In Through the Outbox

We just returned from vacation, and all I wanted to do when I got home was rearrange our house. I wanted to hang up new art, paint the living room, throw away half of our carpets, and make things feel new again. However, my time and money budgets are nil right now, so what I ended up doing was make room.

One of my favorite activities is getting rid of stuff. Some call it ‘purging’, but that sounds gross. It doesn’t convey the therapeutic nature of organizing and passing things on. I’ve been cleaning out closets, the fridge, files, kitchen cabinets, toy bins (Horrible concept! Does any kid ever get past the first layer of toys?), and even, gulp, the garden. Dave was inspired and cleaned out his wardrobe too.

I’ve always loved throwing stuff away, but honed my skills when Dave and I moved annually our first four years as a couple. Constantly uprooting was tiring, but man, we had a well-curated household. Our final apartment had – no joke – one closet. Our family of three had permission to use one corner of the basement for minimal storage, so I refined my purging to a science. I also made friends with The Container Store, and creatively kept sleeping bags on top of the fridge and seasonal clothes under the bed, and no one even knew it.

Now we have a house with lots of closets, an attic, garage, basement, and shed. So it only makes sense that we have more stuff. No need to curate for space’s sake, but for peace of mind.

I’m a big fan of Craigslist, a venue for both getting rid of stuff and acquiring more stuff. I’ve become slightly obsessed with a local reuse-reduce-recycle Facebook page. Both web sites foster my love for environmentally and economically sustaining the cycle of stuff. Plus, when I pick up items on the cheap, I have fewer issues parting ways down the road.

But back to getting rid of stuff. Personally, I do it to make room for new stuff. The world is intent on filling my house with stuff…and paper. So much paper! I have folders of my kids’ artwork, receipts from Christmases past, updates to our insurance policy (must they send these monthly?!) and the “Best Of” daycare daily reports, but when I have an hour to spare, I love digging through the piles and files, and shredding to my heart’s content. So cathartic.

We get used to having certain things around, and don’t question why we’ve held on to them. My cousin was in my four-year-old’s room recently, and asked why she has a potty in there. Honestly, there’s no need. She uses it, but only because it’s convenient. I cleaned it and relocated it to the attic. I just hadn’t thought about it.

When I’m uncertain about passing something on, I put it in the “Outbox”, an idea I got from Apartment Therapy. Outbox items aren’t definitively gone, they’re in transition. It’s a way to re-categorize and see if any emotions crop up. Most of our Outbox contents go on to charity, but I’m not too proud to pull clothes out of my Goodwill bag and breathe new life into them.

This stuff stays
This stuff stays. That would be one giant outbox!

Today I cleaned through my baby’s closet. I threw out my trusty, lifeless breastpump. It was a hand-me-down that I used with both babes and loaned to my sister; it lasted longer than I ever expected from a ‘single user’ item. I put the girls’ infant seat on the side of the road. It’s expired and they’ve outgrown it. I don’t feel sad, but I feel something. As I parted with these things, I remembered pumping at my former job while reading magazines, and bringing both babies home from the hospital in the car seat. But to keep some order, we must make room for the new stuff.

4 thoughts on “In Through the Outbox

  1. Same here Melissa. One week the Great Purge, followed my daughter’s birthday party loot-filled weekend. This is why we need to make room for the constant stream of stuff. Parenthood challenges my minimalist tendencies!

  2. I recently gave away all our infant gear and was all Julie Andrews twirling through my house with joy! Until both the kids had birthdays a few weeks later only to re-fill that space with bigger big kid toys. Such is life

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