Start thinking of storage as synonymous with sorrow and you’ll find a new resolve to get rid of things. Sarah Ban Breathnach
The more storage you have, the more stuff you accumulate. Alexis Stewart
Putting things away creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved. But sooner or later, all the storage units are full, and the room once again overflows with things. Marie Kondo
Clutter is symptomatic of delayed decision making. Cynthia Kyriazis
The designated time had arrived. Weeks ago, we saw a free weekend on the calendar and promised ourselves that this would be the time to tackle the storage room. Tackle, using full body press. This was a job that would require energetic focus. The task itself would produce its own distractions, which I call the inevitable exit ramps to pause and consider what to do with ‘this and that’. I had read that storage areas are called the room of indecision. A resolve was made to say yes or no, not maybe. Don and I gave each other permission to quit when the emotional overload was too great. At the same time, we vowed not to abandon the project with everything scattered to the winds. The goal? To bring order out of chaos. To make decisions about what stays or goes and why. To clean – ridding the area of cobwebs, dead bugs, insulation and dirt.
The storage room consumes half of our basement. Half of this half houses our art supplies and serves as our studio workspace. The other somewhat arbitrary side, determined by the location of the furnace, has shelving that holds infrequently used items (turkey roaster, movie projector, sewing machine), recreational gear (golf clubs, ice skates, tennis rackets, camping supplies), memorabilia and family artifacts, a filing cabinet with tax and work documents, boxes of other documents with random things thrown in, household repair items (tools, tubes of fix-it goo, paint, extra flooring and ceiling tiles ) and more. Always there is more. With a cup of coffee in hand, we took a deep breath, and opened the door into the overwhelming vastness awaiting us.
Dear Reader: Maybe this is the moment for you to pause and list the items in your storage space. Wonder if we have the same things in storage?
A prior decision was made to approach Project Storage in stages. The basics of bringing order, tossing out the obvious, and general cleaning were the focus of stage one. Stage two involved a more involved commitment. This included going through all documents and memory boxes requiring strategic decisions and emotional strength. More than a mind and body could handle in the first run through. Surveying the disheveled room before us, this boundary felt like a gift. Boxes containing stage two were stacked at the edge of the storage room. Their substantial consumption of space was a visible reminder of our intentions for another day, another time.
We had prepared well for this weekend with empty boxes and trash bags, the Shop Vac, and a camera to document items for Craig’s list. Anyone interested in a baby scale vintage 1949? Before long we were bringing like items together. All paint supplies landed on the same shelf. Tools were re-hung above the workbench. Old boots and running shoes that somehow had landed in a corner were tossed. Improvement was visible. Decisions were quickly being made around what stayed and what went. How many baking dishes were really needed? Two easily moved into the thrift shop box. A butterfly net? To the grandchildren it goes. This was empowering. The Shop Vac was busy making sounds as it sucked up known’s and unknown’s. These were sounds of instant gratification, making it almost fun to keep going.
Then it happened. Depression and guilt set in as I realized that we had not used our tennis rackets in three years, the camping gear had not made it to a state park but once last summer, tried to recall the last winter we used our ice skates, and those beautiful golf clubs – too long ago to remember. A huge sigh came from my suddenly tired body, then a reality check about why this might be true, a bit of cheerleading was faintly heard around the edges, followed by a new resolve that this year would be different. But would it? I had taken on this closet while Don was working on a different part of the room. Wonder if he would feel the same way as I did in seeing these reminders of a life we once lived? Sad. To say we no longer will camp, ice skate, play tennis or golf felt like a larger question about life, not storage. This needed a heart-felt conversation with Don. I tucked everything back into place, just where I had found it.
So much left the storage room that day. Local thrift shops received our bountiful bags. Craig’s list brought new owners and some cash our way. That stack of boxes with old documents? Some have been shredded while others still await attention. Memory boxes, especially with family history, remain pretty much as before. Storage lives in our clothes closets, dresser drawers, kitchen cabinets, bookshelves, the garage, and the boxes of our everyday lives. This act of letting go is a constant and vigilant process.
With each stage, we dig deeper and perhaps become more honest with ourselves. Hope lives in these items we keep. Holding onto the keyboard means I still might learn to play, the thirty cup coffee maker waits to host a large gathering, and the camping gear begs for the out of doors. Those and more sit waiting their fate. Admittedly, because we have the room to store all of this, we do.
The good news is that Don and I intentionally bring less into our lives. This changes our approach to buying and invites thoughtful discussions. Our marriage relationship has greater ease around what needs to be in our home and why. Maybe that is the real issue. Relationships. Our stuff holds us in relationship to the past, present, or a hopeful future. Figuring out what goes and what stays is like figuring out life. It’s complicated.