“We say bye bye old world. Gotta help the new world” – The Modern Lovers
Today the world is sparkling and bright, we are in the midst of the best time of the year – beautiful fall, when the light is sharp and the shadows are long, when the air is cool and crisp. It’s a time of appreciating everything, before the cold winter sets in. The last tomatoes and peaches, the first apples, the long days that are steadily growing shorter. It’s a time for nostalgia and memory.
This past week was Media Free Week, the monthly media fast that I take with my husband. Often we use the week to recharge from the rest of the month, and to reconnect with each other and our community of friends, family, and neighbors. Some weeks we take on new things, things that we often don’t feel we have the time for in a “normal” week. This was one of those Media Free Weeks.
As a person with a little extra time on my hands, I decided to launch a yard sale. I spent 2 weeks culling our belongings, inspired by the minimalist wisdom of Rowdy Kittens, Miss Minimalist, and Becoming Minimalist, plus a little fear therapy from “Hoarders.” When Media Free Week arrived, I continued the work, and roped my husband into the project. We reduced our kitchen items to the things we actually use (bye-bye mezcal glasses and special lettuce knife!), we pared down our books (and are still doing it) – getting rid of old programming books, college texts, and other things we thought were important reference items for “someday.”
This all went fairly well until mid-week, when something inside me snapped. I couldn’t look through another box – I knew we had more to get rid of, and yet I just could bear to do it. I’d hold things up and say to DP, “This was the first Christmas present I got in Baltimore,” and “That sewing machine survived art school with me.” Everything had a story, and it was becoming harder and harder to judge the real significance amidst a flood of memories.
I realized that this little yard sale project had moved into the metaphysical arena. On the one hand, I was memorializing everything I found, and on the other hand, I was completely disgusted with our wealth of belongings. I was asking myself “How did we get all this stuff? Why do we keep it? How come we (Americans, middle class, white, college educated, etc.) even get to accumulate all this crap, when some people are just trying to get their next meal?”
Part of me wanted to take a torch to it all, and the rest of me wanted to go through each box lovingly, re-living the memories within.
Lucky for me, I was not alone here. DP was able to talk me down off the ledge, and we managed to find a middle ground for the rest of the week – grab what you can, and if it’s too hard to decide, just move on. Most of the time, the things I labored over went out the door, but there are a couple of boxes in the basement that will just have to wait for another day.
The day of the yard sale was amazing. We sat on the front steps with our friends David and Thea, and soaked up the amazing weather. Collectors and antique dealers came by early to check out our few collectibles, like LPs and old cameras. As the day went on, folks drifted through from the neighborhood. Most people were interested in talking a bit, and many of them exclaimed in happiness at something they found in our piles – one woman was thrilled we had a French press coffee maker, a young man was happy to find a small table for his room. It felt great to share things we no longer needed with people who could actually use them. At the end of the day, everything we didn’t sell was loaded into my car and donated, including a box of nice work clothes that we chose to donate from the start.
We returned home to a much emptier house, and a feeling of lightness, despite our exhaustion. While there is still much to do, we have created room for new memories to be made.