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Lighten Your Load

Lighten Your Load, Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash
Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash
Before I met my husband, when I lived on my own, everything had its place. Neat and tidy that’s how I like it. Makes me feel very zen, calm, organized.
I lived in a bachelor apartment, basically one room, so putting things in their place was a necessity. Then my boyfriend, now husband, moved in temporarily. I was going to be away at summer school for a month and his lease had ended. So I offered to let him stay at my bachelorette pad for the month while I was away. When I got home, I opened the door and OMG, there was stuff everywhere, boxes piled to the ceiling!
I made him get his own bachelor pad even though he spent most of his time at my place. I needed him to have a place for all his stuff. If I needed alone time, I needed to know he had a place to go. In the end, it turned out to be an expensive storage closet.
We eventually moved from our one room bachelor pad to just down the hall. We moved on up to the corner suite as we fondly called it. To us, it was a spacious one bedroom apartment. Of course, more room meant more stuff.

From there, we moved to an 1100 sq. ft. luxury apartment with 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and ensuite storage. Lots of room for even more stuff.

Finally, we took the big leap and bought a brand new house in the burbs. When we drove out to see the model home, past farmland and cows grazing in the field, my husband looked at me and said, “Are you crazy? We can’t live out here!”

Our house being built in 2000 front view

Front view of our house being built in 2000

So naturally, we moved into a 2600 sq ft home with 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, and a huge basement. I remember the day we moved in. I thought this place is huge. How are we ever going to fill it? Well, we got a ton more stuff.

Back view of our house being built in 2000

Back view of our house

That was the year 2000, going on 18 years ago now. You can amass a lot of stuff in 18 years, some of it not even your own. That reminds me, if you ask my husband, he will say, “Her stuff is stuff and my stuff is sh*# we need to get rid of”. Haha...probably true!

So we have a huge unfinished basement, filled to the brim with stuff, junk really, and a lot of it. And as I mentioned, some of it not even our own junk. When relatives know you have a large storage area in your home, they tend to want to store their stuff there too.

Our huge unfinished basement, before it was filled with stuff

Our unfinished basement before it was filled with stuff

My father-in-law passed away in 2002. My husband packed up his entire apartment and dumped it in our basement. It was a difficult time so absolutely fine, but there it has sat. Old vinyl records in milk crates, even 45’s, coin collections, stamp collections, old tool boxes, paintings, old photographs, clothing, household items, you name it, we have it in our basement.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

When we moved into the house, my husband had boxes and boxes of paperback books probably going back to his childhood. Admittedly, he does re-read many of his books, but still those boxes are sitting in the basement.

Plus, we both have boxes of old textbooks and yearbooks claiming their spot in the basement. Can you relate? Have you kept old textbooks and yearbooks? Why do we do this? The yearbooks probably have some sentimental value, or at least, are good for a laugh! But, the textbooks are so outdated, they have no value at all.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

My husband is a computer geek and a pack rat so you can imagine all the computer stuff we have in the basement – old towers, hard drives, routers, floppy disks, keyboards, monitors, the list goes on.

Cleaning out the basement has been weighing on my mind for years. I dreaded even going down there. I would only go down when I had to bring up the Christmas decorations in early December and then bring them back down again in early January.

I cringed whenever we had a serviceman come to our house to check on the furnace. I wondered if he could even find the furnace. There was a small pathway between all the old computer equipment and appliances, old toys and bicycles, broken down furniture, and empty boxes.

My husband would bring stuff to the basement and plunk it down in the first empty spot which got closer and closer to the door. Once we had a new TV delivered and they offered to take the old TV off our hands, but my husband said no thanks. Don’t ask me why, I wasn’t home at the time. The old TV didn’t even work anymore so it wasn’t like we were going to use it in another room or give it away to someone. So it went…you know where...down in the basement.

Whenever I thought about the basement, it was overwhelming, better to simply ignore it, keep my head in the sand and maybe it would go away.

But it was my daughter who started the ball rolling over the Christmas break. She had nothing to do one day so she went down to the basement and started sorting. She got rid of tons of garbage and empty boxes. I felt inspired.

So one of my goals for 2018 is to spend one hour per week cleaning out the basement. I put a timer on for one hour, play a podcast and get to work. The hour goes by quickly and once that timer goes off, I stop.

Photo by Marcelo Leal on Unsplash

Photo by Marcelo Leal on Unsplash

It’s working. Only spending one hour a week is manageable. It’s not a daunting task like saying, okay, I am going to clean out the entire basement this weekend, or this week, or this month.

We now have empty spaces in the basement. It looks massive. We can start to envision the possibilities of what we can do with all that space. There is still tons of stuff to get rid of. But it’s getting sorted into piles and it’s much easier to deal with piles of like stuff, one pile at a time.

And it feels great to give things away to people who can use them. My daughter had a little wooden table & chair set handmade by the grandfather of two friends also adopted from China. We passed it on to my massage therapist whose daughter is about the same age as Maddi was when she received the table. As fate would have it, they were about to go out to Ikea and buy a new one. I love when this happens, and I know when her daughter is done with it, it will be lovingly passed on to someone else.

Handmade table & chair set

Table & Chair Set

My father-in-law’s old white dresser, which was in rough shape with no handles on the bottom drawer, was passed onto my friend, Cindy Barka. She upcycles furniture. It feels great to find good homes for our stuff.

   Old White Dresser

Old White Dresser

Dresser being up cycled

Now being upcycled

I have to say, the purging bug is catching on. My husband started cleaning out his office. Did I mention he is the king of pack rats? Typically, the only way for me to deal with his office is to shut the door and only go in there when I absolutely have to. And then it’s in and out without looking around too much. But I recently came home one day to find boxes and bags of stuff out in the hallway waiting to be disposed of.

My sister came for a visit and she is the queen of de-cluttering. The two of us hit the basement for a couple of hours, organizing and grouping stuff for disposal.

My daughter’s grandpa also got in on the action when he visited. He helped sort books, load them in my car, and deliver some to the library and the rest to St Vincent, the local thrift shop.

Purging is good for the soul. It makes us feel somehow lighter, freer, and happier. Now the trick is to not get more stuff. The new rule in our house is if you buy a new thing, you have to get rid of a like old thing. So if you buy a new shirt, you have to get rid of an old shirt. That way, at least we’re not adding to our pile of stuff. We’re breaking even.  

Here's to lightening your load, and working towards your optimum level of stuff!

Colleen Kanna is a breast cancer champion and creator of coKANna Designs, a line of bamboo knit, Canadian-made wellness wear for women. Five percent of online sales are donated to the Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre in support of their Head Start Program for women newly diagnosed with breast cancer. 




  • Colleen

    I agree, Natalie! Spring cleaning requires spring weather.

  • Natalie

    I can totally relate! I love that feeling of packing up a big bag of stuff and passing it along! Though it’s hard to get in the mood to spring clean when winter won’t let go!

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