Friday, September 23, 2005


Two days ago, The Man said to me,

"I'm going to clean the house."

I looked at him sideways. "Uh huh," I said.

"We have too much junk," he said.

"We do," I answered. It is true. We are both pack rats, and the house has been shrinking for years as we have accumulated more and more and more. We never chuck things out. We have old futons in the cupboards downstairs that have become unusable. We have castoff furniture from previous tenants that we have never used. This should be a big house, but it isn't. It is full of STUFF.

"I'll start tomorrow," he said, and he had that look in his eye. I know that look. It's the look he gets when he really means it.

I braced myself.

Yesterday morning he asked, "What shall I do about your books?"

I thought about it. There are several dozen boxes of books downstairs. Many of them are mine. I put them into boxes when I run out of shelf space, and intend to sort them later. Then I don't, because I never have time during semester. During the vacations, in the last few years, it's either been too hot and/or I was studying, and in the spring vacation I used to be studying but last spring I wasn't here. And before I was studying I was sick, and all I did was read because I couldn't do anything else. Those boxes have been piling up for YEARS. I had a book-deprived childhood, and I've never quite got over the feeling that books are treasure.

"I'll sort them out," I promised. Then I thought about it. "No, on second thought, there are boxes there that have been there for ten years or so. If I start opening them I'll never throw ANY of them out. Don't open them. I don't want to spoil this. Just let them go."

Being ruthless feels GOOD. It is also kind of scary for a packrat. I am not a natural chucker-outer.

He started the job yesterday, and you know how things always look worse before they get better, when you do this sort of cleanup? Last night it looked like a bomb had hit the house.

I left for work this morning just after six. I was teaching all day, and then there was a Kodo concert right after my last class (more about that later) for which I had free tickets. A bunch of us went, and some of us stopped for coffee on the way home. I finally got home at 11.30 pm.

Tonight it looks like TWO bombs have hit the house.

We don't have regular free big gomi (rubbish) collection these days, like we used to. When you have big gomi, you have to call City Hall and arrange for them to pick it up, and you have to pay. We have to wait for a collection date, so all the stuff he's throwing out is being arranged into piles which I am carefully avoiding investigating. What if I see something I want to keep? I DON'T WANT TO KEEP ANYTHING. I WANT IT ALL GONE. I have to be strong and ruthless, and I think the only way I can manage to maintain this for the time required is to not look. I am determined not to spoil this. I won't have time to help much, with work getting into full swing from next week, and the most helpful thing I can do is to keep out of the way and let it all happen.

But I'm also still kind of amazed. When The Man says he's going to do something, and he gets that look in his eye, he REALLY MEANS IT.


Robert said...

I think must of us live with way too much STUFF. Herself periodically blitzes through our son's room and throws old stuff out, but somehow no one's allowed to throw any of hers out. We need a little ruthlessness around our house!

kenju said...

I am amazed that you could stand by and let the stuff be thrown out without at least sorting through it. You may have something worth a fortune and not even know it!

I am a pack rat too, but when it all gets to be too much, I have a garage sale or give it to charity.

Pkchukiss said...

Not to detract you from your new found determination, but I really find it a waste if you had something really valuable (like a rare book) and you threw it away.

Then 10 years down the road and you see it become a million dollar antique, and you just felt like the wind has been knock out of your lungs?

It is a pity. But we never know, don't we?

melinama said...

I disagree with your regretful commenters and agree with you. Once you start looking back you'll lose your courage. It's too bad it takes so long for the stuff to be gone - too many chances to reconsider.

The book "Clutter Control" advises putting things you might be able to part with into boxes and leaving them. If you haven't opened the boxes and missed the contents within a year - let them go.

Badaunt said...

I am absolutely SURE there is nothing worth a fortune in there.

I also have used the box idea, only mine were six-month boxes. Some of those are getting chucked out, too. I'm not going to say how long their six months lasted...

(And yes, I'm still feeling ruthless!)

doris said...

You are very brave but very well done. I wish I had the same courage and probably will find it it at some point for some of my boxes. Om the other hand - having a determined man behind you does help!

Faerunner said...

*winces at the thought of throwing out books*

Donate them to BookCrossing! :o
I'm sure someone in your area is a BookCrosser (and if they're not, I'll take a box or two, and pay shipping on it if you'd like).

I hate to see all those books just disappear without ever knowing what could have been shared from them.

Badaunt said...

Faerunner: Don't worry - the books are not going in the trash. They're probably going to the Mission for Seamen, if they want them. (I haven't called them yet.) The last time I did this they were delighted - a German ship full of Philippino sailors was in port and they were desperate for reading material. The ship's library was full of German books they couldn't read.

Last time I sent eight cartons. This time it will be more like 20. Luckily they pay the cost of sending them, which is likely to be more than 15,000 yen (about US$130).

If they don't want them, there are other charities. I will not trash them, don't worry.

(Bookcrossing is not big in Japan, at least not for English books - there are not enough readers of English.)