Category Archives: Trashed

Tips for a good purge

recycling and trash

Four bins of recycled materials and three bags of trash. Not too bad for a day’s work.

Last week I took Friday off to take advantage of the kids being gone to the grandparents’ house. It’s a good thing they weren’t here, as I might have accidentally thrown them out in the midst of my purge.

So the kids were gone and it was just the wife and I with the house to ourselves. In preparation for kid No. 3 she wanted me to look for a few things she knew was “under the stairs in the basement.”

Oh no. Under the stairs. I wonder what’s down there?

Yeah, it was pretty much what I expected. Some of the things I already knew about: there were baby and kid clothes, holiday decorations and toys. As I dug deep, I found a couple of boxes filled with nothing but empty DVD cases for all the movies we’ve purchased. I tend to store the DVDs in a portable mega case, but kept the individual DVD cases to “help retain the resell value” when the time came to get rid of them.

Of course, that never happened. And there I was, stuck with all these cases and a decision to be made. I decided to recycle all the DVD cases. We’d keep all the movies until they rotted or broke or whatever. If all else failed, I could make frisbees out of them or something.

I will admit I was sightly overwhelmed at first. I had to call a friend for a little pep talk to get me started. Once I got under way, I became a madman. I took pictures or “scanned” the things I wanted to keep. I chucked things I had held onto for years that hadn’t seen the outside of boxes in forever. My sentimental attachment dissipated. And the things I needed input on from my wife, I grabbed her, sat her down, and had her go through those things with me so I knew I wasn’t getting rid of anything important.

It was amazing.

In the end, we had three bags of trash and four bins of recycled materials exit the house. Our trash and recycling containers are filled to the brim now, so I’m kind of in a holding pattern for a few days until they get emptied. I loaded up the back of the van with items to donate, which either went to Goodwill or to a friend who was going to put them in his garage sale.

What a liberating experience!

The purge taught me a few things that I wanted to pass on. I hope you find these helpful.

1. Free up as much space as you can in trash and/or recycling containers. Our refuse is picked up every Wednesday, so filling our trash and recycling containers on Friday kind of boxed us into a corner until trash day. While the recycling was empty, the trash can was about one-third of the way full. Had I to do it over again, I would have sorted my recycling better and taken it to one of the recycling centers we have in town so I’d still have room for household recycling. I’m unsure what I could have done about the trash, however. Sometimes you just have a lot to throw out.

2. If you need input from a partner about your stuff, then go get your partner! Several of the items I got rid of I had put off for a long time because I wasn’t sure if I should keep or pitch them. The lightbulb moment for me came when I realized I needed my wife’s guidance, and made myself, right then, to go ask her to sit down with me to make progress. This was incredibly helpful, as there was much that needed to go, but a few other things she wanted to keep that I might have otherwise thrown out. By devoting a little time with her, I was happy with the decision we made together and didn’t think anything we got rid of was a mistake.

3. Be prepared for the unexpected. I had forgotten all about the DVD cases, and after I got over the initial shock of seeing how many there were, I was able to get on with business. The simple fact is this: we’re pretty good at accumulating “stuff” and keeping it forever. There will be things hidden you have completely forgotten about. That’s OK. Take your time and do what you can; it doesn’t have to be perfect today. Which leads me to my last point …

4. It’s OK if you don’t get through everything in one setting. I have three boxes of pictures that I don’t want to get rid of, but I would like to keep. I’m working on some options for turning old film prints into digital so I can keep them in my hard drive and external backups. This is going to take time. I realized early on that it wasn’t going to all get done in one day, and accepted it. I weeded out a few photographs I absolutely knew I didn’t want to keep and then stored the rest in a plastic storage container for processing later. And really, you’ll get to a point where you need to stop the process and enjoy your life. There will be time for future edits — pace yourself.

I’m go glad I took a day off of work for this. When we were done (for the time being) I reveled in what we accomplished. I’m really starting to enjoy the freedom of having fewer possessions. It gives me some satisfaction to know that in the event of a weather emergency like a tornado, we’ll now have room to get under the stairs in the basement. Perhaps most important, I found it easier to let go of things that I thought I needed to keep, but clearly weren’t that important or else I would have used them.

The really odd part? I wonder just how deep this rabbit hole goes. How much can I get rid of? Were will it end? What is the endgame?

I guess we’ll just have to see. I’m excited for the possibilities.

Box full of letters

box of letters

A box of letters from an old flame has no place in my life.

Got a box full of letters,
Think you might like to read.
Some things that you might like to see,
But they’re all addressed to me.

Wilco, Box Full of Letters

All this week I have been on vacation, and the days have been filled with finding staycation things for the family to do coupled with several projects I have long needed to get done around the house.

I came across a box yesterday while working in the garage. It was not just any old box; it was the box. It was a box full of letters from an old relationship, which was a painful one that didn’t end well. I had forgotten it even existed until I started this minimalism journey. I went looking for it at the end of May, but didn’t find it. Then, while I was packing up for a family camping trip, there it was.

When I first went looking for it last month, my purpose was to throw it out the night before trash day so that it wouldn’t be “discovered.” It’s not that I was ashamed of it, and I wasn’t really hiding it. I simply didn’t want to answer any questions about it.

So what did I do? I told my wife about it anyway.

It led to a good discussion about it, past relationships, and the pain of being with the wrong person. She asked me why I had kept it. Was I over her?

Yes, I was long over her. I then explained that I had given it some thought and came up with the only honest answer I could: I kept the box all these years because it came at such a great cost.

And so, when I found it yesterday, I got excited. I was ready to get rid of it, and I knew just how to do it. I packed it up when our camping supplies, and when it was time to make supper last night, we used it to light the fire. We made brats and hot dogs, with a savory hint of printer ink and old tears.

I will admit that my sentimentality could have tripped me up. I almost looked them over once more as a final review of the evidence. I didn’t. I realized there was no need to rehash old pain. My heart isn’t broken any longer. I’m good.

I can only re-state my driver with minimalism: If something no longer adds value to my life, it needs to go. That box and its contents certainly had no value to me anymore, and so, I have one less box in my life.

Things are good.