By Louise Ure
If flotsam is the wreckage of a ship washed up by the sea, and jetsam the purposeful tossing of objects overboard to lighten a vessel … this has been a week of both for me. I can best describe it as a week of useless and discarded objects.
Returning from moving my father-in-law to assisted living in Seattle, I faced my own house with new eyes. Ye gods. I’d become a hoarder, too.
I don’t know why, but I always start a cleansing process like this with the tiniest job imaginable. I roll pennies. I organize a button box. I put all the stamps in one place. Maybe taking that small first step gives me the courage to try something bigger, like a drawer. Soon I was going through closets, drawers and cupboards and evicting anything broken or the wrong size or I simply didn’t like. Funny how much of the stuff I own falls into one of those categories.
The storeroom in the garage held a four-drawer filing cabinet with tax records and canceled checks dating back to 1979. Ten big plastic bins crammed with God-knows-what. Vacuum-sealed bags of clothes with no owner. The third bench seat to a car I no longer own. Rolled rugs so old and dirty that no charity would take them. Empty boxes from TVs we gave away ten years ago.
I spent five days down there, going through every piece of paper, sorting through bags of cloths to give away, making a bonfire-sized pile for the junkyard. After recycling and trashing as much as I could, I still had 210 pounds of paper to take to a professional shredder.
Then there were new targets: things that decided to break right in front of my eyes as if to tell me that they, too, were ready to join The Long March. The coils in the couch that sprang loose to stab me in the butt. The computer that finally said it had only 4 MB of space left and would no longer even sync to my mobile phone.
Out with the old and in with the new.
I hired a tech guy to set up the new computer and make sure I didn’t lose any data. He was a gem, setting up wi-fi networks and discarding a modem so old (still plugged in!) that it was on dial up. He went through everything electronic in the house — routers and firewire, cables and AC adapters, old cell phones dating back to the 80’s, a Super 8 player! — and took them all to either recycle or sell for me on eBay.
And yet, and yet … I look around and nothing looks leaner or cleaner or uncluttered. How is that possible?
I had lunch with an old friend in the midst of all this clearing away madness and she told me about her own, preferred Spartan style of living. The kitchen counter must be bare, nothing must reside on the front or on top of the refrigerator. Her “junk drawer” has only eight items in it. They are in a drawer organizer.
My cupboards are still full, not a scant inch left for a new vase or sweater or book. There is no table that needs another “interesting objet d’art” on top. The storage room in the garage looks just as crammed full now as it did before the purge. And yes, there are baskets stacked on top of my refrigerator.
What about you guys? Are you neatniks? Is there an empty drawer someplace in your house? Are you happily cluttered? Or are you — like me — in danger of being approached for that Buried Alive hoarder show on TV?