Moving the contents of our old attic to our current house in has been enlightening. If you get nothing else from my story, please commit this one important lesson to memory: move everything when you move. Using your old house as a storage building while it’s on the market might seem to save time and money up front. However, you are only prolonging the inevitable.
It’s been three years since we moved and our new attic is already full. By not immediately transferring the contents of the smaller attic to the bigger, roomier new attic, we enabled ourselves to collect and store even more stuff. Read the label carefully. Accumulation of stuff is a severe side effect of procrastination.
Attics, it turns out, are dumping grounds for things we don’t need or want to deal with at the time. Attics are the procrastination stations of the household. If you put something in the attic, you don’t have to see it, sell it, recycle it, or throw it away. Until later.
Typically, it’s the kids that get to deal with the attic upon the demise of the parents. After emptying my parents’ house and moving mom in with us, you’d think I’d know better. But if things don’t change, my children will be left with a lifetime of procrastination to handle when we’re gone.
If the attic is in it’s current state at that time, the ghost of me would not be offended at all should my children decide to set up a dumpster on the front lawn and pitch the contents. I suspect they’d make it into a game, scoring points for hitting the edge of the dumpster, smashing breakables, or hitting targets within the dumpster.
My goal, however, is to ensure my children do not have to suffer the consequences of our procrastination. To help us on our journey of behavior modification, we placed the contents of our old attic in our dining room. As I mentioned in my Mother’s Day column, the goal was to clear out the dining room in a day.
Clearly, I did not accurately estimate how long it would take to go through a room full of boxes and bags. I’ve already logged about 40 hours and there is more work to be done. We have towers of trash, mountains of recycling, and an island of donation-ready goods. And, there are still several boxes in need of excavation.
Throughout the process, we’ve had to purchase shelving for all the books we’ve accumulated over the years. Apparently, when you cross a writer with a librarian, you get volumes…and volumes and volumes and volumes. We have enough books stowed away to start our own library.
Now that we’re knee deep into sifting through our piles of procrastination, I refuse to store books any longer. If we must keep the books, they must be accessible. As a result of this new attitude, we’ve had to spend some money. In addition to purchasing more shelves for our library—yes, we actually already have a room dedicated to books—we’ve had to purchase shelves for other areas of the house.
But books were not the only problem area. I discovered that every time a major life event occurs, I have a habit of shoving all of my bills and other paperwork into canvas bags and convincing myself I’ll get to the task of filing "later." But later never comes, because the bags get sucked into the procrastination oblivion of the attic, never to see light again.
I’ve reviewed and discarded reams of useless, outdated paperwork over the past few weeks. I’ve also collected enough photographs to fill a room full of albums. I suppose when the boys move out, we can create a photo album room next to the library.
Most of my children’s school work, report cards, and other memorabilia were also intact. I organized it all into three boxes, one for each child. Guess what they are getting for their 30th birthdays.
When this ordeal began, I’d planned to donate all our old VHS movies. However, my children inherited the packrat gene that plagues our family. When combined with the sentimentality tendencies that run in our bloodlines, de-cluttering our movie collection becomes nearly impossible.
"The Brave Little Toaster" and "Swiss Family Robinson" are staying for now. However, they have been reorganized into clearly marked plastic tubs. And if they are not used or transferred to DVD by the time my youngest is 30, well, you know the drill.
Don’t let what happened to us happen to you. Later doesn’t exist. Have yard sales. Donate clothes and furnishings. File paperwork. Display your books. And, for goodness sakes, beware of your attic. It is a pit of darkness that preys upon the innate tendencies of humans to procrastinate in an effort to cripple one’s future sanity.
Micki Bare is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau and the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro, N.C., and the author of Thurston T. Turtle children’s books. She and her family live in North Carolina. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.