Our thanks to the NY TImes best-selling author HALLIE EPHRON for allowing us to reprint this amazing story from JungleRedWriters.com. Decluttering, ridding out, downsizing, whatever you want to call it, is hard. This is a wonderful and touching tribute, thank you! Note: Jerry, with whom I share a birthday, was one of the most interesting people I have ever met.
HALLIE EPHRON: My husband and I reached a detente early in our marriage. He could go to all the yard sales and buy whatever he wanted (mostly books), and I wouldn’t nag him about it, as long as I didn’t have to look at his piles of stuff.
He celebrated this arrangement in one of the anniversary (our 30th) cards he drew for me.
When Jerry died, with my daughters’ help I gave away his clothes. I enlisted a used book dealer (of Antiques Roadshow fame, Ken Gloss) to take his sizeable and variable book collection.
“Then I went upstairs and stared up the attic stairs into the darkness. And closed the door. I couldn’t face it. Not that, or the clutter that filled our the basement. Ditto what was in the garage.”Hallie Ephron
Most of what was there I hadn’t touched or clapped eyes on in years. I shut the doors and vowed not to think about it until I was ready.
It took me a year to feel comfortable with–embracing!–the idea of liquidating all of it. Push a button. POOF! Ready, Set, GO!
I made my way through the three cluttered spaces, moving elsewhere anything I wanted to keep. It was a meager pile. A stained glass window, because you never know when you’ll need one. A box of old family photographs. Of course. Scuba gear. Just because. It really didn’t amount to much.
I got in touch with my friend Kathy Vines (Clever Girl Organizing), a professional organizer and member of NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers) and she recommended a local service, “Clean Out Your House“.
I took pictures of the 3 areas I wanted cleared out (“It all goes!”) – here’s the basement. (If you do this be sure to use PANO on your cell phone to get a panoramic shot.) They got back to me with an estimate which seemed reasonable.
A few weeks later two trucks and a dumpster arrived along with a team of extremely polite and sturdy young men.
Within about 6 hours, here’s what that basement looked like. Likewise, the attic was completely empty.
They came back a few days later and emptied the garage.
I feel 30 pounds lighter. And no, I do not think I’ll miss the life-sized porcelain cat or the early Apple computer and two nonworking printers or the piles of student grade books from my years of teaching and and and…
Last minute, I did rescue this dollhouse for my grandkids and a box of family photographs. But otherwise no regrets.
My fantasy right now is that someone else’s husband is pawing through the stuff in the dumpster and marveling: How could anyone throw this great stuff away?
Have you contemplated a great cleanout or is one awaiting you in the future? Or are you one of those disciplined people who resists yard sales and actually gives (or throws) things away?
Comments: Please share your thoughts about decluttering in the Comments section below. There are many interesting comments to Hallie’s original article at JungleRedWriters as well.
About Hallie Ephron: Hallie is a Best Selling New York Times Author of Suspense. She has written many thrilling books, including her latest, “Careful What You Wish For“, which portrays a professional organizer who helps people declutter their lives; she’s married to a man who can’t drive past a yard sale without stopping. He’s filled their basement, attic, and garage with his treasures.
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