Sunday, May 25, 2008

Cleansing the house

Published May 25, 2008
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

I remember writing a column four years ago detailing the ridiculous number of times I had moved in my life and resolving never to do it again. Then, knowing that packing up a house and moving on is something people do despite their best efforts to avoid it, I modified my resolution, stating that I would be willing to move again but only if we had become independently wealthy and could throw away everything in the house and just replace it in our new home.

Ah, the dreams of the deluded. I’m moving again, and somehow wealth, independent or otherwise, has not found me (yet). I can’t afford to get rid of everything I own, so I’m modifying my earlier plan and getting rid of everything I could live without. Easy enough, right?

Yeah, not so much. I’ve been calling this my “Confessions of a Reformed Packrat” column. Getting rid of the excess stuff in my house is a long, tedious, and often heartbreaking process. This task is where my nostalgic side does epic battle with my practical side, and my nostalgic side is skilled in the art of war...and guilt...and weepy histrionics over days gone by.

Case in point: My high school jacket with the letter I earned for winning at the district level in the one act play competition. It sits in a closet and is never worn. I can’t imagine a moment when I might need it. By all rights, it should be on its way to the thrift store. Of course, when I tried to send it there, the jacket looked at me in all its black and gold glory and said, “How can you even think of letting me go? You earned me! You acted your heart out in a male role because Shakespeare was a misogynist and only put three women in that play. Audiences laughed. They cried. They got extra credit in their English classes! Don’t do it, Sarah.”

The jacket is now boxed, saved less by its pleas for leniency than by my daughter’s hopes for a future Halloween costume. The experience left my practical side beaten and dazed for a moment, but it quickly rallied with a coup that was part ninja stealth, part girly cat fight.

A framed certificate from the International Thespian Society was the first thing to go. It was followed in quick succession by my solo/ensemble medals, two stuffed bears from Jr. High, a heart-shaped wall hanging I've kept in order to avoid offending someone I don't even like (did I type that out loud?), and about 10 years worth of unused scented candles that cause allergic reactions of epic proportions but are too sad looking to regift.

Then there was the closet full of clothes that haven’t fit me in years. Yeah, I’m that woman. I freely admit it. The eternal optimist in me says that I absolutely could fit into those clothes again if I really applied myself and found my motivation. The realist in me knows that I’ll never be motivated by clothes that are so out of style I wouldn’t wear them if I lost 100 pounds tomorrow. I’m no fashion plate by any means, but even I know the floral print dress with the puffy sleeves has seen better days. I didn't even send these fashion travesties to the thrift store. It was like "The Sound of Music" in my bedroom: "The poor didn't want these."

I'm hoping this skirmish between cluttery nostalgia and practicality bodes of good things in my future. I have no desire to descend back into packrat chaos in my new home. From now on, if I don't need it, I won't keep it. Period.

Of course, there will be a loophole in my new packrat free existence for wedding related nostalgia...