Saturday, September 6, 2008


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When I taught school, one of the teacher workshops I attended was given by Dinah Zike.

She encouraged teachers to collect free materials to enhance our classrooms. She showed us how we could use empty coffee cans as student "mailboxes" where we could place their graded papers. Empty Velveeta boxes could be used as "lockers" to hold glue, erasers, and pencils. Empty cereal boxes could hold the week's worksheets.

A use could be found for most ordinary things that are usually thrown away, she told us. Since I come from a long line of pack rats, this was very exciting news! I began collecting and saving until I would have made any pack rat proud.

I even balked when my husband wanted to throw out my collection of coffee cans during a cross country move. (He finally convinced me to do the sensible thing and ditch them!)

The Complete Tightwad Gazette, one of my favorite books, encourages the same kind of reusing before throwing something away. The idea is to keep items that could one day be useful.

That's why I am forever accepting bags of old zippers and maroon sateen fabric leftover from making bridesmaids' dresses, boxes of canning lids, and outdated appointment books. I have even saved packing peanuts! You know, just in case. You never know when you might need them!

Then, I read one of Don Aslett's books and had an epiphany.

He was revealing how to let go of the junk that clutters up our houses and our lives. He told of a very large teddy bear holding a big red heart that had been received as a gift. Over time, the teddy bear began to lose its charm and they never could quite figure out where to put the thing. It began to burden him, yet he hated to get rid of it. The giver had spent $20 and had chosen it to bring joy.

What to do?

That's when he realized that receiving joy from a gift doesn't preclude the owner from ever getting rid of that item. He gave the example of a dozen roses. If we received them as a gift, we would enjoy them immensely while appreciating the giver's thoughtfulness and the money spent.

And when the roses die? We throw them out, of course.

We enjoy them until, well, we don't enjoy them anymore. And we get rid of them. Getting rid of them doesn't diminish the enjoyment we received in any way.

Mr. Aslett's point was "Don't love it if it doesn't love you back." By this, he meant that we should never keep something in our homes that doesn't bring us joy or serve us in some way.

Did you inherit an old lamp from Uncle Fred, but don't have anywhere to put it? Pass it on to someone else. Did you get a fruit dehydrator for Christmas, but aren't really interested in drying fruit? Off to Goodwill it goes. Have a very large teddy bear that is losing its charm? Enjoy for a time and then give it away.

Now, are you wondering why I have titled this post "Conflicted"? It is because that is how I feel now that we are trying to pack an entire household into boxes and move them 350 miles!

I can see how both of the philosophies above have merit. Yes, it is good to save things that might be useful. And yes, it is good to eliminate useless clutter. But, how can we do both?

A bag of zippers might one day be useful, but for the time being they are adding to the clutter in my closet. Right now, I have a decision to make. Do I pack up all of the things that could, potentially be of use to me at some unforeseen time in the future? Or do I purge the things that are not "loving me back" right now?

These are two opposing schools of thought. They can not dwell together.

Conflicted. That's me.


Aunt LoLo said...

Oh, that's a hard one!!!! I have to say,'s so much better to just purge it. Get rid of what you don't need. You'll be AMAZED at how fast you can build up your "junk reserves" once you're settled! (Freecycle is a packrat's best friend!) Not only that...but you'll be able to build it up WHEN YOU NEED IT.

(I just moved across the country, from one coast to the other. I never miss the things I got rid of before I moved...but I DO miss the things I decided to keep and the MOVERS lost! How does a box go on a truck and just never come back off?!)

Holly said...

Purge now. It all comes back later. Really.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Holly, let it all go! But, I have been known to give something to the Salvation Army and then go back the next day to buy the stuff back. :{

Pat's Place said...

I do know that in our last move I gave away my lace, trim, etc stash and needed it immediately when I arrived at my destination for a project that I was attempting. It amazed me how much it cost to go out and BUY what I needed when I had just given all that stuff to Goodwill! Oh well, it does accumulate again, trust me!

MamaJ said...

Purge away! I got rid of quite a few "things" during our last few moves. We have since accumulated everything back that I (needed) wanted for crafts and school supplies.

Brenda said...

Oh, I hear you! We are not moving right now but I'm hoping to move to a smaller house soon and I'm decluttering like we are. It's so hard. Especially if you were taught to keep everything that might be useful like I was. But it's choking me. And what seems like a good idea to keep on that shelf just in case...doesn't seem so good when you are packing it to take with you across the country, huh?

Chunk it. The Lord can provide for your needs when you get to your new home.

Kara said...

Purge as much as you can! We still have boxes we have not unpacked from our move and I think, "Do I really need that if I haven't used it for 1 1/2 years?!!) We got rid of a lot of stuff but not nearly enough and you will accumulate more in your new place, at least I have:) Hmmm, 350 miles away I have some guesses as to where you are going but I need details before I bust a gut!!!

the momma said...

3 years ago, we moved from an over 2000 Sq ft home - to a 975 sq ft home. I should mention that we were a family of 8 at the time.


I can say with all honesty, that there is NOTHING that I got rid of (and we got rid of everything we could possibly give up & then some!) that I have needed.
I even tossed a big ole box of zippers :-)

Anonymous said...

Let it go, let it go. We have moved three times in two years, twice out of state. I have gotten rid of so much stuff and haven't missed any of it. Well, except for this really old dresser that I loved, I could kick myself for getting rid of that. We just moved into our new home a few months ago and I seem to have a pertpetual "give away" box in the hallway. I asked my dh this morning when am I going to be finished getting rid of things? Lol, anyway, it'll make your move so much easier when you have less things to worry about.

April C.

Mama Martin said...

People and relationships are all that get into eternity. On this earth, stuff multiplies when left in the dark (overnight!) so purge, purge, purge. Creativity will be making do with what you have when you get there!

Shari said...

Let is all go. You can collect it at your new house soon enough! We took 10 loads to the Good Will, different shelters, etc. and they put good use to it! It will be so much easier on you if you let it go!

Michelle said...

Get. Rid. Of. It. I told hubby the other day that I wish we could move so it would inspire me to get rid of more! lol. I've taken 10 boxes to the Goodwill in the last 6 weeks and it's the most freeing feeling in the world. You won't regret it.

Oh, and if the 350 miles your moving is closer my way (DFW), let me know and then we could have a MIRL (meet in real life)!! :)

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