A great movie scene explains what happened to my favorite day of the week. All gone.
Sigourney Weaver, as Lieutenant Ellen Ripley, is playing a tender, motherly scene with a little girl (played by Carrie Henn) that her team rescues in one of my favorite movies of all time: Aliens.
The child has been surviving by hiding from these evil creatures, and as a result, hasn't had a bath. She's pretty grubby. The top-notch Marine insertion team has been pretty unkind to the child, more interested in what they can wrest out of her than in taking care of this traumatized kid. Ripley gives her hot chocolate, part of which gets on her face. Then Ripley wipes off the chocolate, which reveals a clean spot of skin.
"Uh-oh, there I've done it, says Ripley. "Now I'll have to clean the whole thing."
Yep. That in a nutshell is what happened to a perfectly lovely almost-spring Saturday yesterday.
I am just as susceptible as anyone else to the compulsion to spring clean. However, given the circumstances, a big house that I jam-packed with the accumulations of many years (even given five years of downsizing, which really tells you something, doesn't it?) this can spell disaster.
Okay, not disaster. But look. I LOVE Saturdays, those are my play days.There's just something about a Saturday. I love me my Saturdays, but every so often I have to forfeit one. So, this time,
I never left the damned house.
It was cold enough to start a fire. I also had a fire in my belly which had been ignited by this past week's closet cleanout. That clothing, the last GREAT CUT, is all bagged and tagged and ready to be delivered to The Real Real consultant in Portland this coming Friday.
I'm not sure what started it, but I'm going to blame the elliptical machine downstairs. When Stanley Steemer showed up last week, they moved it. When they moved it back they screwed it up. Long story short, I had to move it off the thick rubber pad which protects the rug so that I could see underneath for repairs. Said pad was sliced clean through by the machine. Said pad had to go.
I had two more new ones in the garage, those very large, VERY heavy, VERY clumsy to move eight-foot by four-foot rubber stall liners. They weigh 125 lbs, okay? I had to muscle the damned things outta my Honda and onto the garage floor last year because at the time I was planning to put a gym in the garage. That was before I found out how hot it got in there in summer. So, the mats stayed outside, and the gym stayed inside.
Now I hadda wrestle one of those bad boys inside the house, big clumsy bastid, without help, with one hand basically useless, to protect the carpet that I just had cleaned. Well, of course, the mat dribbles recycled rubber, so I also had to cut a piece of rug liner to protect the carpet.
Then I hadda muscle that POS into the house without breaking anything, largely successful. Then I had to maneuver it over the liner, which moves if you look at it the wrong way. Suffice it to say it took me a good long while.
Did it, though. But along the way, since you have to move things and change things, when you are in a spring cleaning mood, you suddenly notice all those things that your mind ignores out of a sense of survival.
Well then. I had movies on in the background, and heaved to.
By day's end I had cleared out decades of old medicines (what can you do with a med that is twenty years old? Repackage it and sell it as a weight loss cure. Jk). I suspect other people do, but mine went into a bulging trash bag. I cleared out my entire downstairs bathroom's drawers. That had to happen anyway, as I am expecting guests this year. They need a place to put their stuff. Now, they have it.
The drawers are blessedly empty. That forced me upstairs to the main bedroom's toilet, where I did the same thing: a warehouse clearance, if you will. When did I buy two face cleansing machines? How many times have I moved, carrying four hair dryers, one of which only works in Africa? Why do I need a supply of fifty different essential oils that I never use?
Uh-oh. Now I've done it. Now I'll have to clean the whole thing.
Hour by hour, I separated what I found into bags for Goodwill and bags for Good Riddance.
The above is my face, every single damned time I pulled out yet another storage box, which I had so neatly organized in the first few months of unloading all my boxes and stashing everything. I wanted things put away. I did just that.
I am not alone in this. I LOVE pretty, neat boxes to store my stuff. Problem is that what I store away, I forget I have. Then when I need X, I can't find X, can't remember buying and storing X, then I buy MORE X. That's how I ended up with fourteen bottles of Dayquil, which I bought in desperation every damned time I sneezed since 2020.You get it.
The best times to download and offload include when you sell and move, which I most certainly took advantage of as I prepared to sell my home in 2020. I took several years before that to begin the process, then threw my shoulder into it just before the house sold. Still, I had umpteen boxes.
I packed, stacked and moved, mostly solo, five bedrooms' worth of stuff to my Denver basement, then back up to the house to stage, then into storage units for temporary storage, then out of those units into the house again, then into a moving van, then out of said moving van here in Eugene with the help of my social media guy (that's when we first met), then out of the storage area after I'd been in a car wreck. At that point I had one arm down, and I still moved every single box into my rental car and to my new home, into the basement, where those boxes took up every single damned square inch. Then I unloaded, unpacked and steadily schlepped all my stuff into every single spot I could find in the house, just to get the job DONE.
This was the arm I couldn't use:
And people wonder why I work out. Tell ya what, my strength came in damned handy. But never along the way, and here's the catch, in the process of unpacking all those damned boxes did I do the same kind of due diligence which would have allowed me to dump much, much more before I ever boxed everything so very neatly and shoved them outta sight.
I suspect at some very deep level, a part of me might have argued that if I had worked that damned hard to pack and move all this shit, it must be worth keeping.
