This post is part of the #Purge365 series about a midlife journey through a year of purging a house – and a life – of unnecessary things. Click here to see all previous posts.
You guys, I promise I’ll make this part shorter than the last. Who knew so much purging could fit in such a short month as February? Let’s dive right in where we left off.
Old typewriter – not! After breakfast, I get sidetracked by watching a video clip a friend sent via WhatsApp. It features two 17 year old boys trying to “crack” the code of how to use a rotary phone in four minutes. Their parents can be heard talking and outside of the frame while the boys touch the alien device in wonderment. They act exactly like Ron’s dad when he gets his hands on Muggle technology and is full of delight at human craftiness when having to cope without magic.
It’s hilarious. I don’t want to give too much away because you should watch it for yourself. Let’s just say there are several flaws in their approach. When you watch it, you yourself are actually quite in awe at this amazing technology our forebears came up with. If you think about it, today’s world of ubiquitous connectivity as opposed to just 20 years ago is not so different from JK Rowling’s world of witchcraft and wizardry.
As I watch the clip again and again, I think of my own kids and suddenly regret that we no longer possess a rotary phone for them to poke and prod. There will be a time when our outdated old stuff will turn into antique old stuff, and by my urge to purge I will miss this transformation. Which is why, instead of finding my purge-a-day item, I decide to dedicate today to all ancient technology and the feats of human ingenuity. I am honoring it by not throwing out that electric typewriter I occasionally pass in the basement.
Carwash sponge. I’m lazy and settle for an old car cleaning sponge I haven’t used in five years.
Unused mugs. Today is even better, in that Noisette has done the purging for me. He has gone through the small kitchen cupboard overstuffed with mugs no one really uses. I love how my project has started to rub off on others in this house!
Old lotions. Another easy one – a handful of lotions I keep on a shelf next to my sink. I’m not one to use a lot of lotions to begin with. When living in South Africa, I was once ambushed by the equivalent of a Rodan and Fields lady selling “all-natural” products. She was a friend of a friend and I couldn’t find a way to say no. Seven years later, I have to give credit where credit is due: Her product was indeed all-natural. How do I know this? I take the lid off and sniff. A horrifically rancid odor wafts out. Not an ounce of preservative in that one!
Doorstopper sandbag. Also in South Africa, another friend gave me something much more useful: A beanbag of sorts in the shape of a long “snake,” hand-sewn into a pretty fabric and filled with sand, to be used against the bottom of our front door to keep the cold air out in the winter. South African houses, you see, are not insulated well and lack central heating. While winter days on the “highveld,” the plateau Johannesburg is situated on, are pleasantly warm, nighttime temperatures often drop to freezing. Given that there was a 2-inch gap under our door, this sandbag was a lifesaver. Nevertheless, I have not had a use for it here, the country of ample and functioning central heat. This is for sure one of the things I should have parted with right then and there, where it could have served another owner quite well.
In my defense, I probably would not have been able to keep it out of our shipping containers had I wanted to. Our packers quite happily packed everything within reach – read What Expats SHOULDN’T Let the Packers Put in the Container if you want to hear the truly disgusting story of what happened with that.
Old manuals. Has my project inspired you to start your own yet? If you don’t know where to start, here is a good one: Go to the place where you keep old manuals of stuff that you own. I can guarantee you that this will be a goldmine. I promise that at a minimum you will find an installation manual for a garage door you had three houses ago, another one for your first baby’s crib, and a set of recovery CDs for Windows 98. If you want to be thorough, you will now go to your workbench and get rid of the 97 Allen wrenches that came with all your IKEA furniture.
Under the guest bathroom sink. An easy one compared to all the other sinks I’ve had to tackle, and yet even here there is plenty to let go. Why is it that I feel compelled to have a small pharmacy in there, when the only thing one ever truly wants in a guest bathroom is a comforting supply of toilet paper? Incidentally, we are always out of it. I blame my kids, who instead of changing out rolls in their own bathrooms, simply begin using the guest bathroom when they’ve run out. If I could magically transform dental floss into toilet paper, we’d be in good shape.
Craft cupboard, aka Pandora’s box. Here, I think pictures will be most helpful in telling the story.
To be clear: All these crafts supplies have brought a lot of joy to our household over the years. Especially for the girls. But it is time to part ways with most of it. I keep the white t-shirts for tie-dying that we didn’t use at the last party as well as the colored threads and instruction manual for friendship bracelets, I weed out my own painting supplies, and then I consolidate everything into one tidy cupboard.
