Every day Max, the dogs, and I go for a walk. And every day I have a choice: I can make the second turn and take a longer path around our neighborhood or I can take the first turn and pass the hoarder house.
I almost always choose the longer walk.
Hoarding is not something I have personally wrestled with, but it’s in my family. I have conscious memories of opening up closets packed to the cathedral ceiling with neat containers, passing through screened front porches covered in dusty junk, and toddling through precarious paths in garages, only to misstep and fall into a pile of sharp things. I know hoarding. I’ve seen hoarding. And I am petrified of it.
When my dad passed away in 2010, I inherited all of his stuff. It sat in boxes on my porch, in my back hallway, in my living room, and in my basement in my small city apartment. Plagued with indecision and the emotional baggage of losing a parent, I ignored it for several months. I walked by the boxes on my way to work, I passed them when I got home, and I spent a lot of time avoiding being in the house. And this continued until my friends stepped in and said “it’s time.” They gave me emotional support, they gave me wine, and they fed me while I went through the difficult process of paring down the meaningful from the meaningless until we reached an acceptable amount of things.
Acceptable, but we still had too much.
You see, in the span of 17 years, I have lived in 17 different homes across just 3 states. It’s an impressive number, because until I wrote it down – I can’t say that I ever consciously felt like a wanderer. But I did wander, quite a bit. Part of that was a shift in living arrangements after my parents divorced. Part of it was living outside our family home and trying to find a place that suited us. Part of it was college, and internships, and first apartments. There was always a reason, always something driving the change. Always a distraction, a need.
What’s strange is that before the 17 years of 17 homes, I had lived in the same home my entire life. And I’m slightly ahead of this milestone, but the math works out to be – nearly half my life in one home and the other half wandering. It’s no wonder I never felt compelled to travel (though I did, and I do).
And in that span of time, my possessions have accumulated and been lost. They been saved for the next place. They’ve been stashed at my parent’s homes. Then moved. Then re-boxed and stored again. And each time a move would happen, I would reduce the boxes and keep just a little too much. Just in case.
And this pattern of boxing, un-boxing, and moving continued while I waited for “some day” when we would have a more permanent home. Well, that “some day” has come and gone. And now it’s time to address the extra.
I started this project in earnest over the summer. And I shared aspects of it in a short series on the second-hand economy in Sell all of your crap at a Yard Sale, What I learned about my relationship with “stuff”, De-clutter your life, and De-clutter your life for good.
During the time of that series, we let go of a lot of things that had collected through my moves. Some of it was mine, some of it was Chris’, some of it was his parent’s, and some of it was my mom’s. Yes, all of us moved (most downsizing) in the same year.
It was a crazy time.
And in that time, I got really good at parting with unnecessary things.
But it wasn’t enough.
Winter has slowed us down. We’ve spent more time at home. Indoors. Around our “stuff.” And I feel the emotional weight of too many physical things in one space. It’s time for it to go.
In a big way.
This project isn’t just about reducing storage or organizing better. It’s about a lifestyle shift. It’s about transforming from a wanderer to someone with roots. Someone with a permanent place. Someone who will always have the ability to acquire necessities, but redefines what “necessity” truly means. I’m ready to get rid of the cluttered corners, the “to do” inbox, and the projects left unfinished. I’m ready to allow for the possibility of not having the exact right shoes, or jackets, or extra t-shirts, or pair of earrings, or whatever else I have just a little too much of – I’m ready to let go of it all.
For as long as it takes, most Thursdays I’m going to highlight this project. I’m mildly obsessed with it already and I haven’t even started. Like that shoe pile in my closet? Gone. The extra food I won’t ever eat in our pantry? See ya later. The books we will never read again. Not going to miss it.
It’s time to let go. To be free. And to have less. And I’m ridiculously excited about it.