Lightening my load

I need to downsize and get rid of stuff. Even if I end up not moving this year (it’s not a 100% sure thing yet), I still need to do this purge because I tend to let stuff just sit around.

My house is not only quite large, it also has a lot of storage places built-in. The original owner/builder was a contractor and he liked to make the most of his space, I guess. There are built-in cabinets, drawers, and shelves that efficiently take advantage of space in nearly every room of this house. Over the 13 years I’ve lived here, I’ve managed to stuff something into every one of them, too.

As I was looking over the mess that is the basement last weekend, it occurred to me that this wasn’t just my doing, though, so I needed to cut myself some slack. Yes, I do tend to let things accumulate through inertia and indecision (and because I somehow feel I must re-use just about everything), but what I’m dealing with in the house is actually the doing of three people: me, my ex-husband, and B.

When my ex moved out, he left behind everything he didn’t want. (Yes, he basically left me to deal with his cast offs.) At the time I just wanted him out so I didn’t care. Now I’m feeling like I should be charging him for my time in packing up and removing his stuff.

B moved in with the full contents of his one-bedroom condo and small storage unit. We had to find somewhere for all that stuff to go, and most of it ended up in the basement. Three years later a lot of it is still sitting in boxes in the basement. I nagged B into unpacking and donating some of the clothes and shoes he no longer wanted, but there is still much more to deal with.

For my part, I have a lot of containers stuffed into the old cold cellar (empty canning jars and food storage stuff), a few appliances that are rarely used (like the ice cream maker and the food dehydrator), and some clothing to deal with. And then there is the yarn.

I have accumulated a lot of yarn over the years. When I picked up knitting again about 10 years ago I started a yarn buying binge, too. I really got into collecting fibers and bought yarns simply because they were unusual and/or popular: soy yarn, bamboo yarn, super soft merino, etc. I also was a DINK and had a lot of disposable income at the time, so dropping hundreds of dollars at the big knitting and yarn conventions that roll through town every year was no big deal for me. I continued to accumulate yarn every year, and whenever I went on vacation and visited a yarn store (which happened quite often on vacation) I bought something as a souvenir. I referred to this big stash of yarn as my “yarn 401(k)” and reasoned that someday I’d be happy that I “invested” in all this yarn because I’d have more time and less money.

Instead, I’m finding that having all this yarn to deal with is a huge burden. I don’t want to move this stuff to California. It will be expensive to move and will take up a lot of room in what will be a much smaller living space than I have now. So nearly every night for the past two weeks I’ve spent some time photographing and cataloging all this yarn and marking most of it for sale on Ravelry. My friend Adrienne helped me get started by coming to the house on a Saturday and helping me decide what to purge, as well as giving me tips on how to handle the pricing and shipping process.

Although I’ve started by focusing on the “for sale” yarns first, I’m still not done. Yeesh. I have sold and shipped several packages already, though, so this is progress.

As for the rest of the stuff in the basement, I’m tackling it in the usual ways.

Donate it. Some of the stash yarn just didn’t seem worth listing for sale, so I sought out a women’s shelter that would use it and packaged it up with a few other items they wanted (a coffee maker and a digital TV converter box). I dropped the bags off last Sunday, and was glad to meet some the residents at the same time. I’ve also made two runs to the Goodwill drop-off center in the past few months.

Sell it. This one is harder for me to organize on my own. I’ve managed to sell some camping gear on my own through Craigslist, but I’ve asked B to help with sorting the prepping for a garage/yard sale. There are tools, small appliances, furnishings, and assorted odds and ends that seem perfectly suited for a garage sale. I haven’t been involved in many garage sales, and I know this is something I cannot do alone. As for selling on Craigslist: it really sucks. I have the worst Craigslist luck. I get lots of people contacting me about stuff I list and wanting to come see it, and then they never show up. I’ve been trying to sell a very nice bicycle for nearly a year. I list it, I get lots of interest, but people just don’t show up to close the deal. Ugh!

Toss it. I really hate seeing anything go into landfill, but there are some things that aren’t suitable for selling or donating. I’m putting as much as I can into recycling as opposed to landfill, but badly torn jeans and undershirts are just going to end up there one way or another.

