Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Buried Treasure
Last Saturday, while I was waiting for my washing machine to finish the last few minutes of its cycle, I started poking around in the piles of stuff in my basement. Previously, I've referred to my basement only as the place I go to visit my container collection so I can see if I already have what I need before I spend money on something new.

Until now, I haven't mentioned that my basement is also the packrat museum.

When my daughter was small, she was the embodiment of an I love stuff personal style. With age, she's acquired less patience with extraneous stuff, and has actually gotten pretty good at weeding out. This is a very good thing since she goes to college in the fall and will be living in a very small space.

But I digress. The fact is, my daughter didn't come by these tendencies by accident, as thirty seconds in my basement will prove. Though I've also grown more ruthless with age, I still have a hard time letting go of things that have sentimental value (and so does my husband). When these mementos collect in the living spaces of my house, it's less of a problem than when they gather in my basement.

Does that sound backwards? Let me explain. Over time and with frequent pruning, only the real treasures survive in the living spaces. But, since pruning and purging happen less often in my basement than dumping and forgetting (an unfortunate cousin of drop and run), the aforementioned piles of stuff grow unchecked for long periods of time. This makes the overwhelming collections of stuff in my basement a perfect place to practice the Give it Five! strategy.

Last Saturday's Give it Five! yielded two items for the recycle bin and plans for some empty containers. First, I started filling an empty box with random items I "discovered" and want to donate. When the box is full, I'll call one of the agencies that collects household items and they'll come and pick it up. Easy enough.

I also started another bin. This one will collect things my daughter will need when she leaves home in the fall -- items from the massive shopping list I printed out last weekend and plan to chip away at this summer. This second inspiration came when I unearthed old blankets and comforters we'd saved "just in case." I'll wash and pack what she needs and wash and donate what she doesn't, and slowly divest myself of unnecessary stuff as I make the transition to this new phase of her life.

Photo: Ashley Schweitzer via Minimograhy
My Give it Five! session also yielded some unexpected emotional treasure. This time, instead of finding something I wanted to hang on to, I found something I was ready to let go of: the planner from my last year as a school counselor.

When I retired, I kept that planner (along with some others that are still packed away) for both practical and emotional reasons. Four years later, getting rid of it was like letting go of old baggage. The planner represented an old part of my life, one I've slowly let go of over the last four years. What's important from that time remains in my memory, nurtured by the interactions I still have with friends from that time. I don't need a planner for those things. And four-year-old appointments certainly don't need to take up room in my basement.

After removing personal information from the planner, I placed it in the recycling bin. It didn't take up much space, which seemed a little strange.

In the short space of time between rinse and spin, I let go of the past and made plans for the future.

Not bad for five minutes in the basement.

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