Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Purge Overkill

Part of the cohabitation process is making room for the person who's going to start sharing your space as well as your life. Compromises are made, concessions offered, and hopefully no one ends up bitter and resentful, screaming into the night, "I GAVE UP MY VACUUM FOR YOU, YOU WORTHLESS BASTARD!"

Fortunately, I'm the anti-pack rat. I purge with impunity, and only rarely feel connections to stuff or regret when I throw it away. I enjoy the satisfaction of culling through grunge band t-shirts, old school papers, and overexposed photos of someone's foot and building a respectable pile of Goodwill donations, recycling, and trash. Since Michael is moving in this weekend, I'm fully in Urge to Purge mode. The most hotly contested area of the house is the basement, which currently functions as a spider-infested repository for anything I don't know what to do with. I've been tossing crap into its gaping maw willy-nilly for five years, so there's plenty of work to do. Purge ho!

Being the anal-retentive well-organized Virgo that I am, I took copious measurements of my basement — complete with annotations of immovable structures, support beams, light fixtures, and electrical sockets — and drew a scaled plan for the purposes of planning how we should use the space. My boyfriends at the Bureau of Development Services would be so proud. Now that we have a detailed map of how it's going to be set up, right down to the last shelving unit, it's time for me to make it happen.

First up, the Box Brigade. Yes, I'm cheap. Yes, I save cardboard boxes. Why pay for a piddly little box to ship a gift in when you can reuse the one that your last Zappos.com indulgence came in? Well, it was time to let it go. Thanks to my sucking up to my company's IT department (Hi Dave!), I now have access to boxes large and small. So the boxes went. It was almost too gratifying, breaking down the cardboard with a fresh blade in my box cutter. I may have gone too far, slicing up boxes that Michael could have used in the move in my zeal to reduce it all into easy-recycled 2' X 3' pieces. But when I get a taste for exposed corrugation, it's hard to stop. Perhaps it's a problem.

Second, the Nostalgia Depot. Two large plastic bins filled with the detritus of being a thenthitive teenager. Dead Kennedys bumper stickers that I didn't have a car to affix to, painfully earnest high school literary magazines, and yearbooks galore. Sorting through this last night raised many questions:

  • Why were my bangs so big? Spending the '80s in Texas is not an excuse.

  • Who were these boys writing me love poems and why didn't I laugh at them?

  • What was the deal with all the photos of people I don't even remember? My mother must have gone broke paying for the developing. And finally

  • How could I have taken myself so seriously?

How utterly mortifying. I was glad to discard most of it. Hell, I even shredded some of the more embarrassing bits. Most of it, though, was fairly neutral, even if somewhat cringeworthy. I pitched the third, fourth, and fifth copies of my undergraduate thesis (two bound copies are quite enough). The student newspapers that I never contributed to were no-brainers. The college notebooks were gleefully disemboweled and appropriately divided between recycling and trash.

There were a few pangs, a few uncertainties, and some wistfulness. I kept the high school prom corsage that was given to me by someone whose name I no longer remember. The photos of people who worked for my stepfather and rallied around me in grief when he died will stay. I feel some regret for throwing away the intricate drawings that a boy from middle school made for me, but only time will tell. So far it's nowhere near as bad as the figurative self-flagellation I indulge in once a month or so when I think about the signed first edition of Galapagos I sold.

Even if I do feel some loss for what I've gotten rid of, it's more than offset by what I'm making room for. Memories are comforting and safe, but making new ones is a much better use of my time and square footage.

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