I have never been much of a pack rat. Or so I thought.
When my mother asked if we would help get her house ready to sell, and also clear out her basement, I was actually quite happy — at first.
My brothers and I have long wanted mom to downsize. We suggested they do so years ago, before my father got sick. But they moved instead to a roomy ranch home with a huge basement that was perfect for storing their “stuff.”
When any of their 11 grandchildren needed something, they would ask my mom if they could go “shopping” in her basement, and she was always extremely generous. No matter that it never seemed to make a dent in the amount of stuff in that basement.
Paul and I spent several days recently helping get the upstairs of the house ready, which added much more “stuff” to the overflowing basement.
Then, my brother and his wife traveled from Montana to work on selling and/or giving away the contents of the basement. They worked like crazy and the basement was empty after 10 days. It was a miraculous sight walking through that huge space and seeing just the cement floor.
During the basement purge, the house sold after only a few days on the market. Naturally, the buyers wanted to close and move in as soon as possible, which further motivated the continuing purge, as well as the actual packing of the upstairs.
Is there anything worse than the stress of moving? Surely this is on the master list. It was grueling for everybody, including my sweet mom who, in her words, had 53 years of “stuff” under one roof.
I was happy to take home a few things I hadn’t seen since my childhood. Those included pottery made by my grandmother, some old photos, a few special books and my favorite — my paternal grandmother’s china cabinet.
I have so many memories of standing there looking inside that cabinet at her dainty china. I used to beg her to use the pieces, but I think we did so only at special holiday dinners.
We got my mom all packed and she returned to Montana with my brother to decide her next move.
The whole experience then prompted us to clean out our attic.
While that may not sound like that bad of a job, and certainly pales in comparison to my mom’s basement, our attic was completely full and neither one of us really knew what was up there. That translates into “a bunch of stuff we never use and probably don’t need.”
So early on Saturday morning, before it got too hot, Paul climbed up the ladder and began handing down boxes, bags and furniture. Of course, I did find things I wanted to keep — special toys, baby clothes and other keepsakes that brought tears to my eyes as I remembered my kids as little ones.
But we made four trips to charitable organizations, hauling load after load of 24 years of accumulated “stuff” that hopefully will be put to good use by someone else.
I spent hours sorting through the rubble and then repacked what we were keeping and carefully labeled everything. At the end of a two-day de-junker session, we both felt freer.
This exercise in purging is one that gets easier as you go along. It actually feels really good to know you’ll have less clutter, even if it’s in a room or closet you don’t see often.
In fact, I went down to our storage rooms, which don’t look terrible, but still contain a lot of “stuff” we don’t really use.
I made a list of every closet and area that needed to be de-junked and decided that would be my goal this summer — getting rid of all extra clutter that is hiding out in our home.
Do you have a closet, basement or attic that contains “stuff” you need to go through? I promise you’ll feel better after doing so.
Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.