I was wrong, too. But that's fine. For as I am now beginning to finish my second full year of living here, I am also a very different person in some essential ways than then one who landed in Oregon just in time for fire season in 2020.
Permission to grow is also permission to let go. All day yesterday I pulled stuff out of drawers and storage units. Time after time I asked myself what on earth was I thinking? when I looked at some of the contraptions I've bought and never used, endless supplies of make up and pretty brushes.
When on earth did I buy a box of Depends? Answer: for a kayaking trip in Greenland, when we were out all day with no breaks on land to find a boulder. And yes I hadda pack it out used, but that's a very, very funny story for another article.
My main bathroom has a double sink. The first drawer on the left has makeup in it. I wore makeup once last year, the first time in three years. Yep. That drawer is next. My Lancome eye shadows have to be three decades old. You could use my lipstick for spackling at this point.
Upstairs a very young Tom Cruise was flirting with danger in Top Gun on Netflix while that seriously badass soundtrack kept me moving all day, up and down the stairs, packing more and more To Go boxes. Filling up the garbage cans which had just been tipped the day before. Felt awfully good.
Every box I cart out to the garage, every drawer I empty, every bag I heft into the recycle or trash bin is weight off my shoulders. I wonder where this will be next year?
I wonder where I will be next year?
And that is the real question, isn't it?
Saga Patreon supporter Kathryn C just wrote me this morning about how, after 32 years in Denver, she has moved to Bozeman, MT. I seriously looked at International Falls, Bozeman, Butte, Kalispell. Then realized that I really was done with Old Man Winter as a full-on season. As much as I love the high-dry West, I really wanted a blooming yard all year long, which is what I have. I also have fallen madly in love with the mosses and ferns and waterfalls of my new place.
All those things come at a cost. For example, back to the Stanley Steemer folks. When they steamed my carpet, I pulled out the Electrolux dehumidifer that I'd bought last year. Forgot about it. More than $250 of heavy bastid, stuffed into a small storage space. I was embarrassed about having bought it, but after I got the carpet done, I realized it was a life saver.
Moisture in house like this in winter, when it's wet, means mold. So that machine is doing yeoman's work alongside me (I am dumping a bucket of water every 24 hours, which is instructive to say the least). The blasting of that machine accompanies my runs up and down the stairs as I blast out the unnecessary accumulations of clothing, gear, impulse buys, medicines that should have been dumped a decade ago, the embarrassment of wasted money, silly hopes and a sincere belief that THIS eyeliner will make you irresistible.
The dehumidifier was a smart move. Most of my other purchases, not so much.
I am subject to periods of extreme acquisition and then extreme dumping. It's a lifestyle with which I continue to struggle, but I'm getting better at it. I am readying for a gear sale this summer, as I assess a load of equipment that I bought (like Tubbs snowshoes, never used) that needs to be invited into homes where it will get used. This is a sporty town. Good chance I will find buyers.
Those used items that my Depression-era folks taught me to hang onto just in case, those can go to the homeless camps where perfectly useful but no longer spanking new gear can go to good use. They go with my blessing and will make some folks' lives a bit easier.
Truth, I am hardly even getting started here. For each nook, each cranny into which I stuffed a neatly-packed box, a skill I inherited from my father who could eyeball a box and know precisely what can fit into it (me too, which is why I enjoy doing this), allows me to ask essential questions about my essence.
Why do I have this? Where would I use this? Am I keeping this for someday maybe? I recently donated a great big box of "someday maybe" buttons from all my designer clothes to Goodwill. They'll find a home, but not at my place. Can't use rhinestone buttons on a North Face jacket. At least not mine.
I lost a Saturday and gained a lotta sanity. Today I am off to hike Mt. Pisgah for six miles with a local hiking group. First time out with them, my second Big Ask in a week. These will get more frequent as time goes on, inbetween big adventure trips. One of them starts May 11th, a return to Tanzania and Kenya. Now, it looks like Bhutan may well be on the October menu.
You can't move forward when you have anchors and weights tied to you. This goes for emotions, beliefs, self-doubt, self-hate. Those very feelings are part of why I spent so much money buying so much junk that I can no longer justify keeping.
However, working through this process, letting these things go, is precisely the way to do the Deep Work. You let those things go, but also the remorse about spending so much treasure acquiring stuff (the American Way) as opposed to acquiring experiences. That's much more my way now. This is just one reason I appreciate my Millennial friends, whose values are driven by necessity, for they too often don't have a house to fill.
I can hardly blame them for buying tickets to a concert rather than buying a china hutch to hold china that nobody uses and nobody looks at and nobody cares about.
I do not feel anger or sadness or loss. I am beyond grateful to get to a point where a spring cleaning, as I head towards seventy, entails a lot more than buying new sheets and getting the carpet steamed. Spring cleaning is in every single way as much an emotional and psychological process as it is physical.
At some point I will let this house go. By the time I reach that milestone, the chances are that a great many closets and drawers will be empty. The lighter we are, the farther we can go, the higher we can fly.
Speaking of which, my next flight is leaving the second week of May. This time my luggage will be lighter in more ways than one. And that is a fine way to travel. Finally, to that:
Saga Patreon supporter Alice K, asked about gear reviews and (my words) minimalism while traveling, heads off for the hinterlands with a single carry on.
There's a lot to be learned from that.
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