5 Things I have Learned Purging

I call this, the junk pile. Random stuff everywhere that would normally be stored in boxes and never opened. This time, I was determined not to have ANY boxes other than Christmas decorations stored in the basement.

Oh boy, it has been 3 months since we decided to move, downsize, and purge our lives of all baggage of stuff, and a history that wasn’t ours. It has been a remarkable ride, and an adventure in emotions. There are a lot of things we have learned and things I want to share. Everyone seems to be on a spectrum of hoarding, come on think about it, we are told to buy a bigger house, fill it with stuff, and then rent a storage unit and fill that with stuff. That is simply insane. Why do we need so many things?

1. Storage solutions – I find it remarkable how many storage solutions there are, and how many I bought, and how completely useless they really are. Storage solutions made me lose things, made me forget what there was in them. I had a mentality that I needed to organize and buy storage solutions instead of thinking about what I had. In many cases, I had duplicates and triplicate of things, simply because I forgot that I had it. It was simply out of sight out of mind. So, by purging, by getting rid of all storage solutions and banning myself never to buy any again, I have eliminated that possibility of ever hoarding things by accident.

2.  I was attaching myself to things that weren’t even mine. Remember that Lady’s chair that I wrote about? Well, my cousin didn’t want it, so she gave it to me. She gave it to me to get rid of it, not out of sentimentality, but simply to pass the buck. She passed on a sentiment making me a keeper of something I shouldn’t have been a keeper of. I felt like I had to hold onto a piece of family history out of loyalty. It didn’t really give me any happiness, it was in rough shape, and would cost a small fortune to fix. By letting it go, I let go of the guilt and a past that wasn’t mine. You see, I think my cousin passed it on, thinking that she didn’t have to have guilt because it was still in the family, therefore passing the guilt to me. We have now banned all family from bringing anything into our house, including gifts.

3. The more I have purged, the lighter I feel. By letting go emotionally to things, and only keeping what I truly love around me, I have actually been able to sleep better.

4. Anytime something becomes cluttered, whether it is in the kitchen, closet or desk, it simply means we have too much stuff, and it is time to purge a few things. The process has made cleaning easer and more efficient as well as made life just that much more stress free.

5. Being Thoughtful – We have made a house rule that anything we purchase, clothes, kitchen, furniture, it has to be thoughtful. We are now focussed on bringing into this house what we truly love, what we can really use, and what is practical. Recently, we got rid of 2 backpacks that we kept using for our day hikes, but we actually complained about. We inherited the mentality that you don’t get rid of something that is useful, even if you complain about it. A little strange, but I have noticed that mentality with a lot of people. So now, if it is uncomfortable, we are simply eliminating it because it is not 100%. We then bought one pack, that both of us love and can use, and is comfortable. It is all we needed for a day hike.

As I sat surrounded by boxes and things that I was getting rid of, I realized that the accumulation of things made us miss out on a couple of trips. We had simply started to collect things, not truly focussing surrounding ourselves with people and experiences. We have always been good about travelling, but as I looked around at our pile of things, I realized, I had to get better. I was holding onto things that I had inherited, they weren’t mine, didn’t even reflect what we liked, and goodness didn’t make us any happier.

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Lady’s Chair

The chair that started it all.

Long ago, when we moved back to Ottawa from Mexico, we lived close to my Auntie Jean. She was my grandmother’s sister. She was perfect in her 5 foot frame, and navy blue pleated skirt with matching blazer and tam, her hair was always perfectly curled, and she always smelled like Chanel #5. She defined WASP, from her apartment filled with perfectly tufted Victorian furniture, to the antique tea service and silver trays. She had been a principal of several schools, when women rarely rose past the ranks of teacher. She was absolutely perfect in every way in my eyes. She and my Uncle George lived in a 3 bedroom apartment during the summer months, and then left for Florida for the cold months.

Sunday’s were important, we were dropped off at Auntie Jean’s and Uncle George’s for an afternoon swim, and tea. This was by far, my most favourite of days. After spending a couple of hours in the pool, learning to dive on the side and being instructed by my tall Uncle with his deep baritone English voice giving me clear instructions, and my Aunt sitting on the side in her fancy bathing cap, and skirting swimming attire clapping and cheering.

After exhaustion set in. We would go upstairs, change, and retire in the living room to a full afternoon tea. Even though my Mother had a full tea service and enough china in the house to have a dinner party for 100 people, she rarely took out the china when we lived in Ottawa, in fact, I never had tea at home, it was saved for my Auntie Jeans.

There it sat, this perfect, tiny little chair, polished and beautiful. It sat so elegantly beside the sofa, it was the perfect hight for my legs to touch the floor, and for me to cradle a tea-cup and sandwich. I felt regal at the age of 7, sitting on this ladies chair, drinking from a proper tea-cup. This was my chair.

For years, as we came in and out of Ottawa, that chair, was the only chair I ever sat on when visiting my Auntie Jean and Uncle George. The chair, became a symbol of my life. As I grew, the chair became increasingly uncomfortable. I persisted, I visited, drinking tea in the same cups, having more and more stilted conversations with a tired and worn out Aunt. I watched as she cared for my ailing Uncle after a massive stroke, that left him paralysed in a wheelchair. She persisted, and kept him at home. Her apartment, once a museum in its refined WASP beauty, began to look tired and weathered, unable to keep up with everything, chairs weren’t polished, or redone, they showed signs of age.

Soon, it became apparent, that my Uncle had little time, and my Aunt was unable to keep up. As I graduated highschool, she packed up her beloved apartment, and moved in with her daughter out West. I was heartbroken. The apartment, the chair, the channel number 5, was all gone. My life in Ottawa, which had never shifted, did.

She had told me once, when she was lucid in mind, told me what would be mine when she died. The lady’s chair would be mine.

I went on in life, losing a Father, another Great Aunt, my beloved childhood dog, and then, we found out, my Great Auntie Jean would be moved back to Ottawa, where her daughter would be moving too for work. My Great Aunt was moved to a home, and passed away 2 weeks after arriving back in Ottawa. I hadn’t seen her in years. I had felt guilty for not visiting, and not hugging her one last time, but those 5 years without her, I was lost in my own grief.

I went to my cousin’s house, and there was the chair, sitting and decaying. It made me sad. My cousin didn’t appreciate the beauty of the chair. In years to come, my cousin handed me that chair.

That chair has been everywhere, and has sat in every corner of every tiny place we have lived in, and kept decaying. I have searched high and low for someone who could restore it, had quotes back, but never did anything. The chair has sat decaying.

Then, like a huge lightbulb going off in my head. I sat there, staring at this chair. It was a symbol of a life I never actually wanted. I didn’t want to inherit things, nor did I want to hold onto things, I didn’t want to be WASP, I don’t ever want the life my Mother set out for me. I don’t want a house to be filled with relics that can not be sat on, or used. I wanted to live, and be filled with memories.

So, the chair was donated to Salvation Army. I said “goodbye”, and last night, I woke up, not feeling anxious, but happy. I am letting go of a life that I never wanted, and am embracing a life I want.