Big black bags of freedom

Wow! Given the frenzy of responses to my last post, I feel the need to provide a handy summary of lessons learned:

1) I should not post while crabby.
2) There are no shortcuts.
3) You all are just as tired and stressed as I am.
4) Liquor is the answer.

Seriously, in my Nyquil-enhanced funk, last night, I was sure that someone would give me a fabulous idea or trick which would cause me to smack my forehead and declare “OF COURSE!” I cannot decide if I am disappointed or relieved to know that there’s no magic bullet. Well, short of disposing of the children. And I sort of like the children.

Today, I decided it was time to grab ahold of my own destiny! And throw it in the trash!

Hmmmm. Probably shouldn’t have thrown my destiny in the trash. I don’t think I really did. It’s probably still around here somewhere.

This all started over the weekend, actually. And really, it’s all Susan‘s fault. Thanks to her, I got it into my head that I needed to go through all my clothes and weed out stuff to get rid of. How much stuff could that generate, really?

Three giant lawn refuse bags later, I had to admit that I MAY have been clinging to just a FEW more items in my wardrobe than I needed. I mean, yes, I’m sure that some people really do need to own fifty t-shirts. I, however, am not one of them. Nor do I need every dress from my Amish phase (“it must reach my ankles!”) or every college sweatshirt I’ve ever accumulated. Though you’ll have to pry my trusty college sweatpants out of my cold, dead hands. (Don’t worry, Susan—I never wear them outside of the house.) I don’t even know if I really like them or if I just feel the need to keep them around to remind me that I can still fit into pants I wore in college. No matter.

Anyway, the Great Closet Cleanout happened this weekend. Then I got sick and did a whole lot of nothing for a few days, but today—kleenex in hand—I decided I needed to stop riding the “oh, woe is me, I have SO MUCH TO DO” train to Martyrville and just. keep. chipping. away.

So. After my morning routine (getting the kids up and out, checking email, sending out anything due before lunch), I headed back upstairs. My closet and dresser are organized and uncrowded. I remember the exhilaration I felt on Saturday as I bagged up all of that stuff. How could I get that feeling back?

Why, I could start with my linen closet!

[Question: Why would a woman who doesn't own a queen size bed need a big stack of queen bedding?

Answer: Perhaps because she is insane.]

Two more giant bags swallowed up ancient towels, bedding that fits nothing, and sheets that I can see through. For years I have maintained that it’s better to have extras around “just in case.” Well, “just in case” stops being an acceptable justification when the extras are things like the very first set of full size sheets I ever bought. They were Marimekko! Which at the time I thought was so fancy! They were probably 180 thread count! And I think I spent TWENTY WHOLE DOLLARS which was, at the time, a small fortune. Did I mention that it was 1990? Well, it was.

Now I had five giant trash bags sitting in my room, waiting to be taken to the Salvation Army. The euphoria was returning. I didn’t want to stop.

Back downstairs again, I undertook the most dangerous of missions, the one which I only attempt once a year or so. Garbage bag in hand, I started clearing out all the hidey-holes of “secret messages” and “stories” and “letters” which my children create at an alarming rate. It’s a balancing act to weed out the bulk of the garbage without crossing the line into territory where they might actually notice something is missing. (Monkey did come home from school and—of course, today, because none of these things were necessary for the last six months—start looking for some treasured paper or other while I feigned ignorance and promised to help him look “later.”) (I am so going to hell.)

After I’d decimated the children’s stacks, I turned to my own. I have an island table in my kitchen (calling it just an island sounds like something so much fancier than what it is, which is basically a small table sitting in the middle of the room) which is a magnet for bills, receipts, and other detritus. When I was done, the garbage bag was full, I’d found my auto insurance card, and I could see the island table top again. Success!

I took the trash out and moved the donation bags downstairs, then went about my day with a spring in my step.

Why, I wasn’t even fazed when I got a call from FEMA. They finally decided that they want their money back. When I pointed out that I did, in fact, offer to give them their money back, MONTHS ago, the woman on the phone seemed perplexed but generally appreciative. Anyway, she told me how and where to send my check, and I popped it into the mailbox feeling like even that somehow contributed towards setting my house to rights.

