Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Getting Rid of Stuff Challenge

As unschoolers, we have a wide range of interests.
These interests have led us to both a large collection of "resources" and a re-ordering of priorities.

That's a nice way of saying we have a lot of stuff in our house, and typically, would rather do pretty much anything other than cleaning. :-)

It's hard to let go of stuff that might be useful, or come in handy, or be Just The Thing that someone needs for a project down the road.

It's hard to stop doing any of the fun and interesting things we do together, to spend time cleaning.
It's even harder when, often, the act of cleaning makes one or more of us feel crappy due to allergies to dust, mold, AND most cleaning products (even the "natural" ones).

But somewhere, somewhen, enough is enough.
Every once in a while, it simply needs to get done.

The middle of last month, I began what I'm calling the Getting Rid of Stuff Challenge.
My Dad calls it my "BAD project." For "box a day."
It works like this: every day, for 30 days, I must remove from our house, SOMETHING.
It could be a bag of trash. A bin of recycling. Returnable bottles and cans. A box of something donated somewhere (hence my Dad's name for the project).

My kids thought I was being too optimistic, setting it for 30 days.
They suggested three days, so it would be more likely to feel successful, and then starting again.
I stuck with 30 because I wanted the feeling of a Big Project.
I also wanted to establish a new habit, that of actively looking for stuff to get rid of every time I leave the house.

This has been one of our biggest problems, actually.
We DO clean, and get stuff ready to take away, for recycling, or whatever… but then it simply never leaves the house. We don't actually TAKE it anywhere.
Instead, we have some storage areas that end up as "staging areas" for… pretty much forever.

The beginning of the project was easy, as I knew it would be.
Empty the storage areas of stuff that we already know we want to get rid of.
No real preparation necessary.
Just a commitment to putting it in the car and taking it somewhere else, or, in some cases, carrying it to the road for the recycling truck to pick up.

So far, so good.

But the part I was really looking forward to is the next phase: what do we do after that stuff is gone?

First, it involved making a list.
What places are there that take donations, and what kinds of things can be donated? Clothes? Books? Household goods?

Second, it involves making decisions: what stuff in our house do we NOT NEED?

One of my first tasks in the project has to do with books.
We are blessed with having one of the largest used book sales in the country in the nearest town, twice a year. This sale has something like 250,000 books, and covers several days, with the price dropping every day of the sale. On the last couple of days, the books are a dime each, then a grocery bag full for a dollar.
It's very hard to resist books at that price. There are lots of interesting books left on those days, and when it might be something useful or interesting or beautiful, and it's only a dime, what is a self-confessed book addict going to do?

The problem is that books take up space.
And, sadder still, there is a limit to how many bookcases can fit in a house.

So the truth is, high hopes and all, some of those books end up in a box, or in a pile, and not in anyone's hands.
And, further, some of them aren't going to be read. They just aren't.

The next sale is at the beginning of May, and the deadline for donations is TODAY. After that, they don't accept more until June.

So I have been going through books and making the difficult decision to give some of them back to the sale. Our local "book recycling" service.
No, really. It is. Some books have probably been sold at the sale a dozen times over the years.
The funniest part is how often I've heard stories of someone buying a book and then realizing they had donated it. Ha! 
I have, more than once, bought a book with the name of someone I know written in it.

But right now, I am more focused on moving books out of the house than on bringing any in.

It has gone well.
I have made the tough decision, many times over, to let a book go. Mostly novels I'm not going to have time to read (and if I get the urge, there is always the library, and if that fails, i can simply go to the sale and buy it back for a dime!). Some have been reference books for a specific interest that none of us is currently interested in.

The sweetest moment in all of it was coming across a box of children's books that I had chosen because I find them particularly beautiful. Most, I have no emotional attachment to, as they were not purchased when my kids were little, but some are copies of favorites, being saved. I had a moment of really, for the first time, looking forward to having grandchildren. Babies to sit and read books to.

Then I realized it doesn't need to be grandchildren.
I just want to read books to children.

Then, I realized it doesn't need to be children.
I just want to read children's books to SOMEONE.

So far, the two of my kids who I've asked, are not interested in sitting on my lap, being read to.
I have high hopes that the third will participate.
If he's not interested, I plan to ask his partner, and my daughter's partner.
And if all else fails, I'm going to sit on the couch and read to myself, dang it.  :-)
Or maybe the dog will listen.

I read a lot of books to my kids when they were little. At least to the first two. The third was not so interested.
I know a lot of families who continued to read out loud for many years, but we haven't been one of them.
Maybe that will change.
Maybe it won't.

All this cleaning, this getting rid of stuff, has been its own gift.
Letting go is good.
Moving on is good.
Clearing space is good.
New habits are good.

I'm on day 27 of 30.
We have gotten rid of a LOT of stuff. 
We'll just have to see where it goes.

Oh… one final note.
The box of children's books stays. :-)

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