40 days, 40 boxes
I’m not usually a partaker of Lent – I could never really find things to give up that felt like anything close to a spiritual exercise. I’ve heard that you should give something up that’s causing sin in your life. Sin? A small word with a lot of baggage. For me, I understand sin as something that distances me from God, from others, from being in touch with the whole world in general and my world in particular. A disconnection.
So… what should I give up that disconnects me from God? Chocolate? Definitely not. Each bite of that God-created goodness is like communing with the divine. Coffee? I rarely drink it anyway. Tea? Going out for tea (the chai kind, usually) is a social part of my week – it connects me to others. And when I drink tea on my own, it helps me to connect to some sort of calm in myself. Cheesy? Maybe – but it’s true. Some days, drinking tea gives me some space to breathe. Why would I want to give that up?
Well, I came up with something. About half-way through to Easter, I seized upon one big thing that distances me from myself, from others, from God: stuff. And managing the stuff in our house. I’ve tried to purge on an ongoing basis, but it just keeps coming and piling up and staring at me in every single room. Looking around my house can give me a serious case of nausea and indigestion if I ponder the state of affairs for too long. Here is sin, I told myself. Here is an embarrassing amount of stuff that can suck the life right out of me – seeing it, sorting it, organizing it, moving it from floor to floor, cleaning it. I’ve written about this problem in the past – about putting the house on a diet. I have improved my tidiness skills since that post, thank the Lord.
But there is still lots of work to be done. So I gave myself a goal: 40 days, 40 boxes. By the time Easter rolled around, I will have said goodbye to 40 boxes of stuff that we no longer need.
Well, I’m happy to say that I did it! Another year, I would be more scientific in my process. I would count the number of boxes of stuff that entered the house during Lent, and make sure that the # going out minus the # coming in = 40. But for this year, I just counted the number that went out. And I didn’t count garbage or recycling (except old socks and paint cans) – most of the things that were boxed up were delivered to the thrift store.
But speaking of garbage, it really is quite amazing – some of the things I was willing to part with. Like my 2 trophies from my grade 7 and 8 Trivia Club. We played Trivial Pursuit at recess for a time, and my partner and I won some tournament. Now THAT’S something to treasure. Or a ticket to see the Fine Young Cannibals at Canada’s Wonderland when I was in grade 11. Programs from The Sound of Music, Les Miserables, Annie, Peter Pan, Fiddler on the Roof. In the bin. Subway and metro tickets in New York City, Paris, Rome, Toronto. A receipt from a sari bought in India 20 years ago. A Chicklets pack with Arabic writing on it from Morocco.
In a lot of nooks and crannies, it really was a trip down memory lane. Which was usually fun.
As I sorted and made one small decision after another, it was easy for me to identify my weak spots: Too much thrift store shopping (that’s the biggest one). Too much sentimentality, where each scrap of paper has the potential to be precious. Too much acting like a squirrel, hiding things away in unlabelled boxes and forgetting about them for months or years.
These are quite uninteresting photos that follow, but I wanted to document my progress over the weeks. Here is the evidence of the 40 boxes, just for posterity’s sake: