Thursday, February 28, 2008

What? Again!?

It's time to purge.

This Has Got to Go
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
We've been here before. Most of you remember the Drizzle December 2007 purge during which we sorted everything in the basement into three piles: junk, move to boat, and put into storage. Going back in time, those of my long standing readers might remember the Agonizing April Move during which we ceded our house of many years to renters, and compressed ourselves into the aforementioned basement.

Actually, if you travel back into time, we add layers of stuff in a sort of reverse archaeological dig. Each wave of stuff-evisceration disgorged van loads of toys, appliances, clothes and books. Each time involved several trips to the dump, a full year's tax deduction allowance to Goodwill, and a flurry of freecycling. We purged in November 2006 because I was bored. We did it back in Fall of 2005 because we'd just bought the boat and it seemed like the thing to do. Then there is the mother of all purges following our memorable trip to Whidbey during which we decided we didn't like being rich and normal and would rather be poor and insane.

And each time, we felt like we had stripped ourselves down to the bare essentials. I raise my hand here and swear to all that is holy that I believed each and every time I had gotten rid of everything. All that was left was the absolute minimum required for comfort and happiness. Yet each successive spasm of reductionism was a new lesson in minimalism. Each time we managed to get rid of more... more!... MORE!! That seems so counterintuitive. How can a family who is trying to do more with less get rid of more? Because there is always more to get rid of even when you stop buying.

I present this as a cautionary tale to those who are considering any form of simplification. Whether you simply seek to organize your closet, undertake a GTD transformation, or you are attempting to wedge yourself on to a boat, my recommendation is to give yourself time. Your ability to reduce your perception of what you need is a gradual process. Each time you lighten your material load, you need to give yourself a few months to adjust. Then do it again. And again. And yet again.

It is not that this process gets easier. In fact, it is challenging each and every time. When you purge, you are truly vomiting up the detritus accumulated over a lifetime. Our relationship with our things is so tightly entwined with our sense of self and self worth that each time involves many hard decisions about priorities, needs, and wants. Moreover, it's a dirty, thankless job that uses muscles you'd forgotten existed and leaves you with broken nails, a short temper, and the desire to smack your spouse.

Yet, during the fifth wave, you will find that items you thought critical to your very existence as a human being during the first purge are now dross in the tidal wave of life, just so much crap filling the forward lockers and sinking the boat. What would have been impossible to dispense with a mere two years ago is now garbage. Absolute garbage. You question whether it's even worth taking to Salvation Army.

I realize that we may have reached something approaching the pinnacle of purging with our most recent efforts. The entire family is more methodical this time. We are, after all, experts at the process now. The girls are dumping roughly the fuel load for a small star in toys, pillows and stuffed animals. DrC actually sorted his tool chests, consolidated into one, and reduced the total weight of his equipment to something less than a compact car but greater than a full water tank. I offloaded books and computer equipment. I can't for the life of me figure out why I thought I'd need four laptops and a box of romance novels.

One satisfying byproduct of purging when you live on a boat is that you get immediate, visual gratification and confirmation of your efforts. We saw two inches of Don Quixote's beautiful sky blue water line this afternoon for the first time since December.

We must be just about ready to go.

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