Instead of lazily sleeping in on this first day of the weekend, Lee and I trudged our way out of bed to begin setting up items for our garage sale. We worked in the driveway in darkness and fog. It was a scene right out of a classic, noir movie.
The thing with Florida fog is that it’s basically a big blanket of wet. By 6:30, the pages on the paperbacks were drenched, the electronics were dripping, and we were running out of paper towels.
But in the end, the sun broke through and we had a good turn out. I wish I could say we sold everything (hardly), but a lot of what we didn’t sell went straight to the Salvation Army. We have some items we’ll attempt to sell online, but today was a success in that we took a big chunk out of the ‘stuff‘ mountain that’s been in our garage.
The house in which I grew up in Miami was built in 1934. Cinder block construction with a flat roof. It’s the foundation of all my childhood memories, and so much “life” was experienced within its four walls.
This house is now old and decrepit, unfit to function as anyone’s abode, and should most likely be condemned and torn down. It’s cross beams under the floor have sunk and patches of the roof have caved in.
Yet despite its condition, there was still a good amount of stuff in several of the rooms. Most were old, wooden dressers and night tables, all mostly hollowed out by termites. But some boxes and containers had items – mostly from my dad who passed away in 2004 – that can be donated, repurposed, or kept for their sentimental value. So I spent my day clearing out a bunch of sh crap and loading it onto a pickup to take to the dump.
The primary purpose of clearing out that house is to – hopefully – get my mom in the mindset to begin clearing out her house. My mother lives on the same lot as where my childhood home is, but it’s in the back in what used to be (at a time) a guest house. To say her house is cluttered is an understatement. To say she has a borderline hoarding problem is not an exaggeration.
I’ve watched my fair share of Hoarders and on more than one occasion (like every show) I’ve had the impulse to say, “that could be my mom.” And I don’t mean it in a bad or evil way. I simply recognize the tendency to keep useless stuff. It’s a behavior I see in myself as well, and one that is at the forefront of my personal life given that I will be moving soon.
My goal is to get rid of the junk (e.g. encyclopedias from 1979), make her living space more open and safe, and prevent her from being in a situation where she trips over a collection of TV Guides from the 80’s and ends up breaking a hip.
I hate to see my mom living the way she is, but it’s her life and it’s her choice to do so. There is also a world of truth to the fact you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. The fact we had only one shouting match today is a victory in my eyes. I don’t think I will be so lucky on Tuesday as I invade her space.
Overall, however, this experience further strengthens the lessons of these past several weeks: don’t let yourself get caught up in stuff. Life is not measured by the number of porcelain dolls or VHS tapes you may have (yes, my mom still has a ridiculous amount of VHS tapes). Rather, life in the memories we make and the experiences we share. Having stuff is nice, but at the end of the day, it’ll just be stuff someone else will have to throw or give away.
There is a phenomenon when you skydive called ground rush. The serenity and calm of being under canopy are replaced by the visual sensation of the earth coming at you really, really fast!
Lee and I have something similar going on with regards to my mother-in-law.
We’ve been prepping for some time now to get Patsy ready to move back home to Alabama. With our impending house sale and move to the D.R., we needed to ensure Patsy is taken care of. We had always talked about 2019 being a transition year for us, so Patsy had been, for some time now, on a waiting list with the state of Alabama for government-assisted housing. As with all things involving God’s perfect timing, a couple of weeks after Lee and I earnestly prayed for the missionary opportunity and surrendered that reality to God – thus drastically moving our transition timeline forward – an apartment became available for Patsy.
The timing was perfect, but it also meant we needed to get a move on with regards to packing all of Patsy’s items and coordinating the logistics for the move. For someone who occupies just one room of our house, you would think this is a relatively easy task, and it would have been if not for the attic.
Yes, the attic. That oft-forgotten space above our heads used to keep boxes and boxes of stuff we all forgot we had. And with Patsy’s move day set for next weekend (1/13), the reality of needing to get all her stuff together came at us like a cardboard box ground rush equivalent. So Lee and I spent the day in the attic bringing down just about everything that was up there, and then playing a complex game of Tetris in our garage to get all the boxes and storage bins in the right piles.
“This is mother’s pile, and this one is for my stuff from my old office, and we’ll use this space here for giveaways, and …….. awwwwwwww, I forgot I had this!”
As cumbersome and tedious as it was, it was very satisfying to know we knocked out a major task in terms of getting Patsy better positioned for her move next week. Still, it was a sobering reminder of all the crap and junk we collect and keep over the years.
If you’ve ever contemplated downsizing and decluttering, I hope our experience helps motivate you to do so. Lee and I are quickly realizing how unnecessary over 50% of the stuff we have really is. And if you’re not careful, you may end up relating to the subject of George Carlin’s ‘Stuff’ routine.