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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Frugal clutter. . . . .

Yesterday, in honor of Labor Day, I started hoisting boxes from the upper reaches of the garage, with the goal of finding items I could easily part with at my yard sale next Saturday. When I first began thinking about having a tag sale several weeks ago, I was afraid that I wouldn't have enough 'stuff' to sell. There's nothing worse than a yard sale with only a few items, and I just couldn't picture what exactly---beyond a few obvious kitchen gadgets and some furniture---I could sell.

The garage, however, turned out to be a veritable goldmine! There were more than a few boxes that had never been unpacked. I hadn't unpacked them when I moved to Portland over two years ago, and lived in an apartment. I hadn't unpacked them when I moved into the house I live in now. I realized that if I've been able to live without these things for this long, I could easily 'let go' and sell them. Now one wall of my office is lined with boxes and bags of price-tagged STUFF that I don't need now, and probably never really 'needed'. It feels GREAT! And I still have two more boxes to open and investigate. . . . .

Another benefit of this Labor Day 'purge' is that I went through piles of paperwork going back years and years. I filled my entire recycling can with shredded documents! My particular form of clutter-disease is made up almost entirely of paper (mostly mail) and clothing. Mail and other documents are stacked and stacked day after day, until guests are imminent, and then the stacks are hidden in drawers and boxes. Rarely are they looked at again (I once found an eight-month-old check for $1,200 in one of these stacks)! I'm getting much better at taking care of mail at the moment it enters my house, but again, it felt phenomenal to rid myself of these lurking stacks once and for all!

It was a bit like a geological survey; for example, I found old check registers ranging from five to eight years ago. It was incredibly interesting to see what sorts of things I was spending my money on, so long ago. The number of checks I wrote to credit card companies astounds me, and it's clear from the amounts that I was simply paying the minimums. Here's an example of just one round of credit card bill-paying:

  • The Gap: $15
  • MBNA: $55
  • Macys: $21
  • Wells Fargo: $35
  • Gottschalk's: $24
  • Victoria's Secret: $20
  • Mervyn's: $35

I couldn't believe how many department store cards I had! And I was paying over 20% interest on those cards, no doubt!

So, my Labor Day was both laborious and educational. I learned that I've created and maintained much better habits, and that I'm not a prisoner of my stuff---I really can (and will, this Saturday) get rid of the things that take up space in my life.

1 comment:

marci357 said...

Congrats on the Great Fall Cleanup! I myself am staring at about 10 cardboard boxes of papers... moved them 4 times in the past 8 years... think it's time I made it thru them now (at my FINAL destination on this earth) and get them tossed or sorted and stored, whatever the case may be.

Good luck with the garage sale - and thanks for the encouragement by example that one can finally get thru boxes of papers!

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