Just before school started, I went to my Dad’s house to help my sister clean it and declutter it from top to bottom so that he can put it on the market to sell. We (and by “we” of course I mean my parents) bought that house 30 years ago. That means 30 years of clutter, memories, stuff, clothes, books, etc. You name it, I am sure we came across it. From prom dresses to wedding dresses, baby clothes to baby dolls, trophies to report cards; it was all there. We went through every closet, drawer and even the attic. The attic that is the place where “stuff” goes not to die but to multiply!
I thought it was going to be very hard emotionally to go through all of this. To take 30 years of memories and be brutal enough to discard most of it and save only what we really felt was of value to us personally. I mean, let’s face it. It doesn’t take much to make me cry. I even cried on the way down there just thinking about it. In all honesty, it really wasn’t as hard on me emotionally as it was physically. Hauling 30 years worth of stuff from it’s storage is some serious labor! My body was bruised, cut and sore all over. I was not expecting it to take the physical toll on me that it did.
My sister and I talked about what we would do if it became too emotional etc and she admitted she wanted to make sure I could be brutal if I had to be. (We both have husbands telling us not to bring all of that “stuff” back to our own houses!) I told her it may take some time, but we would get through it if I was emotional.
It took about 30 minutes for me to get over that! The job was so overwhelmingly huge, we did not have time to wallow in sentiment. Now, had I been on my own, it would have taken much longer and been much more difficult. However, I was with my sister. If there is one thing my sister and I do together, it is laugh. Cleaning out decades worth of “stuff” is no exception. If you did not know us, you may think we were being brutal. Hell, my dad even thought we were a bit brutal at times. It’s just that we had to be. We simply had to be to! It was necessary to 1) Make sure we did not get bogged so far down into sentiment that we kept everything and 2) We did not have time to be sentimental over everything. We had a schedule to keep.
Going through a closet went something like this:
Oh, I remember when Mom wore that to _____ !
Oh, me too!
Is this yours?
And that was how it went for every closet, drawer etc. Except we laughed at almost every turn. You wouldn’t believe the things we found. While they held memories, we probably got rid of it. Every thing that held a story would get a laugh at the memory or a laugh at how brutal we were about the memory. The only things that did stop us for more than a few seconds were the pictures. We did love to look at the pictures. Finally, we decided all pictures go into one stack/box etc. until we had time to really enjoy looking at them. That got us back on our speedy track.
I will admit that we put off going through the attic for as long as we could. Just picture it. A week of cleaning already behind us. A hot attic with no ventilation filled with dust and insulation in the heat of an August day in Texas. (Are you seeing why this did not sound like a pleasure cruise?)
It went about like this:
- Up the attic stairs.
- Get a box.
- Down the attic stairs.
- Make a pile of boxes.
- When the boxes reach the bottom of the attic stairs, we close the attic stairs and begin the trek down the house stairs out to the garage.
- Repeat about 50 times. (At the minimum. I am totally serious about that. It was at least that many trips.)
We only had a few rules:
- You begin to cough up insulation, we take a break. (Not quit. Just a break.)
- Your face turns purple, we take a break. But just until the purple turns a light shade of red. (Drink water during this break!)
- You have to pee, you hold it.
- You fall down the stairs, you brush it off and may get a break if there is blood.
- A kid is screaming, has broken something of value or has escaped, you get a short break to get another kid to tend to him.
- You pass out, you’re on your break until you come to.
But let me tell you this about me and my sister. We get sh*t done! There are no trips down Memory Lane. We are cruising down, Get It Done Drive. We don’t want to play “Do You Remember When…” We would much rather play “Trash and Dash So We Can Shower”. I know it sounds cold but it is necessary when you are going through so much. Did I mention 30 YEARS worth of stuff. And? Our Mom was a packrat. Big time. Massively. Over the top! I do believe that this exercise in massive cleaning has cured me of the packrat disease. If I can’t wear it, use it or store it in what little room I have allowed, I will take a picture of it and trash it.
Yeah, tell me how brutal I am after I have lived here 30 years and YOU get to clean out my stuff. For that matter, I have only been in this house for 13 years and am already overwhelmed with the crap. And? I have zero volunteers (including my husband and kids) to help me declutter.
What I really wish is that my sister and I lived closer to each other? Why? Well, besides the obvious that she is one of my very best friends and can make me laugh like no one else, we could start one incredibly successful business of just cleaning out people attics and closets. I can see it now:
“The Brutal Sisters: We Get Sh*t Done!”
Hey, I would hire us. Hmmm, maybe I can pay my sister to come help with my house. Of course, the payment would have to be laughter and the joy of my company. And wine. But that is about all it took for us to get through about 85 bags of trash in one week with Dad. Imagine all we could do here!
So, for now the hardest part is over. At least the hardest physical part. Next up? The emotional part. When the house sells. Why does it matter? Stay tuned for part 2 of this and you will see why it matters to me.