Last month my best friends and I had our annual garage sale. It’s a huge multi-day event that is a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. We have it down to something of a science – with a vast collection of brightly painted (and hilarious) garage sale signs, professional shelving and display racks (thanks to one friend who works trade shows), more card tables than you can shake a stick at, and a whole lot of drinking. (Alcohol is mandatory for a successful sale.) By the end of the last day, we are making deals and giving things away left and right. It is quite thing to see.
One question always seems to arise – how can we manage to have a huge sale every year? I mean, shouldn’t we eventually run out of stuff to sell? We probably will someday, but so far every year someone has just moved, gotten married, had someone move in with them, or had some event that generates major closet cleaning. Personally, I keep a box in the basement with labels and pen nearby all year round. When I decide it is time for something to go, I slap a price sticker on it and pop it in the garage sale box right there and then.
Inevitably, I also end up walking around my house looking for more things to get rid of… while the sale is happening. It isn’t about the money, we tend to price our stuff cheap. Our goal is to move it out of our homes (where it has been collecting dust,) and into the arms of someone who will love it. So, every year I end up walking through my house searching for more stuff to add to the sale. I love watching things go down the driveway with someone who is happy about their find. Then I see what my friends add to the sale and that inspires me more. Someone might throw in a hat, and that reminds me that I have one I haven’t worn, or I see pile of purses and it makes me look through my own to see if there are any I am done with.
The night before the second day of our sale I had a dream about having the “biggest garage sale ever” and all of us putting everything we have ever thought of getting rid of in the sale. In my dream the tables were groaning, the customers were shopping like crazy, and we knew we would never have to have a sale again. Perhaps that dream is part of what is inspiring my current project.
I am cleaning out my house.
I have this strong urge to get my house down to only what I love, want or need. I’ve written about organization before. I am not talking about getting rid of everything, but I am talking about seriously going through every closet, every box, every nook and cranny and really looking at what I have. As a first step I hauled a bunch of empty boxes and bags up to my attic. I have a small room up there that I have used both as an office and as a place for storage. It has been a good room to start with, since I have more distance from the things that have been stored there. I find the longer something has been collecting cobwebs, the easier it is to let go!
So, I have garbage bags, empty boxes for things that can be recycled, boxes for things to sell, and boxes and bags to take things to the thrift store. I have a caterer’s apron full of pens, pricing tags, scissors, tape, safety pins and ziplock bags for tagging sale items. I have a mp3 player full of podcasts to listen to, and a drive to clean out the crap!
It’s going well so far. I have already filled two garbage bags, two huge bags of paper for recycling and several boxes for sale and donation. Last Saturday I made the first of many trips to the thrift store to drop things off. It is a good start – but I still have a long way to go.
Here’s what I would ultimately like: to know, for the most part, that the things in my house are things that I want, need and use. To get rid of things that have unpleasant associations or no longer serve a purpose for me. To make sure the storage areas, particularly my attic, basement, and closets are organized and are being used in a way that makes sense. For example, I have had my office in three different rooms in my house, so office kinds of things are all over my house. I would like to get them all consolidated and sorted – and store what I need and ditch the rest. For once I would like to be able to lay my hands on the file I need – the first place I look.
It’s a surprisingly big project. I’m 39 years old and I have a rather sizable house all to myself. I’ve filled it with a lot of… well, stuff. I’m not a hoarder or anything like it – my accumulation is probably comprable to most people’s, but still, when you get right down to it, that’s a lot. Ask anyone who has packed for a move after several years of being in one place – things tend to multiply when you aren’t looking.
Plus, it is time consuming. Already I have spent several hours in that poorly insulated little attic room, and I still have a long way to go before it is cleared out – and it is the smallest room in my house! It’s also all a bit puzzling. I am trying to walk the line between being a good global citizen on how I get rid of things, and facing the reality that if I don’t just pitch some things, that they will stay in my life forever. So each object I pick up requires a surprising amount of thought. Do I want or need this? If not, can I sell it? Is it recyclable? Can I donate it? Can someone use it for a project? Where do I put it for now? and on and on. It is also emotional. I have come across various photos, forms and items from my wedding, my divorce, our lawyer, etc. It all has to be dealt with. It’s coming though, slowly, but surely.
This is going to be my main focus for the next couple of months, so expect many future posts about the heartache and joys of organization and donation runs to the thrift store!
Photo Credit: Alyssa Miller