When a Garbage Truck is Good for the Soul
Anyone who has moved a few times as an adult has had the same thought: “I have too much crap. And I’m going to get rid of it all.”
Most of us have promised ourselves that someday, we are going to take the time to weed through it all and get rid of everything we don’t need. Simplify. Declutter.
And, if you’re like me, you start working on it here and there but never get anywhere, really, until it’s time to move and before long, all that crap is shoved in a box and carted off to the next place. I’ll sort it when I unpack it, I say. Fast forward to me lugging boxes around that haven’t even been opened in three or four moves.
I no longer have anything stored at my parent’s house, which means those precious boxes of middle school yearbooks and fourth grade art projects spent the last few years stacked in MY garage. I don’t know what to do with them. When you’re 13, camp trophies look just fine on a shelf in your bedroom, but at 33, what do I do with them? I can’t quite throw them away, despite the fact that they’re just bits of stone and plastic, so there they sit, wrapped in newspaper and shoved in a box. It’s not even like I’ve got kids who will someday stumble upon then in an attic somewhere.
Unfortunately, it gets worse than old camp trophies. My early adulthood was really nomadic, and sometimes, my moves came without much warning or during a lot of chaos, so I developed a bad habit of not getting rid of anything because I didn’t have the time or mental energy to sort through it all. Everything worthwhile and otherwise was all swept into boxes, taped up, and carried onward, just hoping that I could deal with it eventually.
For a long time, that’s how my whole life felt: always in transition, never time to sort out the thoughts in my head, overwhelming to pick through, and so I just didn’t. I couldn’t. So I swept all the thoughts together, worthwhile and otherwise, and held onto them, hoping that someday I could make sense of them all.
In the Great Reorganization of Cindy effort that has been going on for about 10 months, I’ve had a chance to sort through some of the thoughts in my head. What I am realizing is how very wrong some of the thoughts have been: opinions about myself, anxiety about how others see me, feelings towards other people, relationships that are needlessly difficult (and sometimes needless), undue pressure on myself, unrealistic expectations… the pile of garbage thoughts is sometimes pretty big.
I can’t just dump them all, however; tangled in there are some pretty good thoughts: realization of what I am good at and what I do well, awareness that I’m loved and supported, relationships that motivate and keep me going, grace for myself and others… There are a lot of beneficial realities that have always been there, but I wasn’t as able to see them because they were always a jumbled mess.
Sorting them out is a hard, ugly, dirty job at times, but I’m working on it.
While packing boxes for the last five weeks, I’ve sorted through all the tangible stuff I own. Having lost just under sixty pounds, I had four big garbage bags of clothes to take to Goodwill. Why hold onto clothes that don’t fit? I got rid of all the half-broken kitchen utensils and odd dishes and ratty towels. Why keep things that aren’t useful? I threw out gobs of paper, moldy books (flood-damaged), and old homework assignments. Why keep information that isn’t relevant anymore and, in the case of the mold, is toxic to touch?
Oh, but there were good things found, too! Forgotten pictures of grandparents who died years ago, recipe cards from my grandma, a tiny ceramic unicorn from my aunt, margarita glasses from my younger days, and yes, a couple of camp trophies. It took me hours, but I went through every box I own, and surfaced with a much smaller, much more valuable collection to repack and take with me to Iowa.
I don’t envy my garbage man today; I stood in the window and watched as he loaded more and more useless, broken junk into his truck to haul away. Truth be told, he had the easier job. He hasn’t spent the last five weeks staring at 33 years worth of my life. He didn’t have to look at all those huge clothes and remember what it felt like to be there. He didn’t have to throw out all those old bank statements and remember what it was like to not be able to afford food. He just got to take it away.
Between the stuff I took to Goodwill and the stuff I threw away, I’d wager I got rid of 1/3 of my possessions in the last couple of days. My friend Timothy would probably cry if he saw how much went to the dump (sorry, buddy).
On the flip side, it felt really good to know that all the stuff loaded onto the truck today is the stuff I want to be taking with me. It feels so good to know that the stuff I set out on the curb is never coming back.
I wish it was that simple to get rid of the garbage thoughts in my head. I wish I could just set them at the end of the driveway and not worry about them anymore, but that’s not quite how brains work. It takes time and constant effort to keep them out. I’m trying. I ask myself the same questions about my thoughts as I do my things: why keep it if it doesn’t fit, isn’t useful, is irrelevant or toxic? I don’t always succeed, but I’m getting better at it, and that’s all I’m asking of myself.