There is a giant dumpster sitting in my driveway. It was a shock to see it even though I knew it was coming. I’ve seen these dumpsters before in other people’s driveways and wondered how it must feel to see what’s left of your home thrown into the garbage. Now I know. It’s bittersweet. I’m glad that work is finally beginning on my house after weeks and weeks of nothing happening except compiling reports for insurance purposes, but . . . seeing your house become an enormous pile of trash is, well, dismaying.
I should clarify; some work has been going on at my house. In order to create the insurance reports, the contractor has had people carefully go through every room, closet, and drawer to separate the salvageable from the tossable. They don’t call it that, of course, but the reality is that quite a lot of my possessions will be tossed and, fortunately, qualify for reimbursement. I already knew some of the general categories of items to be dumped– baskets, electronics, mattresses, furniture with any kind of fabric – but now they are adding the structural elements to the piles – doors, windows, window treatments, light fixtures, cabinetry, flooring, dry wall, and ceilings. I wonder how many times that dumpster will need to be filled. They don’t touch the kitchen yet. They know nothing can be saved, so while the rest of the house gets emptier and emptier, the broken crockery, melted appliances, and burned cabinetry remain a testimony of that night in May when the fire broke out.
I have mixed feelings about losing so much of my stuff. On the one hand, it is my stuff; on the other hand, I also know how stuff can weigh you down. Over the last year I have been in the process of decluttering my house and donating my stuff in preparation for moving. There is a certain sense of liberation in getting rid of stuff and simplifying your life, and I have felt that lightness of being after dropping boxes off at the local charity shop. It’s a different feeling, though, when the stuff you lose isn’t by choice. Am I upset about losing old pots and pans? A seven-year-old computer? Or a shabby couch? No. What about my new comforter? My handcrafted Turkish tiles? My teapot collection? I kind of wanted to hold on to those, actually. I’m not feeling so good about forced downscaling or involuntary simplicity.
As I observe the gutting of my house, I consider the implications of getting rid of the bad stuff before rebuilding. There are more than a few parallels to one’s life as well. We all have issues, baggage, or problems, and the older the house, or person, the more time these have had time to collect and grow. If I am truly to use this time for positive change, I need to look inward and figure out what’s salvageable and what’s tossable in my life as well. What’s worth cleaning up and what do I need to let go and trash? I suspect this will take more than the 6-8 weeks the contractor has needed for my house. If only it were as easy as throwing all the bad stuff in a dumpster and hauling it far away.