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*

6 thoughts on “Lightening my load

  1. Purging isn’t something you can easily do every 10 years. It’s one of those things that takes constant vigilance. Like throwing away/donating clothes when something new is bought.

    I have kids who are constantly outgrowing stuff, so the purge is a seasonal event for me…but still, the bins pile up nonetheless, as it’s easier to shove something in the attic until you can figure out what to do with it.

    When my mom moved, we moved boxes and boxes of fabric. She still has a ton…most of it polyester from the 60’s when she moved her. Some of the prints are retro cool, but most of it is 70’s grandma. This is the second move for my mom in 10 years, so it’s not as bad as it could have been. The first move (after being somewhere over 30 years) took some major purging. Luckily she had so much stuff in the toss pile that it was pretty easy and fun just tossing something off the porch into the junk pile.

    Selling stuff is worthwhile. It does add up. Craigslist can be a pain. Don’t ever put free adds on there. That attracts the worst kind of person.

    Good luck, you can do it. I find it helpful to give myself numerical targets. For clothes, at any point in time I can probably get rid of 50% of my clothes without missing them. (So many things don’t fit just right or you just don’t end up wearing stuff you thought you would..hence my hatrid for clothes shopping. If I had a better hit rate, I’d shop more often).


    • Yeah, clothes take up a lot of room and it’s a pain to store them. Sadly I seem to need to keep at least 2-3 sizes of key clothing on hand because over the course of a year or two my weight can really fluctuate. Where I’m moving, though, there will be less need for complete seasonal wardrobe changes, at least. I won’t need the massive “sleeping bag-sized” down commuter coat and other heavy winter clothing (the boiled wool dress jackets can probably go, too) or snow boots. 🙂


    • This may seem like a harsh answer, but the chickens will become soup. Two years ago they were infected with a highly contagious respiratory illness when I added the little rescue rooster to the flock. (This is a case where quarantine did not work; the signs of illness didn’t show up for 8 months!) While they all pulled through, they are now carriers of the disease so it would be very unethical for me to re-home them anywhere. Considering that the hens are still laying a lot of eggs (New Hampshire Reds rock, and the Speckled Sussex are pretty darn good, too), it’s too bad they have to be slaughtered.


  2. I feel your pain! It sounds like you are efficiently beginning to work your way through all your extra stuff. I read an article about places like Goodwill recycling old clothes for money, so give ’em your ripped jeans and old t-shirts, too. I watched them at my neighborhood Goodwill store, they raked the unsellable clothes into a shredder in the middle of the floor in the back of the facility. It looked like they were pushing them down a floor drain, but they were shredding fabric, and then they sold it in large bags. They make quite a bit of money that way.


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