Jun 08, 2015, 06:36AM

Goodbye to All the Stuff

The only good thing about moving is purging crap.

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The lease we had on our country McMansion ended, and they sold the house, so we have to move for the second time in 16 months since our Victorian ended up in foreclosure when we couldn’t afford the necessary $100,000 in repairs to the non-functioning plumbing, leaking roof and (complete lack of) heating.

So I can’t really complain about moving—it’s merely a function of waiting to get back on our feet again until we’re able to buy another house. At least this time we’re not leaving the once-upon-a-time “dream house” where the kids were raised. The rental market was tighter this time, but we were lucky to find a house a few miles from the current one. With kids still in school, my new dream of owning an adorable, not-huge waterfront home on the Chesapeake Bay is years (and a hefty down payment) away.

The new house is smaller and older, but has a nicely landscaped in-ground saltwater pool and even a hot tub in what is certain to be a friendlier neighborhood (because it couldn’t be less friendly). I don’t mind the reduction in square footage—less to clean, not that I’m the greatest housekeeper anyway. In the move last year from Monster House, we were able to get rid of a lot of stuff used by our kids when they were babies—the crib all four of my kids slept in went on the curb with a “free” sign and was gone in 10 minutes along with a bunch of other large, plastic things babies and toddlers tend to require. We stored a lot in the garage and basement of this McMansion. But I don’t have as much storage space in the new place, so the time has come for another big crap-purge.

What is this crap, anyway? It was time to “go through everything;” that task we often refer to but never accomplish. The flotsam and jetsam that accompany a large family haunted us, lurking around in Rubbermaid containers and unopened boxes marked “BASEMENT.” And I’ll be damned if I move this useless shit again. Do we really need this collection of 54 different miniature rubber duckies? Nope. While it’s lovely that we have original Disney VHS versions of dozens of films, are we really going to watch them again? The last VHS player in the house broke, so no. I decide CD’s are also in the outdated-technology category and pitch those too. I put together a box of books to donate, bags of clothes to donate. I hide things the kids might try to “rescue” from the trash in black contractor bags to be hauled off while they’re at school. Ninja junk disposal, at your service.

Sentimental stuff is what kills me every time: the original baby blanket, the beloved Dalmatian stuffed animal, the smile-face spinny rattle from my first baby’s crib in 1994. There are so many things I’d like to throw out but just can’t yet for some reason. I guess I have a “tears” rule—if the thing brings tears to my eyes because it reminds me of a moment in time when my now-grown kid was a small child, I can’t toss it. It doesn’t amount to that much stuff anyway. Each kid has one large Rubbermaid container of nostalgia: report cards, trophies, certificates, yearbooks (last year of elementary, middle and high school only—I refused to pay for them annually for each of four kids), band pins, a few art class drawings I always thought I’d frame.

I have too much of my own stuff, too. My life is boiled down mainly to one trunk leftover from college and filled with little things: “telescope” photos from Ocean City Maryland circa late 1980s (why do I need this reminder I once wore bikinis?), my Friendly’s waitress badge from high school, my Girl Scout sash. I’m also terrible at throwing out my work—print newspaper and magazine articles from a 20-year career are in a box or two. And even though I have worked hard to be a sea glass collector versus hoarder, I have to admit to a pretty heavy haul of vintage bottles and wave-tumbled keepsakes.

Moving twice in two years is awful, but I love the idea of simplifying my life, making choices to leave the past in the past.

—Follow Mary McCarthy on Twitter @marymac.


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