Wednesday, February 6, 2013

About Those 40 Bags in 40 Days

Back in 2012 when Lent began, I posted about taking on the 40 Bags in 40 days  challenge here and here.  I mentioned that simplifying our lives was something that has happened over several years.  I made my goal of forty bags and didn't look back. Life was easier and more organized.  I could find things and more importantly, put things away because now,they had a place.

Fast forward to summer was going to be amazing.....80 days off....unheard of for teachers in our area.  Our district scheduled for missing a lot of snow days that just didn't happen so we dismissed early in May.  What would I do with all that time?

I made many lists....set many goals ( I always plan more than I can ever accomplish!)The over-achiever in me had a lot to accomplish.

I spent several weeks traveling and spending time with family, relaxing on the porch, working puzzles and enjoying the pace. The rest of the summer I tackled many projects. Many days I was completely alone and those were my most productive cleaning days.  

Here's what I focused on....I finished cleaning out the downstairs and tackled the basement.  I am somewhat ashamed to post this picture and couldn't make myself do it back in the spring...  But here it is....

It looks like a hoarder picture doesn't it? What is all of that you might ask?  School papers from 18 years of schooling for three children, papers and magazines that needed to be gone through and instead were stashed away before company arrived, two plastic tubs of campaign materials, and reports sent to the state to contact lists from twenty years ago when John first ran for office.  Everytime some "keepsake" would show up, we would say, " We need to save that".  So it would go to the basement to the endless piles of papers.

Add to that, the fact that seven years ago, when we moved into this house, we sold our home so quickly that we didn't go through the normal purge that happens with a move.  We just had to relocate and relocate quickly! Where did we put it?  You guessed it...the basement.

I started on July 8 with this mess and in one week, thirty bags of trash or donations later, my basement looked like this....

We (I) have a lot to still go through. That was just the first purge.  It was easier than I expected. I settled for those giant tubs to make sure nothing really important was damaged by water (we do live in a flood area) or any other potential harm. I still plan on culling from them even more and saving only that which is really important. My goal is to get one small tub for each child and eliminate the others down to two.  It think it can be done!  I also anticipate that the second purge will be more difficult with much harder decisions on what to get eliminate.

Here's the thing.....I cleaned out SEVENTY large kitchen size garbage bags from my house in 2012.  SEVENTY BAGS!!!!!

Here's a picture of my tally marks to keep me going. (After the 40!)

That is both amazing and shameful.  And to be honest.....I could  get rid of many, many more. After school and work started back in August, life went crazy and this basement needs a serious overhaul again.  Things haven't been put back in their place as much as they should have.  Emily's surgery, work, college applications for Ben, and a wedding have taken priority. Putting things back in place along with acquiring quite a lot of decorations from various places led to a complete mess.  Now I need to roll up my sleeves and get things back into shape.

  And so...if you made it this far post without being repulsed by the amount of stuff I have dealt with last are the things that I have learned.....

*Simplifying life is an ongoing and extremely difficult process. Getting rid of stuff isn't as hard as maintaining. 

*Deciding what to keep and what to get rid of gets easier the more you do it.

*Habits are hard to change.  It has taken almost five months of purging to start to finally shift my shopping attitude.  I still have a long way to go because a good sale is sometimes difficult to pass up even when I should.  I am also guilty of finding something I really like and thinking I need one in every color! I'm still working on this....

Here are the questions I keep in mind as I purge through what I previously thought precious....the overriding question I ask myself is...."What will my children do with this after I'm gone?" Is a house full of stuff the legacy that I want to leave them?  They tease me all the time and tell me I think about death way too much, but I guess it's the historian in me that wants to leave an accurate picture of what life really meant to me.

As Lent approaches again, I can't wait to get started. My work last year did make a difference in my life. I'm so happy with the changes. And so....I'm at seventy and counting.....I'm still going to keep a tally. This year I'll start again with my 40 Bags in 40 Days project.  Without this purging...I will miss what is really important.  I will miss the time to say "Yes!" to doing something instead of trying to sort through "stuff".


  1. Good for you!! I have been doing the 40 Bags for two years as well!! This year, since Sarah is not doing it, I asked her if she would mind if I did a linkup for those of us who are doing it so we can offer encouragement to each other. I would love for you to link up!!

  2. Thanks for the invitation! Last year I kept a widget in my sidebar...I'll be adding it soon.

  3. Thanks so much!!! I hope we can encourage each other. I am planning to do my attic this year and I will need motivation to get up there every day! But it REALLY needs to be done!