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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

40 Bags in 40 Days

Are you doing it? The world's most awesome and awful Lenten project? 40 Bags in 40 Days is a decluttering challenge over the Lent holiday. Short version: Clean out one area per day over Lent. Donate, toss, sell or recycle unwanted/unneeded goodies, and rest easy in your tidy space. (Try not to choke to death on the dust bunnies.) There is also a facebook group that is absolutely amazing. Brave souls are posting before and after pictures. I used to feel ashamed of my messy space. Not so much anymore. Many of us struggle with clutter and too much crap.

I moved into my studio apartment in 2002 and haven't done a major overhaul since then. That's 12 years of crap, people. Although I wouldn't qualify for an episode of hoarders, I definitely have way too much shit. And I'm don't mean stuff. I mean shit. Crap. Junk. Paper. Fortheloveofmike, I'm drowning in paper.

Last night I cleaned an area that was less than 3 feet long and 2 feet wide. I managed to pull out a 30 gallon trash bag of crap. How that is even physically possible, I can't tell you. I had a small bookshelf in my bathroom, crammed with stuff. Magazines from 2010! 'Cuz that makes sense, right? Hold onto a magazine for four years because of one set of pretty pictures in it? GENIUS.

Anyway, the bathroom book shelf is gone. A few other things are gone. I've managed to get through approximately 1/4 of the apartment thus far. I may move this year, so I am going through everything under the eye of, "Am I willing to pack and move this?" It would appear the response is most often, "no. Why the hell do I even have this?"

I am now trying to get comfortable with empty space. I am like hoarders in that I find stuff to be comforting. The empty space in the bathroom where the bookshelf lived freaks me out a little bit. But I have been a slave to comfort, and my freakish attachment to it rendered me nearly brain dead. Asleep at the wheel of my own life. So I am finding ways to get uncomfortable. Being more social. Got that new job where I have to learn how to write government grants (oy, what a pain!). Going on dates. Dates! Talk about uncomfortable. And staring at empty space, allowing for new possibilities.

My miserable job and marriage made me realize just how scary comfort can be. Usually, we see it as a lovely thing--a warm sweater, a comfy couch, a solid routine. But it can also suffocate us and keep us stuck in places that just plain suck. I'm finding the process of decluttering and being uncomfortable kind of exhilarating. I've been able to give a friend clothes she enjoys, and she's selling what she can't use. Donating goodies to Vietnam Veterans of America so they can make a buck or two for their work. I may sell a furniture item or two, if feasible. Mostly, I just want to get rid of the stuff. I may get some new stuff when/if I move. Maybe not. (I'll save first, fellow frugal folk!) But lawdy, lawdy, is this process difficult and wonderful.

Anyone else out there doing 40 Bags in 40 Days? If so, how's it working for you?


EcoCatLady said...

Wow! I'm quite impressed.

I don't think I'd be up for something as formal as a challenge like that - rules are never a good thing for a rebel like me, it just makes me want to dig my heels in and say "no way, I'm not doin' it!"

That being said, I am most definitely in a clean it out - spruce it up - out with the old - in with the new... especially when the "new" is empty space - kind of a mood.

For me, it almost feels like I'm reclaiming my space for myself. My kitty, Sputnik died about a month and a half ago after a looooong battle with bladder disease, and the whole house was pretty much arranged around his needs. My mom also passed in September and dealing with all that has also taken a toll, so my mission is to take back my house, my time, my energy and my life.

It's not that I want to forget my departed loved ones - I just seem to need a visual reminder that life is moving on, and that I don't have to live in the land of sickness, death and dying anymore.

My problem is figuring how to responsibly get rid of the stuff that I'm clearing out, because I, ahem, tend to hang onto things WAAAAAY past their existential expiration dates. I guess I'll try FreeCycle, and if worse comes to worse, there's always the trash. I hate to do it, but it might be necessary. Sigh.

Lines of Beauty said...

I love this idea. I am pretty tidy as I live in the other end of the spectrum, where clutter makes me anxious. I think there's a strong connection between a clutter free home, a healthy lifestyle, and nurturing our authentic selves.

