Decluttering Can Be Liberating. And You Don’t Have to Wait for a Flood.

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dream time

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There was a flood but our house no longer flows through the property.

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Our two-car garage was so full it looked like a storage locker. Now, if you move a few things around, you can actually fit two cars in it.

Three years ago, I wrote about the different philosophies that my wife, Clarissa, follows when it comes to getting rid of things. I think wealth weighs us down, and we should give away or throw away what we don’t need. Clarissa, by contrast, sees a human connection in everything she does, and is slow to get rid of things.

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Put another way, I’m a spinster, and he’s a savior. In fact, I married her 40 years ago because she was a keeper but that’s a different use of the word. And I’m still not sure if she treats me as a savior so I won’t say much more on that topic.

My fret about too many assets was not idle on my part. In 2017, Clarissa inherited a house full of assets following the death of a close friend. In early 2018, I inherited a house full of assets after the death of my father. We tried to coax it into a three-bedroom home, were unsuccessful, and had to rent a storage unit to prevent overflow. We eventually moved into a bigger house for other reasons, and stopped renting out the storage unit.

But we still had too much stuff to do, even for the new, bigger house. We had two dining room sets, a score or more of dining room chairs, plus boxes and boxes of everything under the sun.

Since then we’ve been slowly getting rid of stuff as Clarissa sorted through everything, deciding which items she could tolerate to donate or throw away. At the rate she was going, it would take years to reduce our wealth to a manageable level.

Our garage was filled with furniture, books, old photographs, and mementos from Clarissa’s dead friend, antique and modern appliances, you name it.

Then came the flood.

On September 1, we got over eight inches of rain, including three inches in an hour due to Hurricane Ida. Despite the two sump pumps pumping powerfully, several inches of water ended up in our garage and basement, submerging everything.

We spent the next week or so throwing out wasted items. We threw away furniture, unused equipment for a dark room we never built, clothes, shoes left behind by our daughter’s boyfriend. In theory, I should have been sad, but the bitter truth is that I found the experience liberating.

As always, Clarissa has a different take on the events. “I will not use the word liberation, because so many people have suffered and died because of the floods,” she says. “But I think I am now able to release some of these other assets to someone else who would benefit from them.”

We are not there completely. The garage looks good but the attic is still moaning with stuff boxes we’ll never use in this life.

This is another day’s fight.

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