I meant to do a lot more posting this past month, particularly about holiday-ish movies, but things got a little out of hand with the holidays themselves. In addition to that, I’ve had a couple big changes lately – today was my last day at my job and early last week I started the first romantic relationship I’ve had since my fiance died seven years ago. So blogging wasn’t exactly at the top of my mind for a little while there.

Alongside these two big changes I also had a major personal epiphany within the past week. As my partner and I were telling each other more about ourselves, I suddenly realized I was holding onto stuff. A lot of stuff. I don’t just mean emotional stuff – physical stuff too. The few areas of my parents’ house that I can call my own are packed with stuff: knick knacks, books, papers, clothes, movies, toys, video games, and innumerable boxes of keepsakes and mementos. There’s so much of it that I honestly dread the idea of moving into my own place once and for all, or (even worse) dying suddenly/unexpectedly and forcing my family to deal with the overabundance of junk. (I’m not trying to be morbid, just realistic. And it becomes much harder to sort through things when your mind is clouded with grief.) I’m overdue for a major cleanout.

The inevitable purge

So I’ve decided to get rid of a lot of stuff. I started with a couple of the boxes under the bed which I hadn’t touched in years but believed were filled with important keepsakes that I couldn’t let go of. They weren’t. Yes, there were some things that definitely need to be saved, things that bring back great memories or give insight into the person I used to be. But the rest either dredge up past pain or don’t mean as much to me now. Some of it seemed to have been saved just because I’d already had it for a long time, creating this endless feedback loop of saving for saving’s sake.

I was stunned. If the two most important stashes of keepsakes I have were filled with so much discardable stuff, then what on earth did I have in all the half-forgotten bins in the basement? How many bins did I have in the basement, anyway?

Too many books

Just the thought of those basement bins was a little overwhelming, so I decided to keep my energy up by going through my books instead. I have at least a couple hundred books. Many people – fellow English majors especially – would see no problem with that, saying “you can never have too many books.” There was a time when I shared that view, which is what led to acquiring a couple hundred books to begin with. But after my realization, looking at those overstuffed shelves didn’t fill me with pride or joy; it filled me with anxiety. Suddenly I could feel the weight of those books as if they’d all been stacked on my chest.

So I swept through them twice, being as ruthless as possible. Out went the duplicates (do I seriously need six copies of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest?) and the English department’s castoffs. Out went the outdated textbooks and the class-assigned novels I knew I’d never touch again. Out went all the books which I’d only taken to stop them from being discarded by others. I looked at every single remaining book, and if my immediate gut reaction wasn’t “There’s no way in hell I’m getting rid of that one,” then I honestly asked myself if I ever intended to read it in the future. If the answer was “no,” then the book was out.

Much like the boxes under the bed, the results from the book purge were staggering. I haven’t taken an exact count yet but I’ve probably eliminated at least a third of my books. I’m neither proud nor ashamed of that fact; it was just something that needed to be done. Besides, now I have room on my shelves for the books I really love. And I still love a lot of books.

What now?

Even though I’ve only just started, it seems that I have way more thoughts about this new decluttering quest than can fit in just one post – especially when it comes to finding the right motivation to do something like this. I’ll try to keep them interesting. See you next time.

More in the Decluttering Quest series:

Part 2: Staying Motivated
Part 3: School Paper Trail
Part 4: Tackling Collections
Part 5: The First Roadblock
Part 6: Letting Go of Old Writing
Part 7: Sacred Spaces
Part 8: Breaking the Rules
Part 9: A Matter of Life, Not Death
Part 10: Cataloging a Personal Library