The Stuff We Keep Just in Case

Tomorrow is garage sale number two, and this time we’ve advertised it in the local Penny Saver and have a little better idea of what to expect since we had our first by-the-seat-of-our-pants sale last week. We’re prepared.

I feel like I’ve talked a lot about downsizing and how enlightened I’ve become about stuff through the process of getting rid of things I really don’t need as much as I thought I did.

That’s been great.

But let me tell you about the stuff that no one needs. Really. The stuff we didn’t even know we had that has moved with me through at least one cross-country trip, three homes, and two apartments. The stuff I kept just in case.

Like the Waterloo/Cedar Falls phone book.

From 1999.

Or the ceramic blond cheerleader figurine given to me by my boyfriend’s parents for Christmas 1997.

Or the free bonus music tracks included with my trial period of AOL.

I have come across these items when packing and made the decision to bring them along. I have reorganized these things during spring cleaning sprees and chosen to set aside space for them.

I have made room in my life for a decade-old phone book. Repeatedly.

And for what?

Because I was afraid of being unprepared? Because I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to snag 50 free hours of dial-up internet? Because I might someday have the perfect spot for a ceramic cheerleader and wouldn’t I be pissed if I had to go out and buy a new one?

I’m not sure what my logic was, but it pains me to think that it took getting rid of things I loved to find out just how much useless stuff I was hanging on to. Honestly, it pisses me off a little. I’ve let pure crap take up space in my life and home for years – and I didn’t even know it! It’s as if I’ve discovered a boarder has been holed up in my guest room for months and I’m just now realizing how much rent money I’ve missed out on!

I hauled an out of date phone book for a city I didn’t live in 1400 miles in a U-Haul.

That’s insane. It’s especially insane because I don’t think of myself as a hoarder or overly sentimental about stuff. I don’t have tons of mementos from when the kids were babies; I throw out Christmas cards on January 2nd every year. But the Macarena single? Oh yeah, I held on to that baby.

Not anymore.

We have one wooden trunk that was given to me on my 18th birthday by my father and all of our sentimental items are now in there. All the pictures, good dishes, report cards and baptismal clothes fit comfortably with room to spare. That one trunk will stay here in Florida at our friends’ house and we’ll take what we need with us in the RV.

What we need.

What we really want.

Why the hell do we hang on to anything else?

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  1. naomi says:

    Loved this. I’ve been doing the same purge …

    We have a 10×10 storage unit in Ohio that was carefully packed with all of the things we didn’t need to bring to India. So why (we ask ourselves) do we even still HAVE that storage space??

  2. Racheal says:

    Yes! Yes! YES!!!!

    The purging, it is gratifying and freeing.

    It is like crack cocaine, mixed with angry and happy and sad and sentimental all at once.

    But you are right, it is all…just stuff.

    I started with a house full of stuff, then ended with two bags, a carry-on.

    All my treasures, in a gallon zip-loc bag.


    Clothes, shoes, furniture, knick-knacks, things I thought I really really, I mean, I really needed, sold, given away, trashed.

    and yes, in the end,

    I thought,

    Well, that was stupid.

    I may not have had a phone book, but I guarantee you there was definitely something all up in there that was very close or possibly worst.

    I get it.

    Now, welcome to the rest of your life!

  3. whall says:

    Hey, you didn’t throw that phone book away already, did you? Cuz it has a typo in it and is worth Millions! MILLIONS, I TELLS YOU!!!!

  4. I remember when Hubby was in the military and there were several boxes that we never ever unpacked they just got moved from one house to another with us. Finally last year in the attic I went through those boxes and I was surprised what we had moved all over the country with us. Most of the stuff promptly got pitched and I now have a lot more room in my attic.

  5. Robin says:

    I think we keep things like that to anchor a part of us to our past. I have a bunch of shit here myself from YEARS ago that, while I haven’t used it for 10 years, always had a spot in my junk drawer. It’s a reminder of something awesome. It stirs up something inside me that I don’t want to stop. When I finally move out on my own, I am starting fresh, only taking my birth certificate, passport and clothes. Everything else must go. :)

  6. FireMom says:

    We’ve been sorting through junk/crap as well. Why did my husband still have his senior year course schedule. (Senior year of high school, not college even.) Why did I have a stack of 7th grade math tests? I don’t even LIKE math.

