Su Lum: A small, small dent in a big, ugly pile
June 5, 2002
A friend of mine said I should stop writing about clearing the crap out of my house because it makes her feel guilty, but believe me, the guilt about not doing it is nothing compared to the guilt when you are doing it.
Where did all this stuff COME from? I can’t blame it on my kids, who have long ago grown and flown the nest. I can’t even blame it on yard sales – I kicked that habit (almost) back in the ’80s. The crap just seems to reproduce itself and then blend in so well that it becomes invisible. Then you suddenly start looking around, and GADS!
I’ve just been in the two finance drawers of my desk, my least favorite place. Normally that would be the LAST area I’d clean out, but my new financial advisors needed more information, so it was back to the drawers and, while I was tossing the contents, I decided I should weed it out.
I say “financial drawers” as if they were filled with Important Papers, but really they are drawers where I put any and everything that has to do with money, plus anything else that defies categorization.
My dachshund Trudy’s birth certificate is in there, for instance. I note that she was born 13 years ago on February 20, a date that will probably escape me when next February rolls around. I did know that it was February. And there are piles of my carbon-copy checkbooks. How long do you have to keep those things? OUT, I think – OUT. If in doubt, throw it OUT. I can’t deduct anything anymore anyway, so OUT with the whole thumping pile. If I’m audited, I’ll throw myself on the mercy of the court: “Sorry your honor, I cleaned the house.”
There are photographs – overflow from the photograph drawers (SO MANY PHOTOGRAPHS, yards of them in albums, plus the drawers!).
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It goes without saying that I don’t find what I’m looking for, and my eyes begin to cross as I plow through insurance policies and profit-sharing statements. Maybe they will mean something when settling my “estate,” so I shove those back in the drawer. I need a secretary!
It’s hard to believe I did a major weed three years ago, when the records went back to the ’70s. I get distracted by a check register I saved for the archives from 1979: $266 for my mortgage payment, $17.60 for cable TV, $40 heating bill for natural gas, $26 to the city for water and electricity, $10-15 average to City Market. I remind myself that I was making about $9,000 a year back then. The phone bills were HIGHER than they are now.
I’m going through my closets. It isn’t that I buy many clothes, it’s just that I haven’t thrown them out, and now I whap through the hangers – whap whap WHAP – off to the thrift shop with the duds, which will probably have no use for them either.
I now have yards of book space, but there are many shelves to go, shelves I haven’t even touched. I haven’t even gotten to the hard choices. I haven’t begun to look into the drawers of papers: letters, manuscripts, fatuous second-hand smoke studies, newspaper articles and old columns going back to April 1989, the year Trudy was born. Can’t I put that all on a microfilm chip?
Where the HELL did that lamp come from? Just sitting there, not even plugged in, a useless lamp. My old computer takes up half a closet – I should have rounded up a strong man with a big truck for Free Dump Day last week!
I have to keep whittling, whittling, whittling, one day at a time, not thinking ahead to the tool drawer or the dreaded trunk in the living room. I don’t dare think about the attic. God knows WHAT is in the attic!