finished but basically every square inch was covered with STUFF. So much STUFF I had started to basically open the door and toss stuff down there. As much as I can tackle a closet I did not and could not ever bring myself to tackle our basement. And just like Lindsay Lohan’s reputation, the problem was getting worse.
I bribed my kids to help me bring some things up. My son was the first one down to the basement and promptly came back up.
THERE’S WATER! MOOOOOMMMMM!! THERE’S LOTS OF WATER!
Did I mention my husband had just left for a well-deserved and planned way in advance night out with some of my uncles?
I went downstairs. There was water, all over. Then we all saw something rather large scurry up the side of the far wall. and into the insulation.
We all screamed and ran upstairs as fast as we could. My kids hurled themselves on the kitchen island screaming and crying in fear.
“HE’S GONNA EAT US!!!!!” cried my kids.
I definitely did not have enough wine in the house to handle this was my first thought. My second was that there was water pouring in and I had to figure it out, despite the fact that I feared there was a rabid ferret loose in my basement. Long story short I went back down armed with my husband on the phone but could not figure out what was leaking or why. My husband had to turn around and come back home. We had to call a plumber. We had to call the exterminator. We had to get out the wet vac. Yet again I got more use out of my Hunter boots.
The next day we ordered a 15 yard dumpster. I debated hanging a wreath on it. White trash Christmas here we come!
I had to be up and out of the house early to volunteer for both of my kids holiday events at their school. I held my breath in my daughter’s class during morning meeting share time where they go around the room and ask for any new news the kids want to share with the class. Thankfully my daughter didn’t offer up that we had a leak and a furry something in our basement. I held my cell phone close to me while reading The Polar Express to my son’s class, waiting for the call from the exterminator. When I did meet the exterminator at my house he had good news. What we saw climbing up the wall was actually more like this.
I can’t believe I actually just wrote that was the good news. We live very close to a very large designated open space field and the exterminator said they had happily moved into our insulation under our sun room. YUCK. Who wants to come over for dinner??? I didn’t tell anyone in my family for fear they would not show. This is harder than it sounds because, according to my husband, I have a tendency to OVERshare with my family. Especially the bad stuff, it’s like a disease where I HAVE to tell someone.
We got the plumbing issue fixed. And spent Saturday and Sunday basically throwing out the entire contents of our basement. If it wasn’t in a bin, on a shelf, with a lid on it we tossed it. The inventory included a loveseat, futon, two large playhouses, about 5 tons of toys, and just so much extra stuff. What the heck was I keeping random baskets for anyway? We filled the dumpster to the brim. That’s a lot of STUFF.
But here’s the thing. I had been looking at this stuff for years. I could never bring myself to go through it. It was hard and I didn’t want to do it. Looking at the kids baby toys made me sad. Looking at toys we spent a lot of money on made me mad. But once we started tossing it felt so good. Like someone lifted an anvil off of my shoulders. I was so worried the kids would be sad to see all their stuff go but they helped us haul it right up the stairs and into the dumpster. By Christmas Eve morning the basement was practically empty.
And then the best thing ever happened. They took their bikes, their scooters, even the hockey net down into the basement and they played. They played and played and played. With less they enjoyed the basement so much more. We have also talked about finishing it but I saw how much fun they had with just an empty room. They had ROOM to enjoy what they did already have. Yes of course somebody promptly fell on the concrete and I panicked and threatened to make them were helmets indoors but after that they were all good. They were happy. I was happy. And I know I NEVER would have been able to part with all that stuff if it wasn’t ruined and I became forced to.
*Insider Tip – Hire an outside party to help you shed your stuff.
One of my favorite consults was a very emotional visit. My client had called me because she had a rather large closet and it was packed to the brim. It wasn’t disorganized or messy she just knew she had hit the point of having too many clothes. A good portion of this client’s clothes were connected to her mother who had passed away a couple of years back. They were very close, like best friends. And shopping was a bonding thing for them. My client had also then inherited all of her mother’s clothes. They were the same size. And even after her mother passed she had extended family members who would buy her things that they thought her and her mother would have liked. These items were loaded with sentiment and strong ties emotionally. She called me when she knew she was ready but she knew she needed help.
We worked slowly and carefully. Some items we decided to re-work into her current wardrobe and other items we took a photo and respectfully let them go. I offer options of donating items to women in need as well as taking things to consignment so she knew these clothes were moving on. We talked about her mom, about happy memories, about the shopping tales and stories. She had those in her heart, she didn’t need to keep them all in her closet anymore.
After I left she sent me this message.
It was great working with you! When you left, I ran upstairs to my closet and shouted, “Thank you Suzie” as I can finally breathe without being burdened by my mothers clothing and the multitude of well wishing gifts from my family and friend. Thanks for helping me purge. Knowing that my discarded clothing is going somewhere is a good feeling. I continued to organize by taking my summer shirts out and putting them in an empty closet, so now, I can move my hangers to and fro and push my clothing from one side of the rack to another. Woohool! Life’s simple pleasures, thanks to you!
*Insider Tip – Take stuff out of your closet.
Just because you take it out doesn’t mean you have to get rid of it. I try to keep anything I am not loving right now, whether due to style, fit (hello 5 plus pounds of Christmas cookies!), or climate changes in a guest room closet. Some will make it back in to my main closet and some I will find I am better off without. Snag an extra closet in a guest bedroom, fold and store summer clothes in an under the bed storage bin, anything to have less options in your closet. The less that is in there the more you will wear what you have. It actually forces you to come up with different combinations, to see what you really have. Kind of like those iron chef competitions where they have random ingredients to use to make a meal. Except it’s not like someone gave you polka-dot pants and a plaid flannel and is demanding a runway worthy outfit. These are things you love. Wear them!