    I also just emptied my drawers of winter stuff that I didn’t wear this year. I figured if I didn’t wear it this year, I won’t wear it next year. Oh, and bras. That I bought… my freshman year of college. Yeah. WHY did I still have them? I don’t know.

    So, yes, this post resonated with me. :)

  7. Guilty. Although not for the same reason. With HHH moving from job to job, we have packed up and unpacked a lot of times and I always say to myself, “I’ll just shove it all in boxes and sort it when we unpack.” and when we get the boxes to the new place I say, “Oh man, moving was such a hassle, I’ll just shove this stuff in this closet/drawer/cabinet and sort it later. Then I never sort it and it stays. I need to just get a couple of cases of contractor bags and purge the whole thing. I still have stuff from HIGH SCHOOL!!!

  8. annettek says:

    It’s like you’re in my head, thinking my thoughts! We’re moving again very soon, most likely into a much smaller space, and I’m purging like crazy. I can’t believe the crap that I’ve kept for years for no reason, and like you, moved it all a number of times. Sigh.

  9. Lisa says:

    I’m now obsessed with the idea of having a garage sale, even though I’m pretty sure it can’t compare with last weekend. Still, I have a lot of stuff I keep meaning to sell and have been too lazy, so I need to get on that.

  10. Megan says:

    The phone book cracks me up. You should pick a random number and see if that person still lives there. ;)

    In solidarity with you, I will be gutting a closet in my house that I only open to pull out the occasional file folder and envelope – and it contains a lot more than two boxes!

  11. Ren says:

    Some of the stuff we have solely because I’m not sure how to dispose of it. Some is trash that seems too toxic for normal pick-up (empty pool chemical containers and the like). Some of it seems inappropriate for donation but doesn’t seem trash-worthy either (underclothes that are too big for me now). And a whole bunch of accessories, including replacement parts, for various gadgets and gizmos that we may or may not still have.

    What bugs me most, though, is that none of this stuff really takes up any useful space. We have a pretty large house, relatively speaking, and yet both the kids and I often complain that there’s nowhere convenient to keep daily-use things that’s not in the way. My kids drop their school backpacks (and other school stuff) on the floor in the laundry room (or on the washer or dryer). We complain that this isn’t the proper place to put it and they argue that they don’t want to have to keep it upstairs and there’s no other good place.

    I have shoes that I keep on the floor of our closet. I’d like to store them better, but there just doesn’t seem to be a good spot. Our closet is large, but not huge. There’s space for more clothes, but much of the available space is out of reach. There are already several shoe rack storage systems — one for me and two or three for my wife — and I guess I should either get rid of some shoes (not likely) or get another shoe rack and just make room for it.

    I think getting rid of junk is even more difficult when you don’t have an overriding motivation. If we were moving to a smaller house, or doing something similar to what your family is doing, that would force the issue. But I suppose that’s obvious. We have actually gotten rid of a lot over the last year or two, with a couple of garage sales and a couple of donation trips. There’s plenty more that we don’t need or even use, though.

  12. Darla says:

    Bwahahahahaahahahahahaha oh my gosh I burst our loud when I saw the phone book. Because? We have a small army of them to match.

    Clearly, we do not have google like the rest of y’alls.

  13. Ah, the stuff. Believe me once you truly downsize and stay that way this year, you’ll never go back. It’s lovely NOT bringing things into your life…it frees up space and guilt.
    Just like if you get past going to school you don’t have consider buying text books again, or once the baby is potty trained you don’t care about the price of diapers…once you don’t have a house or a garden you get to ignore so many ads, so many stores, so much STUFF.
    Because we have what we need and don’t add things (living in an RV makes those choices for us), we save money, time and energy. It’s a wonderful thing to look forward to on this journey.

  14. Love this:) A general rule to live by – SIMPLIFY

  15. Gary says:

    That Ok but what if theres a competition announced next week to name the first person in the Ceder falls phone book in 1999. How annoying would that be!

  16. if you ever change your mind, i have your nanna’s crystal bowl. (because clearly i am a pack rat to the nth degree, so much so that i can’t handle the thought of other people parting with treasures.)

    in related news, did you know that lead crystal bowls in carryon luggage will cause the bag to be flagged since x-rays can’t see through lead. duh. also, when you holler at tsa agents to “BE CAREFUL WITH THAT BAG, IT HAS PRECIOUS CARGO!!!!” they give you disgusted looks, but say gently, “i can tell you have good crystal in here, i’ll be gentle.” :)

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