As with any journey it’s necessary to begin with the first step which, in this case, is to get back to basics and take stock. Anyone restoring a car or renovating a house knows that, to get a solid and satisfying finished product, you first have to strip away the old stuff and get back to the structure. It’s not an easy task as it usually involves a lot of hard and dirty work and requires some tough decisions on how much to strip away and what old stuff to get rid of. It can involve oneself getting rid of things that may have some historical or emotional significance and involve years or decades of layers of repairs and alterations. To get the best final product it is necessary to strip every last thing down to the bare bones in order to assess the integrity of the structure to ensure that the new materials are added onto a clean solid base and will last for a lifetime. This process can be extremely difficult but is completely necessary so one can assess the condition of the original foundation and fix any flaws so that the rebuilding can start on a clean and solid foundaion.
The list of things to go through can include filing cabinets with old records, the house itself and it’s contents, vehicles, household expenses including bills and utilities, the yard and clothing. Anything that hasn’t been used in a long time is fair game. Cleaning is crucial but can’t be done until the clutter is taken care of. Things can be put into five categories: Keep, Donate, Recycle, Sell and Garbage.
Keep: This is sometimes the most difficult category since one is trying to reduce the amount of Stuff on hand. We obviously want to keep things that are necessary or have deep emotional or historical significance. Go through the closet and if anything hasn’t been worn in a long time, get rid of it. If an article of clothing has some significance to it, a special gift, a momento of a trip or event, it can be kept in a safe place if it’s not wearable anymore, along with other significant items from one’s life. There can be room for a special box or trunk that can contain any amount of emotionally significant memorabilia. Obviously, any up to date paperwork including banking, mortgage and income tax information needs to be kept, as well as recent records of all bills and untilities. These records can be kept as far back as needed but everything has it’s own requirements. This may be discussed later on another post. Go through the cupoards, sort any food that is there and discard any that has been long past any expiration dates. Go through tools, building materials that may be stashed away, hardware (nuts bolts, screws) and anything else in the workshop. Keep anything that may be used in the near future and toss everything else.
Donate: This is the next step. Anything that didn’t make the cut in the Keep category goes through the disposal filter, of which the first category is donate. Is it still usable, clean, in good repair? If so, it may be reused by someone else. There are many donation centres and organizations that will take good used items or maybe a family member or friend can use it. There can be great satisfaction in knowing that something can be a benefit to someone else.
Recycle: This is mostly for materials, ie. plastic, metals, paper, etc. that can be made into new products. In many cases it’s cheaper to recycle materials than it is to produce new materials.
Sell: Many things can be sold if they have some value left in them. eBay, Kijiji, having a garage sale or just putting an ad in your local newpaper are some ways to offer items for sale. Any money made can be put toward upgrading or replacing any Stuff that needs attention or just to buy something nice for no reason as we all need to treat ourselves from time to time.
Garbage: This is the category of last resort. Anything that can’t be kept, used, recycled or sold goes into the garbage and usually ends up in a landfill. For that reason it is vitally important to try to fit every item possible into the first three categories.
This is just a basic overview of the purging process. We burden ourselves with so much Stuff that we often struggle under the weight of our Stuff. According to Wikipedia, as of 2009, there was 2.35 billion square feet of self storage in the USA, three times the size of Manhattan Island. This is just to store Stuff that we don’t even use. In addition, there is an unknown amount of Stuff sitting in basements, garages, barns, abandoned buildings, yards and in plain sight that isn’t being used and is largely forgotten. If we can start individually with a purging of our Stuff we can slowly ease ourselves of this unnecessary burden. Think of each item in your life as having a voice and they’re all talking at the same time. As one eliminates Stuff item by item the din of the many voices will become quieter and it becomes easier to concentrate on some of the more important issues in life. Try working on a project with a large group of people standing beside you all talking at once. We need to get back to more quiet and simplicity in order to find peace in our lives. Hopefully this grumpy truck driver can make some progress in the right direction and find that path to peace he has been seeking for so long.