Once the kids came home, I hustled them through snacks and unloading their bags before we had to head out to an appointment. We had just enough time to stop at the Salvation Army, first, which was a good thing, because five giant garbage bags in my little car rather have the effect of making us look like a homeless family. I really didn’t want to park my car at the doctor’s office with all of those crammed in there.

I told the kids to sit tight while I hopped out and started unloading. The problem with the donation dumpsters is that the holes are VERY LITTLE, and my garbage bags are VERY BIG. So I started piling the bags in front of the nearest dumpster. The one that has DO NOT LEAVE ITEMS OUTSIDE DUMPSTERS printed on it.

“Mama!” called Chickadee, “It says—”

“I know what it says, sweetie,” I interrupted, trying to sound breezy. “The bags won’t fit through the hole. And see? The truck is here.” I pointed to the truck parked at the loading dock, hoping against hope that I could finish unloading before the workers came back out and saw me violating the donation rules. “They’ll throw these in the truck before they leave, so it’s not a big deal.”

I unloaded the last bag and peeled rubber out of the lot. If anyone asks, I have NO IDEA who it was that left a big pile of out-of-date clothing and threadbare sheets outside the dumpsters in spite of clear markings not to do so. God, who would do that? Someone idiotic, I’m sure.

In celebration of the lightening of my load, I made a lovely dinner which included a loaf of garlic bread utilizing an entire stick of butter. I think that’s fair.

I hope I didn’t give away any clothes suitable for wearing with clogged arteries.

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22 Responses to “Big black bags of freedom”

  1. 1
    Melissa October 4, 2006 at 12:56 am #

    You actually needed the stick o’ butter garlic bread, because your house was so much lighter for having got rid of all the stuff. See how that works? Load up another bag tomorrow and you get to eat a pint of Haagen Dazs. It’s a miracle diet.

  2. 2
    Heather October 4, 2006 at 3:31 am #

    I always feel so much better when I do a major clean like that. I think you may have inspired me…

  3. 3
    birchsprite October 4, 2006 at 4:26 am #

    Ohhhh that sounds lovely! I love getting rid of stuff, unfortunately I’m a terrible hoarder so it doesn’t happen very often.

  4. 4
    Bob October 4, 2006 at 7:52 am #

    Sounds like you’re feeling better. (all hail nyquil!) Bring that energy down this way, my house needs a good cleaning out. you can take a few cats as payment back with you.

  5. 5
    Susan October 4, 2006 at 8:14 am #

    You’re welcome. And GOOD FOR YOU!

  6. 6
    tori October 4, 2006 at 8:58 am #

    You make me want to clean out all our closets! I just donated a bunch of clothes, but I didn’t actually go through my own closet, just the kids. I’m thinking maybe instead of adding some shelves in my closet (which is what I was thinking of doing) I should go through and get rid of stuff. Thanks for the inspiration! I have so many things to do today that I probably won’t actually do it, but the thought is there and that is half the battle for me.

  7. 7
    Steff October 4, 2006 at 9:32 am #

    Can you come to TX and do the same for my family of four with overloaded closets? I promise to have good things to eat! Nothing like a little exfoliation!

  8. 8
    Megan October 4, 2006 at 10:42 am #

    I love that feeling of organzied and uncluttered. In fact, I did the same thing the other day. I bought all of these nice new clothes and had no where to put them because old, haven’t seen the light of day in three years clothes were taking up space. What a feeling of accomplishment! (Although my son misses the large pile of old shoes that he would sit in and throw around — oh well)

  9. 9
    shannon October 4, 2006 at 11:31 am #

    you’ve apeased the gods above. you will find everything and anything you need now. those elusive pillowcases, you’ll find them…you’ve purged and the gods like it when you purge. they reward! ;)

    (and i need to learn how to spell and what not…coffee? more, please)

  10. 10
    Cele October 4, 2006 at 11:46 am #

    I try so hard to clean things out (because I am at heart a pack rat.) But certain items definately fight to stay in the house. The first skirt I bought with money babysitting – it was a size 13, grey wool, midi, button up the front, haven’t been able to wear it in 3 decades, but still beautiful. You go girl maybe I will learn from your example.

