Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Urge to Purge

This year, there has been a string of arsons in our immediate area.  Most of the homes were abandoned due to foreclosure, but two homes were occupied.  Living in northern New England, where winters are long and very cold and wood stoves are used 24/7 in many homes, house fires are common and usually lead to complete loses.  But, having a house be purposely burned down less than 2 miles from my home stirred something inside me and made me want to be more prepared.

I started to question what I would do if my house caught fire.  What would I grab if I could?  What would upset me the most if it were destroyed by flame or water?  What would I need to make picking up the pieces easier?

This new purpose paired up with my natural tendency to not like clutter, has inspired me to prepare, organize and purge.  I have been further inspired after reading an excerpt of Gretchen Rubin's upcoming book Happiness at Home.  (If her name is familiar, she is the author of The Happiness Project, which I highly recommend reading and visiting her site )  In the excerpt, she was describing how she addressed clutter in her home and it reminded me of how I tackled the clutter in my home just after my extended stay in the ICU.  Just as I was motivated to make my home more organized for my family, so that if I were ever absent they could remain calm and go on, she was motivated to bring a similar sense of calm to her home.

I was inspired to pull out my copy of Peter Walsh's It's All Too Much and reread some of the sections I had dogeared and highlighted.  I also watched a few episodes of Buried Alive I had hoarded on my dvr.  Armed with my renewed sense of urgency, I started tackling areas of my home that I had secreted away all my "treasures" in storage containers.  I started to question if something was really so important, why was it in a plastic bin, that was under another plastic bin, tucked away in the back of a closet.  I pulled out paperwork and thought about what I would need in an emergency or following a disaster.  And then I got down to business.

I knew that if there was ever a fire in my home, once I knew my family was out safe, the only thing I may be crazy enough to risk my life to save would be our family pictures and videos.  So I knew one of my first priorities was to ensure that I had copies stored safely somewhere.  I used my 20% off Bed, Bath and Beyond coupon to buy myself a photo scanner that saves photos right to an SD card.  (In hindsight, I wish I had purchased the 8x10 model which was only a tiny bit more expensive.  I would have been able to save most of my documents on an SD card, rather than on a disk after I scan them onto my desktop and it would have saved me a fair amount of time. More on this later.)  I pulled out all the pictures I had taken before I went digital and started scanning them onto the memory cards.  However, I was ruthless with what pictures were memory card worthy.  In my boxes of photos, were pictures that were just awful.  I had an entire envelope of pictures that were Christmas card rejects.  Before going digital, you had to take an entire roll of film in hopes that at least one picture came back with everyone's eyes open, all looking at the camera, perhaps even all smiling.  Yet, I had kept the 23 photos that weren't good enough to include on a Christmas card.  So I pruned and purged.  I did keep a few of the rejected photos in which all 3 kids are crying just because now I can laugh about those days. If I deemed a picture not worthy of a frame, I figured it wasn't worthy of space.

I also started going through my current SD cards.  I never reuse a memory card.  They are part of my back up plan.  I deleted pictures that were doubles or blurry or had caught someone mid-blink.  These cards, combined with my newly uploaded pictures are all going in a safe deposit box along with copies of important documents.  I have on my list of things to do for next week, going to the credit union to get the safe deposit box.  Once it was put on the list, there is no going back.

Also going in the box are copies of documents I made.  I copied our wills, titles to our vehicles, life insurance policies, birth certificates, marriage license and a list of all our credit card and bank account numbers.  While making the copies wasn't difficult, I wish as I stated earlier that I had bought the larger sized scanner.  I could have scanned it all directly to another SD card. C'est la vie.

Finally, the boxes and boxes of kids' school work.  I had 3 bins filled with papers and art projects.  As I pulled them out, I realized that in some cases I didn't even know which one of the kids it belonged to - how special could it be?  But, I also found some true stand outs such as a great drawing or a story that really showcased their imagination. These I kept while tossing the math journals, worksheets and unidentifiable assignments.  I consolidated it all down to one plastic bin.

Soon I will be taking on my closet.  Last summer I realized that even if I lost the steroid weight I was carrying around, that I was never getting back into size 2.  So those all went to Goodwill.  Sometime soon I will be bringing more items to donate.  Armed with Peter Walsh's and Gretchen Rubin's advice still clear in my mind, I will rid myself of the attachment to items of clothing that I don't wear because I either don't like them, don't like them on me, or am not comfortable wearing them.

But not today.  Today I am going to enjoy the humid free air, a rarity this summer, and take a bunch of pictures of my kids.  Thank goodness for SD cards.

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