I purged today. I meant to post my dad’s lifesketch, and hopefully I’ll get to that yet too. But I’ve been fighting the never-ending battle with “stuff”, specifically paper stuff: books, magazines, memorabilia, clippings, grad school papers, teaching papers, photographs, including the family photo/memorabilia collections from both our parents in nursing homes. My dad’s death in Oct. and my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday last weekend had led to a flurry of photo/slide sorting and scanning that is nowhere near done.

It started when I decided (and leaned hard on Dave) to switch the use of two rooms, our upstairs guest room/storage and our downstairs entry/storage. I thought I’d like to consolidate all the storage into one room, even if it meant losing a dedicated guest room. I opined that the downstairs could still function as a guest room if we purchased a queen-size air mattress. Done.

With a considerable expenditure of energy, and some marred walls and floors, the two of us moved two 30x60x25″ wooden storage units and a 25x25x34″ metal pattern file cabinet up the stairs (around a bend/over a railing) without injury. These, true to our frugal nature, were all salvage-type acquisitions from a local fabric store 20+ years ago that have been moved up and down the stairs, with considerable expenditure of energy and frustration, over an equal number of years thanks to my never-ending quest to “improve” our small house’s ability to meet our needs. Dave remarked that it’s “time to go abroad again”, as our return has always improved my satisfaction level with our small house in the past (Chad 1989-92, India 1995-99). Barring another stint of life in the bush, my expanding collection of books on simplifying one’s life and de-cluttering one’s abode (most recently, It’s all too much: An easy plan for a richer life with less stuff by Peter Walsh), will have to be enough to motivate me to keep working on “living more with less“.

I was following Walsh’s admonition to “imagine the life you want to live” and “imagine your ideal living space”. I tried to take to heart his admonition that “you only want to keep the amount of stuff that makes sense for your space”. (I’m not sure what to do with his advice that your house “should not contain anything that doesn’t belong to you” in light of the elder-parent-in-nursing-home reality.) So, this week I began sorting through the files that were in that lummox of a file cabinet. I did well discarding information easily available on the web. (We are well web-oriented here) and made quite a start. Until I started actually reading the stuff I was discarding. Especially the painful emails/notes/letters written around the time I was “fired” from my first HR job fresh out of graduate school. The growth of the discard pile slowed, my stomach churned, and I actually spent a little time near tears in the bath.

Today was easier. Mostly. I wasn’t dealing with stored emotions, today’s target was stored knowledge. Specifically, my clipping file. When I began this website in a burst of enthusiasm and free time, I rigorously saved anything I thought I might write about on charitableliving. net. Categories included: quotes, economics/poverty, giving/money/stewardship, conflict, racism, ideas, work, self-actualization, stress, relationships/family, leadership, change, health/fitness, education, environment, simple living, peace/war/politics, church/faith, community/social capitol… After all, the tagline for charitableliving.net is supposed to be “whole-life stewardship”. That would include about everything.

Some categories I dumped quite easily. On the other hand, I kept all of the economics/poverty clippings because I’m involved with our local Bridges Out of Poverty initiatives. I kept all of the quotes. And, I kept most of my notes scribbled on post-its – the stuff that comes out of my head during sermons (to which I seldom listen after something sets me off and I’m long gone “chasin’ rabbits”, as an old boyfriend used to say), things I want to remember from books read, or things that come together in my head while sitting in the rocking chair for devotions that often stretch into an hour of just thinking. (I once wrote “thinking” in response to “What’s your favorite activity?”). All those notes and clippings represented a lot of think-time and a fair body of knowledge. Like Dave in front of the dumpster with the leftover books to be recycled after a book sale, “I just can’t do this”… My stomach didn’t feel so good, maybe it was just too much caffeine, but the idea of letting go of knowledge didn’t sit well.

I heard the sound of the garbage truck. It was early! I grabbed the blue recycle bin off the floor, ran down the stairs and out the door, handing it to the guy. No turning back, no rescue operation possible, all that effort to collect information was moving down the street away from me…

My thesis research is safe for now, as are our Marriage Encounter dialogs and last year’s Christmas cards.

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One Response to Purging

  1. Bev says:

    I have steadfastly avoided cleaning out file cabinets, even though I know it is much needed. I commend you for your bravery, as well as the courage to live without some of it. It’s difficult to relive old times, even when we can see how God has worked beyond the pain.

    I understand your dreams for things to write about. I wish for more time for writing as well, and then when I get it my mind goes blank.

    Have a great weekend!

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