Sunday, May 23, 2010

Demi and Bruce? Not Exactly...

There's a bad chemistry experiment going on at my house. It's been bubbling over the Bunsen burner for years now.

Not many people know this, as it is not the shiniest aspect of my life, so it rarely comes up over dinner conversation: the three people who live in my house are my daughter, myself and my former husband. (Yikes!)

In an attempt to keep from inundating you with more information than you want or need, I'll proceed on a 'need to know' basis. Give or take a little.

One of the greatest hindrances to my progress in purging is this living dynamic. Not that I am blaming my ass-dragging tendencies on other people, I am not. Hi, my name is Barbie and I am responsible for the details of my living situation.

But living with these two people and all their personal belongs, mingling with my own, is complicated. For most of the stuff, it would just not be as easy at throwing things in a thrift store box. (The movie It's Complicated is playing on my DVD right now. Weird, huh?)

There are a couple of prickly levels coming into play here. My divorce was long ago but because we had a unique rental situation that cost us so little, neither of us could afford to walk away from it. We get along well enough, outside of marriage, to pull this off on most days. It doesn't always feel like the best situation (the chemistry experiment) but I appreciate that we don't hate each other. We live at opposite ends of the house. We are generally aware of and respect the private life of the other. It works for us, for the moment.

The one part of the end of a marriage that we've never experienced through our grown-up version of divorce is going through and separating all of our belongings: his, mine and ours.

So when, at the end of my clutter rope, I started sorting through household paraphernalia, I was stymied when it came down to so-called community property. Our divorce decree had laid things out in bare bones manner but the minutia & specifics were left up to us.

My former husband keeps things. He very happily never throws anything away. Even throughout our marriage, I had to sneak things into the garbage or off to Goodwill. Okay, not eggs shells and coffee grounds, but 'stuff.' Orphaned socks, mostly empty bottles of expired condiments, a deck of 51 playing cards, you know the stuff.

Fortunately for me, he is also the messy type so he has never, ever come back to me looking for anything that I knew I'd thrown out. Everything he owns is in piles on one surface or another, so he can never be sure if anything is ever truly missing. His messy ways kept my covert decluttering secret for years but this was not going to fly anymore, what with my determination to rid myself of 1/3 of my things. My decluttering was (hopefully) going to be a very obvious, blatant excavation.

I piddled at cleaning and clearing for a few weeks but eventually had to admit that I needed to get him on board with my goal, at least to some degree. There was no way to do this otherwise.

I dreaded the thought. I could hear his objections. He would never admit it but he does not like to get rid of things: "I might need this someday." "But it still works, I just need to fix the cord." "Someday I'm going to take up fly fishing."

So a few mornings ago, when I looked at him, held my breath and said, "I think we should have a yard sale," I was braced for the blow of his rationalizations.

He looked back at me for second, then said, "But all we have is junk."

I almost cried; I was so excited. I would have done a cart wheel but there was not enough room. "Exactly, junk," I agreed. "So let's put it up for sale and it can all become someone else's junk!" I said, nodding my head furiously, trying to will his agreement. I continued quickly before his coffee kicked in and he started thinking clearly. Or what for him is clear.

"Ciara (our daughter) is trying to earn money for her missions training trip to Panama in July. We could go through everything, have it all packed up in boxes and the next shiny weekend, we'll be ready. We'll throw everything in the front yard, put up a dozen signs, tell everyone we know and maybe she could earn money for her trip."

I almost lost him on that last point. Giving Ciara all the proceeds wasn't balancing out, in his thinking. I believe he was already calculating what he could do with his share. So I sputtered a bit, back peddled and said that we'd figure all that out later; that the most important thing is that we'd be getting rid of all the junk. Yea, junk. I never thought I'd ever be so happy to hear someone call all my stuff junk! JUNK RULES!

With that single, quick conversation, my motivation shot off the chart. It clicked immediately. I wanted to start cleaning right then but I needed to get ready for work. My fingers were jittery and itching to go. This is like win to the power of 10.
  • Ciara is trying to raise money for her trip.
  • I NEED to get rid of copious amounts of stuff.
  • Not so many trips to the thrift store station.
  • My former husband will get some pocket change to buy some much needed car part.
  • I've learned over the years that it is much easier for me to part with things if I can think of them as going to a good cause. And the closer the cause is to my heart, the more things go. Yippee!!
The situation I saw as most likely deadlocked was now fluid. Jet fuel fluid. And we're ready for lift off.

The results: After having Friday and Saturday off (May 21 & 22), I've almost finished one entire room (a storage/guest room) and a few scattered corners and drawers in other rooms. It is so exhilarating and self-perpetuating. I want to stay up tonight and do some more, but I need rest. I'm stoked and spent at the exact same time. I'll be sleeping with a smile on my smudged face.

1 comment:

  1. Ahhhhh - Barbie, my hero :) A smiling smudged face - how cute is that? I am also married to a man who hordes. Why we have a WWI French Army helmet in the closet is beyond me OR that beautiful antique 1930's radio is buried under books and folded stuff and and and is a mystery but I, too, B - will sneak stuff out and absolutely deny I ever ever saw it to begin with. I am excited you are getting going and just don't want to stop - I am with ya girl. Maybe I should call in sick on a Friday and come help!! We can load my car FULL of stuff and I will speed out of the driveway, never to be seen by your ex. I am from NY, I am a proud NY'er and well - I am good at sneaking, lying, stealing, burying (oops, not out loud Midge, that isn't to be said out loud), so call me, let us set up a time, I will be like your magic assistant I will wave my arms and say Now you see it - POOF - Now you don't Yeah yeah, I will do it. And fyi, with that new Infiniti, I got one honking damn big-ass trunk too. And no ability to feel guilt. God I love being a NY'er :)