  11. 11
    Susan October 4, 2006 at 11:52 am #

    I so hear you.

    Last weekend, I cleaned out my 7yo daughter’s average-sized closet. SEVEN LARGE GARBAGE BAGS. Seven!!! Out of a CLOSET! A closet that still has plenty in it, even after all that!

  12. 12
    Becky October 4, 2006 at 12:38 pm #

    I find the best way to clear your mind is to clear your closets – you go girl!

  13. 13
    Christina October 4, 2006 at 1:07 pm #

    Must be something in the air, I too filled 6 garbage bags yesterday from all over the house, 1 of just garbage and 5 to donate this weekend. Feels very good, doesn’t it?

  14. 14
    Jenn2 October 4, 2006 at 1:56 pm #

    I just got rid of ALL my maternity clothes. Can you hear the angels singing? If I get knocked up before Mr. Clairol gets his vasectomy, I will cry.

  15. 15
    Kelly October 4, 2006 at 5:11 pm #

    It must be that time of month (nooooo, not THAT one). Yesterday I filled 3 giant boxes of my clothes to go to Goodwill, and giant trashbags of stuff I called “crap no one would even wear if it was FREE it’s so old and nasty and stained). Of course I’m also moving 3 states away in less than a month. I don’t know what scares me more;moving 3 states away, or the fact I had so much STUFF I don’t need or haven’t worn in several years. But I kept all my maternity clothes cause you never know.

  16. 16
    ozma October 4, 2006 at 6:59 pm #

    Alcohol really IS the answer. “Beer. The solution to, and cause of, many of life’s problems.”

    Everytime I forget that alcohol is the answer and forget to drink it things in my life go terribly, terribly wrong.

  17. 17
    lastewie October 4, 2006 at 7:35 pm #

    Ok, I love the feeling of hauling out a bunch of crap you don’t want or need anymore. I just did that recently before I moved across town. So many bags! YAY!

    But. BUT!!!

    I love marimekko. I love it so much. I don’t care if it’s low thread count; as long as it’s 100% cotton, I’d have not been able to toss those sheets.

    Oh wait. I forgot that some marimekko isn’t as cute as all of it is. I bet yours was cute though, cause you’re pretty.

    It’s destined to be retro in 10 years. I promise.

  18. 18
    Tracey October 4, 2006 at 8:20 pm #

    Why not post when you’re crabby?! The feelings are still real… and by doing so you are validating all the feelings all the rest of us are having – varied as they are.

    I don’t know if the alcohol helps, but it makes you think it helps! Every morning I resolve to have a day without a beer or wine, and every evening I capitulate.

    You guys are all having a ‘fall cleaning’ it seems! And where I am, it’s spring (and it’s school holidays) so I really, really should be taking a leaf out of your books. Mind you it is easier to have a cleanout when the kids aren’t around to claim long lost items they forgot they ever had.

    I still have a dismantled cot leaning against the wall in the playroom (and its mattress leaning against another wall upstairs); my youngest is 8 in a couple of weeks, and Mr Crazy got the snip at least 7 years ago. *sighs* – I really should do something about getting rid of it.

  19. 19
    rachel October 4, 2006 at 9:31 pm #

    congratulations! I’m so incredibly impressed. wow. the garlic bread sounds divine.

    On labor day weekend I collected 4 bags of clothes to donate. They are Still In My House. gah. Maybe I can figure out more things to trash or donate this weekend, and then they will actually Go Away!

  20. 20
    Dawn October 4, 2006 at 9:49 pm #

    Let the closet cleaning begin…

  21. 21
    carrien October 4, 2006 at 10:56 pm #

    I’m still holding on to a pair of jeans with a giant hole in the butt because they were the first jeans after my first child that I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and thought, “Wow, I’m skinny again. wWen did that happen?” I have tried them on after subsequent pregnancies, weight gains, just to make sure I can get back to that size. I”m so with you on your college sweats.

  22. 22
    Brigitte October 5, 2006 at 7:03 am #

    I allow myself one paper grocery bag of favorite “skinny clothes I will never get in again”, just to pull out once a year or so, and sigh over!

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