Zax’s old Karate gear. Zax was 6 or 7 when I signed him up for Karate. He is now 22. As these things go, we absolutely “needed” to get protective gear at the time, but of course he never used it. The most action it ever saw was when his younger siblings would put it on at bedtime and give an excellent karate impression. So here we are after 16 years of lugging an item worth $49 (as quickly revealed on Amazon) several times across the U.S. and over two oceans, all because it seems to have some kind of value. I decide that I want to cash in on it instead of simply giving it away, if only to validate having not discarded it long ago. I post it in Facebook marketplace, and wouldn’t you know, after a few days it sells to a father who “desperately needs” this exact same gear for his child. A $25 return. Which is not bad after so many years, but is it really worth the hassle? I decide that yes, it is. I’ve saved our landfills from one more indestructible plastic item, and in a very loose sense I’ve prevented another one from being manufactured.
Vanity drawer revisted. As I go along, I am finding that I am getting better. As I revisit earlier already purged drawers, I find room for improvement. You ask yourself: What does this do for me, how can I make it easier, how can it bring more joy? The reason I revisit my bathroom vanity is that I have left over drawer inserts. My daughter has found her own Kondo-style organizing urge and sorted the pencils in her desk drawer. I have a few of her white plastic interlocking inserts left, and they are perfect to further improve this already-purged drawer. I’m amazed how little I truly need to keep. One cover stick, one lipstick/gloss, one small eye shadow that I use very rarely, a nail fail and nail clippers, toothpaste, a brush. It easily fits into a travel toiletry kit, as it should. Oh, and while I’m at it, I also fish that slimy ball of hair out of the sink drain – another instance of purging, if you think about it, and one I hate with a passion. Yuck, yuck, YUCK!
Noisette’s iPhone contacts. This has been on my radar for a while. Ever since I switched to a MacBook, I have loved how organized and synched all my contacts and emails have become. I’ve been trying to convince Noisette that going full iCloud and Google Calendar makes more sense than clinging to Outlook, but he is a stubborn one. Nevertheless, he regularly complains about having each contact three or more times in his phone. It gives me HUGE joy to take an afternoon to clean out his duplicates and triplicates and sync it all via iCloud, even though he doesn’t seem to be overly impressed.
Oven thermometer. Another one of those things I absolutely “needed” at some point and now don’t. In fact, I don’t just not need it, it is always in my way when maneuvering things in and out of the oven. And it turns out I never consult it and instead keep using the old imprecise oven controls to set the temperature. No complaints yet about my baking. The thermometer goes on my ever-growing goodwill pile.
Pantry. This is not my first time. I get the urge to clean out the pantry every year or so. But this time, emboldened by recent successes in my closet, I use a more radical approach. The problem with pantries is that you can never see the stuff in the back. Not wanting to spend money on all manner of pantry-organizing gear available on Amazon – that no doubt these days is seeing a big sales spike due to the Marie Kondo craze – I instead kill two bird with a stone. You know those pesky Amazon shipping boxes that one always has to dismantle for recycling? At our house, this task always rests with me – everyone else (yes, I’m looking at your, Noisette!) just puts them by the garage door, in their unwieldy rectangular shape, confident that they’ll miraculously disappear without their lifting a finger.) I use a few similar-sized boxes to manufacture a “shelf” along the back of the pantry, which sparks a big amount of joy.
I then clean out my stackable Tupperware bins, throw out some ancient and stale semolina flower (whatever did I use that for?), and am able to fit the contents of a slew of misshapen bags into nice rectangular stackable containers. Oh the joy.
The only misfits in my new orderly pantry are chip bags. Which leads me to ask: Why bags for chips, but nice and perfect cartons for crackers? But wait, there are also Pringles!
I add Pringles to my shopping list post-haste.
The family pictures Dropbox folder. This is a task I perform about once a year as well, and it is overdue. I create a new 2019 folder, upload everything from my phone into topical subfolders, and then I back it up to another computer and two external hard drives. I know this sounds like overkill, but this system has worked for us for many years. I can usually get to any picture I’m looking for within 30 seconds – except earlier when I was looking in vain for the kids in their karate gear at bedtime. Nobody is perfect.
And there you have it – this concludes my month of daily purges. Rather boring, I agree. I promise my next post will contain more excitement. Stay tuned!