Rachel said...

... unless your authentic self happens to be one that relishes clutter. Sorry, but I read this post thinking NOOOOOO! Don't make me throw out my clutter!

I can't think of anything worse than having to part with a bag full of stuff every day for the whole of lent. I most certainly take comfort in stuff - OK, it would be nice if it was a bit tidier - but I am not ready to get out of this comfort zone right now.

Demandra said...

ECL--Woman, you know I ain't following no rules. I'm pretty much making it up as I go along. Last night, I was all "I gotta clean this whole area!" Then I was all, "fuck that, Imma just do these drawers here." Boom. Basically, I'm just decluttering as much as possible over Lent and occasionally checking in with the group and a friend. Mostly, I just needed to do this, and this was a great motivator and support. I want to kiss the women who posted pics of their horrifying messes. Gloriously brave creatures.

LOB--I kinda love the nickname LOB now, Louise. :P I'm not sure I agree with your connection theory (probably mostly because I've heard so much of it tied to fat=bad, but that's a story for another day), but I definitely think if something makes you anxious, it's prolly best not to go there. I have an odd mix of comfort and anxiety around clutter. I think I've finally reached a point where the anxiety is bigger than the comfort. Bye bye, crap!

Rachel--I think comfort can be a really good thing too. I just took it too damned far. Comfort to the point of harm, in my case.

I love how little things like this demonstrate how gloriously different we are. I am feeling liberated and excited by seeing this crap leave my house, but Rachel would be traumatized. I find that fascinating.

I have a HUGE pile of stuff to donate, and I'm not even close to done. Insane!

Demandra said...

ANNNNDD..I'm sorry about your baby kitty, ECL. :( No matter how old they get, they are always babies. :(

Demandra said...

Oh! Oh! ECL--Vietnam Veterans of America will come pick your shit up. Just set it on the front porch.

Stephinie said...

I'm not doing anything for Lent, but I am spring cleaning a little. I spent **4** freaking hours helping my little guy clean his dresser today. We emptied 3 small buckets and filled a recycle bag and a garbage can and had a few giveaway items. Like you said.... "how is this possible?" I'm a neat freak, I'll be honest. I had to heavily curb my type a personality to live with my non type a husband and four wonderfully creative (totally freaking messy) kids. It used to be hard.... but now it's easier. The best thing though? Today I acted like a kind mama, even though I was grumbling on the inside. We got the job done. I hung up a few pieces of art..... and my boy said "it's so nice in my room now." *ahhhhh........* I may convert them yet :)

EcoCatLady said...

Vietnam Veterans of America, hmmm... the thing is that the stuff I have to get rid of is like, old mattress toppers that the cat peed on, a 50 year old feather bed that has a big hole in it, a broken food processor & lamp, two old wooden ladders that are so rickety you can't safely stand on them... and other things not really fit for human use.

I just feel soooo guilty tossing it. I may try an animal shelter or something like that for the bedding stuff - A dog would probably rather sleep on a smelly old foam mattress topper than on a concrete floor. Not sure what to do with the rest though.

Demandra said...

Stephinie--I don't know how mamas do anything! Way too much. Just waaaayyyyyy too much. But feel free to swing your type A self over here and fix my place right up! :P

ECL--just let it go, girl. I am an animist at heart and feel horrible about putting stuff in the landfill, but sometimes, it's just time for things to die!

Janeen said...

I think I have some sort of disorder where when crap starts to go haywire in my life I start cleaning. I think it's my way of trying to exert control.

So, I've never done a clean-out challenge but I'm always hauling stuff away. Right now I'm cleaning out because I'm anticipating moving my MIL from a condo into a one-bedroom apartment. Do I want the stuff she's saved? For the most part, no. And I'm determined it won't have a permanent place in my home. But at some point ya gotta clean off the basement storage areas to have a staging area (to keep the family peace) then start getting rid of shit in a stealth fashion.

I am the queen of stealth...