I have a very simple recommendation for my kids to live a happy and fulfilling adult life: Never own anything. Ever.
I base this simple life changing piece of knowledge on the fact that I have recently packed up the contents of the house I have lived in for the past 14 years, and I have decided that I have approximately 150 percent too much stuff.
When my wife and I decided to move, we knew we had a big task ahead of us. I made the very simple suggestion of putting the house on the market, with all of our stuff still in it. Who wouldn’t want a fully furnished house, complete with our old photo albums and her mother’s wedding dress and approximately 400 cubic yards of craft projects my kids did in elementary school?
Alas, she took the less innovative approach and decided we would, instead, being The Purge.
Step one in The Purge was to have a garage sale, which I discussed in last week’s column. After three — three! — garage sales, I walked through my house saying over and over, “How is there still this much stuff in here!?!?!”
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like we’re hoarders. It’s just that, over time, things accumulate. And, I am convinced, multiply.
We decided to take a strategic approach to The Purge. We would identify a single room, bundle every single item in it in large black trash bags, and take it all to the county dump. Or so I thought.
Turns out, her idea was to meticulously go through each and every item and decide whether it should be thrown out, donated or packed.
In the interest of staying married, we decided we would work on different rooms most of the time. I opted to work first on two side closets, because those were small and cramped and roughly 400 degrees, and I wasn’t having a horrible enough time yet.
These closets mainly contained storage bins of things that, I suppose, we should keep. Baby pictures, for example. At one particular hot, cramped moment, however, I will say that I wondered just how many pictures of my daughter face-first in a cake on her first birthday we really needed. As I began hauling these bins out of the closet, I would occasionally have someone come in and begin browsing through the bins. Thus was enacted the “No Reminiscing” rule. If the bin is coming with us, it’s coming with us, but we’re not spending valuable throwing-away time remembering how adorable it was when our son fell asleep on the dog.
The hardest part of all the house was my son’s rooms. Kids have a very different sense of sentimentality, my son especially. Everything has a meaningful backstory. Everything. This is one battle that I was not ready to fight. It was simply easier to pack up all of the rocks and shells and sticks and stuff and just schlep it to our new place for now. (Yes, I moved to within three miles of the beach, and I packed shells.) He also has some rather eclectic items in his room, which is why one box is labeled “books and badger skull.”
My daughter’s room was the easiest for me. I said, “You have until tomorrow to pack up your room.” Everything not in boxes at that point will be thrown away.” Next day, pretty much everything in a box. We had boxed up tons of stuff, and half of our garage was filled with boxes. Which is why it is all the more puzzling that I was I walking through my house saying over and over, “How is there still this much stuff in here!?!?!” My mom and sister were huge helps with getting close to the homestretch, helping us box and tape and move things to the garage.
The big final challenge was the playroom, our catchall room for anything and everything. We had hit that brick wall of “What do we do with the rest of this?” That’s when we called in a closer. Our friend Angie came over to the house, and with her Moving Sword of Justice she judiciously swung at every single item, taking charge of the situation. “Trash. Goodwill. Box. Not even sure what that is so trash.” Her tone made it clear we were in no position to argue. Yes ma’am. Angie did in about an hour what probably would have taken us until November.
We eventually got everything packed up and loaded on a truck toward our new home in Charleston. As my kids get settled in their new home, we plan to continue The Purge as we go through boxes. I think we’re going to need Angie to come down for that…
Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C., and now lives in Charleston. A graduate of the University of Alabama, you can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.