More Thoughts on Spring Cleaning – Part 2

I’m nearing the end of my 40/40 Project – the challenge to get rid of 40 bags of “stuff” in 40 days. I thought it would be 40/50, that is, take me 50 days, but it’s turning out to be more like 30/40. I don’t have enough extra possessions to fill 40 bags!

Moving here last summer forced me to bring my stored boxes and bins indoors, since I have no garage, just a carport. They didn’t fill my garage before (I liked to park in there), but now they fill my office closet and I’m already anticipating having less space when I downsize next year. So this project has turned out to be a motivating curse/blessing. I can easily see what I have to sort through – no out of sight, no respite for me.

Overall, I probably have less than many people, since I’ve moved every few years and lived alone for 15. As a writer, my area of clutter lies mostly in files, folders, boxes and baskets of projects and in notebooks filled with ideas, plans, plots, notes, marketing logs, research. And writing, of course. A writer can never have too many notebooks! Except when there’s no place to put them.

In a few weeks of diligent paring down, I’ve burned out my shredder, so I turned to my fireplace to burn more confidential information, such as the tax records showing I earned poverty-level wages during my journalism career. Would anyone want to steal that identity? I doubt it, but I shred/burn anyway. As for my raw, half-baked writing, I don’t care if people see it in trash or recycle bins. Maybe they will laugh or recycle the ideas?

As I wrote before, this 40/40 Project requires 20/20 vision. It also requires courage, a lot of courage, to confront old dreams, ghosts that still haunt us, taunt us, when we open yet another box.

Just which ones do we let go, watch crumble in flames, fill our chimneys with soot? Which dreams do we let drift off and be released into the night sky? Is anything left to rise from the ashes or just a sooty aftertaste in our mouths, lungs and hearts?

The ashy smell lingers for days, but the old boxes are empty and light, leaving room for new dreams and the courage to embrace them.Shred and Burn

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Spring Cleaning on Fast Foward

Some nut job with nothing better to do has dreamed up a new challenge for those of us who have enough to do already, thank you very much.

Her challenge is: get rid of 40 bags of stuff in 40 days. Since her idea appeared around March 5, the 40-day timeframe probably corresponds to Lent this year (Easter is on April 20). Giving up something. And what better time than Spring? Renewal, rebirth. You don’t have to be religious to appreciate that.

But to undertake the 40/40 Project, you have to be zealous to some extent. Just like a missionary knocking on every door to find converts. Closet doors, cupboard doors, cabinet doors, garage doors where the lapsed possessions lurk. They don’t need to be saved since they already are, but they yearn for salvation, new life in new location, Salvation Army filled with Good Will.

Since I’m on a path to create a simpler life, to downsize, I decided this 40/40 Project is perfect for me. I’ve been wanting to pare down for awhile. If I grab a few bags and open a door a week and a drawer or file box a day, I can do it!

Letting things go is not easy. It requires 20/20 vision – the ability to see ourselves and our lives clearly and to make decisions quickly. Will we ever wear the pin-striped power suit again? The purple dress? The turquoise pants with black blotches that seemed fine at one time?

Will we ever throw that Christmas party we’ve been planning for 20 years? All those silky green and red lanterns, napkins, glassware, recipes. The invitation I hand-lettered after I took a calligraphy class.Zoe on File Box

Will we write the mystery novel we filed away? Will we need the papers we slaved over in high school and college on the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, Shakespearian character development, politics in Germany between world wars? Will we re-read the once-timely articles we saved, the issue of Time magazine dated September 11, 2001? Some decision are easier than others. There’s no longer any need to save what we can find on our computers or the Internet.

Some items with sentimental value are difficult or impossible to discard. My grandmother’s Scottish cookbook and recipe cards, even though they are falling apart. A few pieces of my mother’s china and silver. My collection of old letters from relatives long dead, husband long-ago divorced, boyfriends, other friends. I used to fantasize about sitting in a rocking chair on a front porch in old age and reading them all with good memories. But the closer I get to rocking chair age, the less appealing it sounds. I’d rather read something current and be in the now and carry my memories inside.

Zoe in BoxI am soon in the 40/40 flow! Motivated to move forward! I fill little bags, big bags, count an old suitcase as a “bag,” add items here and there to my trash bags. I hang on to a few family items and will gradually hand them over to my sons and daughter-in-law. My file folders are lean and functional, containing only what I’m working on now and a few ideas. My clothes have room to breathe. I feel more ready to make my next move to a smaller home. If there’s a 40-day flood here (and we are in tsunami territory), there’ll be less floating around.

Truthfully, it’s 40 bags in 50 to 60 days for me, since I took a vacation and some days have said “Screw It.” But as the inventor of this project said, it’s the spirit that matters and I’m sorry I called her a nut job. She saved me from having to pay for a professional purger and from having to lug and store more than I need to my next home.