When I think of all the stuff I need to get rid of, I feel overwhelmed. If I move, I don’t want to take a lot with me. It doesn’t seem worth the cost to ship a house full of old Ikea furniture, and I’m questioning how many mementos are worth the shipping and storage costs I’ll have to pay. This is one of the blessings/curses of having a larger living space: there’s no need to examine how much you’re storing until a crisis or big event (like a death, foreclosure, or big move) occurs.

I wish I had started this purging at least a year ago. *sigh*

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Guilty as charged

So, yeah. I abandoned the blog for a few months. I simply could not deal with last winter. It sucked the life out of me.

That first “polar vortex” in January was OK; I expect something like that every winter. But there was also snow every few days. Measurable snow that meant schlepping out to shovel the stairs and sidewalk every two or three days. B used the little electric snow thrower we purchased a couple of years ago to clear the driveway repeatedly. He used it so much that we actually had to order a part that broke on it.

Then we had another “polar vortex.”

And another.

We even had snow the week before Easter.

Here it is the second day of May and it’s barely reached into the 5os. We haven’t seen the sun all week. Enough already!!

At the same time, my body had decided to get weird on me. There were mysterious pains in my lower left abdomen again starting in December and continuing through January. Was it another bout of diverticulitis? According to the CT scan in December, apparently not. Ultrasound at the gynecologist’s office revealed an ovarian cyst, and I was told to wait another 6-8 weeks to check it again.

In the meantime, I kept having pain. The heating pad and ibuprofen bottle became my close friends. My internist wanted me to see the colo-rectal surgeon, too, just to make sure there were no issues with diverticulitis. I have a family history of colon cancer, so the doc suggested a colonoscopy. But wait…how do I schedule that procedure when it will likely conflict with the next ultrasound at the GYN? The GYN office was being a PITA and insisting I come at certain point “in my cycle.” I’m almost 47 freakin’ years old!! Do you think I have a “regular cycle?!”

I scheduled another appointment with the gynecologist where I cried and questioned this arcane rule that was looking for something “normal” when I was experiencing something “abnormal.” He relented and I got a schedule together. In this one week I had a colonoscopy on Wednesday and my second ultrasound on Friday.

By the middle of February it was all over: the pain was gone, the tests were done and we had figured out…well…there was nothing seriously wrong, at least. My colon was fine and the ovarian cyst hadn’t gotten any bigger.

In retrospect, it seems to me that I likely never had diverticulitis last spring. I suspect that when I was in the ER last year I was experiencing an ovarian cyst on my left ovary. The ER doc saw that I had diverticula (not uncommon at my age) and blood work revealed a mild infection, so that was the closest diagnosis they could come up with. Probably my peri-menopausal body was starting to misfire, and that was the first instance of abnormal cysts that continued through last year.

Now things are calming down in some ways, yet that doesn’t mean everything is working well. My body is now unpredictable. It’s like being a teenager again. But this is to be expected, I guess, along with the changes in my metabolism.

This is what has been taking up most of my energy and time over the past five months: figuring out what’s going on with my body and how I should live in it now, and dealing with the externalities (like weather) that complicate my life. This is why I stopped writing.

Since change is the new normal for me, I’ve decided to take the plunge this year and move away from Chicago. I’ve been thinking about for at least two years now, and had planned to move when I was around 50. But last winter was the deciding factor for me. I’ve never liked winter, so why put up with it any longer?

My boss says that I can move and still keep my job. He’s based in Los Angeles, so we’re already used to connecting mainly by phone and online meetings. Unfortunately, though, since this is a voluntary move there will be no cost of living adjustment. If I was being financially savvy I’d move someplace with a lower cost of living, but I’m wanting to move as close as possible to the place where I’d like to “retire.” (I put that in quotes because I’m really not sure what retirement will look like for me. I have “bag lady syndrome” and fear that no matter how much I save I’ll be living on the street when I’m old.)

For me that means a move to northern California. Yeah, I’m choosing one of the most expensive parts of the country to move to, and getting no salary increase to help me. I’m going to pass on working out of the San Francisco office and transfer to San Jose instead; the housing costs are still very high, but not *quite* as bad as SF.

There’s a lot to do to prepare, but maybe that’s better to leave for another post.