Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Physical Debris

When I left for South Korea I decided not to worry about sorting my things. Twenty one years of accumulated physical debris collected in bins, file boxes, suitcases, trunks, old liquor boxes, and scattered from floor to ceiling presented me with the daunting task of "organizing." Add to this the fact that everything was sorted into "college stuff", "home stuff", and "Korea stuff" and I made the executive decision to put off the business of going through, sorting, disposing of, and packing neatly until I returned from Asia. After all, a year is forever away and I assumed that I would be better prepared for the effort once I had another year of wisdom under my belt.

Once I moved back to the States, I moved into a house with a number of other people. I had happy dreams of going through my things, fingering bits of my childhood, recalling the highs and lows of my life, laughing at clothing from high school, and bringing order to my physical possessions. I moved blue bin after blue bin into a damp, dark basement and then sat down in front of them. I looked around and realized that I didn't have anywhere to put all of my things. I didn't even need most of my stuff. I had lived for seven months without any of it, and it didn't seem necessary. In fact, unpacking and sorting all of those bins seemed like the biggest waste of time in the world. I wrestled with the desire to simply cart the whole lot to the curb and be done with it. Instead, I unpacked the essentials and put off the rest for another six months.

Six months came and went, like it does, and I found myself in another apartment and once again faced with a mountain of blue bins. They loomed over me. They filled all available space. They taunted me every time I sat down to eat, or read, or sleep. I couldn't take it. Those bins were becoming my yellow wall paper.

I got motivated. Much coffee, and maybe a red bull, later I was riping off bin covers, singing at the top of my lungs to one hit wonder bands, and resurrecting my physical belongings. I would pull out an item, look at it, ask myself if I needed it, and more often than not just cover my eyes, take a deep breathe and pitch it into the yawning mouth of a black garbage bag.

As I watched fliers from middle school, old shoe strings, bits of shiny metal, cat toys, tiny little pants and shirts from my runner days, notes past in an eight grade math class, and all sorts of odds and ends, the kind a child with a tendency toward hoarding will collect, flutter and plunk and squish into the deep darkness of the garbage bag I felt a sense of relief. I was free. I was free from carrying, packing, unpacking, and moving years and years worth of trash. I didn't need to keep that plastic protractor any more. I was never going to need a broken, black plastic comb. My feet were never going to shrink into shoes two sizes too small!

When I was done, I was wonderfully clutter free. I still owned hundreds of books, clothing, necessary paperwork, and some furniture but so much was gone. I felt like I had won a major victory.

Last weekend I happily set out to pack my apartment. I was confident it wouldn't take very long. I was looking forward to the small stack of blue bins I would have to man handle into my car. Looking forward to them! I can't explain how deeply disturbed I was when bin...after bin...oh god, after bin was filled. I kept saying things like, "All most done" and "Once this bit is packed it's just a few more things." I lied, mostly to myself.

I don't know where it has come from, but somehow the clutter, the crap, the mounds of stuff is back. Does is reproduce like Tribbles in those blue bins? Are blue bins just clutter factories, taking in X amount of useful stuff and churning out 4X amount of crap? How did this happen?!

I have no answers other than the overwhelming desire to tackle those bins one more time. I will climb this Everest of physical debris and emerge on top of a very small mound of my crap. Black garbage bags are my weapon of choice.


  1. I believe hoarder is the correct word. Keep a good supply of garbage bags and just keep at it. Sometimes, when you are doing a major purge, you actually find something useful :-)

  2. The problem is that so many of the boxes are full of books. It's a happy problem, but a space consuming one.