The Big Purge

February 8, 2010

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Image by TheTruthAbout… via Flickr

First off, do not fear — the Big Purge in question is not preceded by a food binge. I’m talking the purging of stuff, and I am obsessed. “Hoarders” is so 2009; I am currently shopping around my brilliant reality show idea: “Purgers.” (I may rethink that name.) It will feature me, at my computer, as I list items on ebay, Craig’s List and Freecycle, as well as my trips to Mailboxes Etc to ship various items. I smell daytime Emmy!

Looking back, I spent much of my 20s and 30s amassing stuff. It started with parental hand-me-downs of couches and pots and pans, and continued with wedding gifts. Once I moved into a house with an attic it was all over; I don’t think I threw away anything for the next eight years. I’m not talking mementos like photo albums or my wedding dress. More like…well, boxes of totally outdated computer manuals, for example. Rolls of promotional movie posters from when my dad owned a video store. A huge (and weirdly pornographic-looking) electric back massager. A broken antique dress form. About 8000 cassette tapes. And much, much, much more. The thing about the attic is, it’s the attic. You can just shove stuff up there, shut the door, and not deal with it!

Until you have to deal with it. When we decided to move from that particular house, my husband worked long hours and I was in charge of packing, while at home with a non-sleeping infant. During one of her rare naps, I wandered around in the attic, so sleep-deprived and so, so freaked out. What was all this stuff? Apparently, it was ours, but then why hadn’t we needed any of it in the three years we’d lived there?!

In the end, I had to hire some guys to help me throw most of it out the attic window into a pick-up truck and haul it away. Somewhere north of Boston there is a landfill with my name on it. That’s the bad news. The good news is, I vowed to never let that happen again. Years later, I’ve stayed true to that promise. See? Sometimes OCD can work to your advantage — you just have to be compulsively obsessed with the right things!

In my current house there is, literally, nothing in the attic. Okay, that’s because there’s no real floor up there, but there’s also very little in the basement, where there is a floor. The garage, I will admit, could use some work — but it’s nothing to be ashamed about, and nothing I can’t handle with a spring yard sale or freecycle session. Ooh, I think I will begin my Ode to Freecycle now.

If you are not already on freecycle, I encourage you to check it out. It makes so much sense. The basic premise is that you have things you don’t want but someone else might want, so instead of throwing things into the landfill, why not offer them up?

Signing up is a bit clunky (it’s all volunteer-run) but once you’re in, all you do is send an email to your local group, stating what the item is. Hours, if not minutes, later you will have replies from people who are willing to come pick it up, whatever “it” is — or you can meet them somewhere if you don’t want people at your house.

A few of the items I’ve given away recently on freecycle: an orange cone (like for road work), an old wallet, a bar stool, a dog crate, some men’s dress shirts. Someone is coming today to pick up a clock radio I bought at Target years ago and then didn’t like and put in a closet and found this morning.

Sure, I could put this stuff on ebay or Craig’s List, but then I would have to take photos and write good descriptions and ship things, and I’d probably end up with $30 in the end. We all know that time is money. And no one ever complains on freecycle, because it’s free.

You can also request items, which I never thought I would do but did just this morning. What made me change my mind? I asked myself, Why would I buy more plastic Littlest Pet Shop figures when, surely, there’s someone local whose kid has outgrown theirs? If I’m not happy with the free ones for whatever reason, I can always put them back on freecycle.

Other items I’ve recently seen requested: a composter, Diego party decorations, wooden shutters, women’s ice skates size 8, and a waffle iron. Ya know, I think I had all of that in my old attic.

  • Love it!

    I love when you purge stuff, and am really digging your recent FreeCycle kick.

    You could create a spinoff show that follows around those people who drive 25 miles to pickup an old wallet. Are they the hoarders? Or an entirely different animal?


  • lcarrigg

    Thanks! Now we just need you to go through your boxes and boxes and boxes of old books! :)

    I said that no one ever complains about stuff on freecycle but I neglected to go into some of the ridiculous emails that are exchanged and the wackadoodles who make elaborate plans to pick up a half box of dishwashing detergent. Yesterday I dropped off an item for someone who doesn't have a car or a phone. Well, at least now they have a clock radio!

  • Meganne

    I feel like we are truly the “sandwich” generation. Our parents are clinging to every little thing (But Grandma used that pan once a year to fry up beef liver! It's a keeper!), and my eight year old can't bear to part with the valentine she got 3 years ago. Meanwhile, I'm selling bits and pieces on ebay, nostalgia thrown to the wind. I loved hearing about your freecycle experience, but a little frightened that my Dad might discover it one day and amass even more old crap…

  • lcarrigg

    I definitely agree that part of my “urge to purge” comes from my parents having accumulated soooooooooo much stuff over the years. Even things that actually do have value in my mind, like books, I now choose very carefully. It is tough to find that middle ground, for sure, where you feel like you kept a few things that have a great history or sentimental value but got rid of the ten other things that are similar. And yes, C also wants to keep old valentines, five blankets from when she was a baby, crappy stuffed animals that she “won” at the Topsfield Fair (after I paid for her to play a game). It will be a life-long battle for sure. I just need to always remember that attic.

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