Tuesday, November 30, 2021

The end game

There’s one reality about the garage project I haven’t talked about, and it also relates to the overall project of trying to organise my home: I’m not merely trying to tidy and organise the garage, I’m not merely trying to clear it so I can do projects, and I’m also not merely trying to make more space in my entire house, even though all of those things are true. The real point of all of this, the end game, is that I’m trying to lighten the load I carry—in many different ways.

I’ve often said that that I was dealing with 24 years worth of stuff from two people, and that’s absolutely true. I need to shed most of that stuff, and it’s a long, tedious (very boring, actually…), and energy-zapping process, made worse by the inevitable emotional triggers (and the ongoing fatigue I’ve talked about many, many times). The process inches along slowly, and I recently made yet another tiny step forward.

Weekend before last, New Zealand’s online auction service, Trade Me, ran a promotion in which every item listed on Saturday, November 20 would have 50% off the success fees (the fees Trade Me changes for hosting a successful sale). It was as good a reason as any to put some things online to try to sell them.

In the end, I found only four items that were ready to go. The vast majority of the stuff Nigel left behind isn’t ready to be sold—mainly because there are missing bits and pieces (like remotes, or boxes, or manuals, etc.). So, I picked three things that I bought and one that Nigel originally bought (spoiler: the item that didn’t sell was Nigel’s).

The things I put up for auction were things I didn’t want, had no use for, but that still could’ve had value for others. In the end, I got less than $84 all up (today, a little more than US$57, which means that they all sold for far less than they originally cost us), but the money wasn’t the main point: These were things that I knew had some use for others, but they probably wouldn’t have sold through an op shop (thrift store, charity shop, etc.). Wins all around.

Getting rid of stuff was the actual point (I also have two boxes of stuff packed and ready to go to op shops, but it’s unclear if they’re accepting donations at the moment, due to Covid restrictions). There are many reasons this purging is so important.

First, and most obviously, there’s no reason for me to keep things I don’t want and have no use for. If I can get a bit of cash for them, so much the better, but the important thing is to get them out the door. That, in turn, is motivated by my own experience: I inherited huge piles of Nigel’s stuff, things that I now have to dispose of, one way or another. I don’t want whoever clears my estate to have to go through the same thing.

I talked about getting rid of stuff some 20 months before Nigel died, and I wasn’t too complimentary about “Swedish Death Cleaning”, so it’s ironic-ish that it’s essentially exactly what I’m now working on. The truth is, I don’t even know why it matters to me. I mean, I’ll be dead, so, to be blunt, not my problem. I always thought, as I said back in that 2018 post, “if I’m the last one to go, it’ll be some company hired by my estate executor and paid to come in and look for things of value to sell, everything else going to the tip.” Yes, but, I now know the importance of leaving less to even have to deal with.

The biggest reason of all, though, is that I’m buried in stuff and I need it gone. This house is smaller than either of our last two houses, and we accumulated ever more stuff in the years we spent in those houses. That makes everything seem crammed-in here—and, in truth, it basically is. It’s a well-proven fact that too much stuff in one’s house can cause depression, and I know that over the years dealing with “stuff” often got me down, something I’ve mentioned in the past.

The thing is, dealing with “stuff” was always my job. Nigel could never work out where to start and often got overwhelmed very easily, so he'd ask me to take care of it for him. I often got anxious about that because I didn’t know what some of the stuff even was, let alone if it was something to keep. And now I’m in much the same situation, except that the decisions on what to keep/trash/donate/sell are all mine—I guess that helps?

To be clear, both Nigel and I are guilty of creating this situation. Where he accumulated lots of tech stuff (some of it quite expensive…), I accumulated other stuff, mostly fairly small, and often things I thought I could use for—well, dunno, something, apparently. I’ve already tossed/recycled a lot of that sort of thing which is easier precisely because I acquired it in the first place.

Stacks of papers have been a big challenge: I was in charge of filing receipts/bills/statements, a job I loathed so very much that I’d often end up with huge piles or, more likely, boxes filled with unsorted stuff to be filed. Nigel also had large piles/boxes of papers from his work that he just didn’t get around to dealing with.

Add it all up, and we were both bad, but in different ways. Together we created the monster.

Much of my sorting has been slow because of those boxes of various papers. This is something I’ve been working on, one way or another, for many years, and blogged about one such time back in January 2018. It's slow because I have to go through each box and look at each piece of paper to decide what to do with it: Trash, shred/destroy, recycle, or, sometimes, keep.

The “destroy” papers aren’t necessarily super-secret, but are ones I’d still rather not have flying around a paper recycling centre or above a landfill when a rubbish bag splits open after it’s dumped. There have been a few things that are a bit more sensitive, for whatever reason, and I started shredding those things, but there’s just so much and the process is so slow that I decided to order a secure destruction bin to put it all into, everything from the highly sensitive to the merely rather-not-have-flying-around things. And that, in turn, has made me hurry up and sort though the remaining boxes of papers so I can order the bin and get rid of all that kind of “stuff”.

Meanwhile, the keep pile is, thankfully, small. It’s mostly statements (etc.) that are less than seven years old (and so, that I have to keep for awhile yet). However, mixed in those papers is “stuff” I’m keeping for purely sentimental reasons (those few papers will easily fit in one filing drawer).

I’m being as hard-nosed and no-nonsense as my fragile self can handle, and it’s paid off: Over the time I’ve been in this house, there’s been a lot of “stuff” I’ve given away, been able to throw out in the rubbish, recycled, and also a little bit I sold. It all adds up—and to far more than I (or anyone else) can grasp.

Even so, there’s still so very much to do, and it gets me down sometimes. So, I just work away at it, little by little, and make slow progress doing what I can, when I can, to revive my old motto. If one day I’m just not feeling it, maybe tomorrow (to recall another motto). I still have no idea when this will be all done, but I’m not focused on that as much as sticking to the one thing more than any other that’s gotten me through the past couple years: One day at a time.

The past few days have helped move things along. Other days will help, too. What I can, when I can, one day at a time, and sometimes maybe tomorrow. It all gets me closer to the end game of all this work: To lighten the load I carry—in many different ways.

The photo above is of the first thing I sold, boxed and ready for the courier to pick up.


Roger Owen Green said...

This is extremely interesting to me.

I don't keep anything, such as old bills, anymore. They're online, for the most part.
My wife keeps almost EVERYTHING, grocery store receipts, e.g. She'll return things more frequently than I. (The lettuce wilted before its time? She'll take it back, but I would just compost it because it's not worth my time.)

I also can't figure out her filing, in part because she files by year, and I sort by category. If I want the warranty for the refrigerator, I'll have to look in the .... well what year DID we buy the fridge. She'll go to the 2018 file. I would have had a file labeled Appliances if it were up to me.

She's been telling me to figure what to do with my stuff (books, music). I DON'T KNOW because I'm using them. Maybe our daughter would want some, especially the latter.

Arthur Schenck said...

I've actually downsized the books a bit, something Nigel told me a few years ago he was okay with me doing—mainly because he didn't want to do it. I'm going to have another purge, because I want to reduce the number of bookcases in my office so the room feels bigger. That's the goal—no idea if it'll work out.

I try to keep all product manuals together, and a few years ago I started keeping the receipt with the manual. It turns out that I ended up with manuals for things we got rid of ten years ago, and kept receipts well past the time the warranty expired and so did the lifespan guaranteed by NZ's Consumer Guarantees Act no longer applied.

I think "stuff" is one of the greatest burdens we modern folk have placed onto ourselves—at the urging of companies selling us stuff, of course, but still.