Monday, April 02, 2007

The urge to purge, or How I lost 20 pounds this weekend.

Spring is here, and with it comes that strange urge to clean stuff. In my case, that urge is manifesting itself in a need to purge (I never have the urge to vacuum or do windows). You wouldn't think that as a (very very very part time, i.e. wannabe) professional organizer who has moved 3 times in as many years, I would have that much stuff to purge, and yet, I do.

During any purge things generally fall into five levels of purgability. They are:
1) "Why the hell have I kept this so long?"
2) "I thought I got rid of this last time."
3) "I think I'm ready to get rid of this now."
3) "I'm not ready to part with this yet even though I never use it, have nowhere to store it, and probably should get rid of it."
4) "There is no way I'm getting rid of this."

Where a particular item lands depends on your mood on any given day, which is why it is good to purge when you are in the mood. A whole lot more goes out the door that way.

Because of my many moves, I don't have a lot of #1. This weekend, I discovered that I had a few #2 items, but I mostly tried to tackle #3 and #4.

What fell in the, "I'm not ready to part with it yet," category was a box of old letters and memorabilia I have not looked at in a decade. I went to college right on the cusp of the email phenomenon so my freshman year was all about handwritten letters to friends from high school. I was actually quite astounded by how much letter writing my friends and I did. I can't even remember the last time I wrote more than a brief thank you note by hand, but back then I was apparently all about writing pages and pages on adjusting to college life.

I'm not going to tell you it was easy, but I did manage to toss almost all of it out. On the one hand, I agonized. "No one writes letters anymore! This is my history. What if someday one of my friends gets famous? I'll totally regret throwing this out." On the other hand, it was very freeing. I did some math and, if you count moves to different dorm rooms, I have been carrying some of this stuff around for 12 moves in three different states. And I never looked at it.

In order to make the process easier, I kept a list of who the senders were. With very few exceptions, I still have contact (thanks MySpace!) with the vast majority of the people I so diligently corresponded with, at least for that one year. My goal is to send each of those people either an email, or an honest to goodness letter, reconnecting us. I don't need old pieces of paper molding away in my house. I need the actual human contact. In fact, unearthing something from my best friend in high school prompted me to stop my purging and pick up the phone to call her. We haven't spoken by phone in a year or so. She was definitely surprised to hear from me but we stayed on the phone for an hour, laughing the whole time. That was a much better feeling than holding on to the past.

And I didn't even hesitate to throw away the huge pile of cards and letters from my X, as well as an exboyfriend. I had surprisingly little nostalgia for that particular pile. Good ridence to bad rubbish, I say!

1 comment:

tjdygon said...

I am getting ready to move too- Yeah I just bought a house!!! Go Big Girl ME!!!! I am starting the process of getting rid of stuff. I was thinking about pictures- high school wallet pics. Do I keep them or toss them??? Haven't alked to some of them in a long time, haven't even looked at the pics in a long time either it's been since 1994?? or before?
I don't feel guilty about tossing now.