Getting Rid of Stuff for Mother’s Day

Every year I look forward to Mother’s Day. A LOT. Possibly a little too much. I imagine this is in large part because it is the one day per year that I can do:

Anything. I. Want.

But wait a minute, isn’t this also true on my birthday? Okay, technically, I get TWO whole days per year. The point is: if, out of 365 days in a year, you get just 2 Completely-Guilt-Free-Anything Days, when they come up on the calendar, you pay attention.

My idea of an awesome Mother’s Day: cleaning out the shed

Inevitably, the daydreams of having a luxurious soak in the tub for ten consecutive minutes, or sitting in a chaise lounge in the sun without anyone yelling “MOM!?!” in the tone of voice usually reserved for announcing that the refrigerator is on fire, give way to more… practical thoughts. Wait a minute! I suddenly think to myself: I can get my family to do anything today! Like… anything! And so, every year as Mother’s Day approaches, I proceed to mentally fill the day up about 14 times over with all the different Wish List items I’ve been compiling in my head all year long. Everything from pickling the ceilings to learning ancient Aramaic suddenly seems entirely within reach.

This year the family had talked about a “garden day” outside, pulling weeds, spreading mulch, and generally picking things up around our yard. This is because I have dreams for a big vegetable garden this year and this would get things well underway.

I know what you’re thinking. Exotic, right? It was either that or skydiving with sharks.

In the interest of pursuing my verdant garden dreams, however, I knew I’d have to do something about the catastrophe we know as the garden shed. Over the last few decades or so the shed had become a catch-all where we keep the garden implements, outgrown plastic kid toys, folding chairs, ceramic pots, bags of dirt, bales of straw, antique farm tools left by previous owners, broken things, seven different sprinkler-head attachments, tangled Christmas lights, rusty hardware and much more. Much like my upstairs mess known as the Hell Room, the shed was a problem that had snowballed over time, deteriorated and lain neglected for years behind neatly closed doors. Every year when I thought about going to start a vegetable garden, it was the classic clutter-avoidance scenario of: “I can’t do this, until I do that. And I don’t want to do that, sooo……who’s up for shark-diving?”

However, on Mothers Day, with visions of fresh kale dancing in my head, I took the plunge. While the rest of my family mulched and weeded and picked up- I dove headfirst into a big, dusty shed filled with chicken wire and mouse poop. I pulled out random crazy things- half-melted sticks of colored chalk, plastic trays leftover from failed attempts at raising plants from seed, a badly rusted and bent fireplace pit, mysterious unused spare parts from the children’s play set, and attachments to long-lost power tools. It seemed endless the amount of crap there was to find.

I had resolved to get rid of anything that wasn’t entirely useful, discard anything that wasn’t part of what I had optimistically envisioned as a “real garden shed one could walk into and retrieve, say, a hoe or a rake from, and emerge entirely unscathed.” I gave myself permission to throw away the broken and the failed and the long-lost leftovers, which was an amazing lot.

Things were going remarkably well- the trash bin was filling up, useful things were being found and restored to order, when I came upon something that made me shudder, and it wasn’t even anything dead. No, I had come to the bane of the garden shed, the thing that was taking up fully half of the room in there. Yes- it was the old patio furniture set.

As one of our first major purchases as new home-owners, I recall that the set had seemed terribly expensive to me, and therefore I had purchased it with the highly realistic expectation that it would last somewhere in the neighborhood of forever. Over time some pieces had fared better than others, but ever since the plastic wicker had begun to unravel on a couple of the chairs a few years ago, my husband had been campaigning for us to get rid of it. (Clearly, my husband has never heard of “shabby chic”. Incidentally, he has also never heard of “dusty chic,” “disgusting chic” or “potentially hazardous chic.”) Around this same time we had also inherited a nicer table and chairs that my mother didn’t want anymore, so the entire patio set officially went into hiding. It was like our shed was a patio furniture Witness Protection Program.

And there it sat.

Years had gone by. The bulky chairs and tables had remained caged up in our shed, piled higgelty-piggelty, and occasionally I would ask myself: for what? So I could avoid feeling guilty for getting rid of something that was more-or-less still perfectly good? So I could avoid feeling foolish for giving away something worth money, something that had originally been expensive?

This particular day, as I contemplated the many-legged albatross for perhaps the hundredth time I wondered: Why instead did I not feel guilty for blocking up room that could have otherwise been put to good use? Why did I not feel foolish for holding on to something I now had no use for?

And still, I hesitated. I hemmed and hawed. As so often happens when I am contemplating something I feel conflicted about, I felt a sinking feeling as I looked over the dusty, imperfect, but still entirely usable furniture. Just looking at it made me sad. Shouldn’t that have been a clue? Looking over at me in my misery, Steve pointed out correctly that we’ve had this furniture for twenty years. Twenty years! Perhaps, he thought, that was long enough.

Hmmmm. The old fashioned time-limit-strategy. I had forgotten about that one- most famously employed in the “If you haven’t worn it in a year get rid of it” closet-cleaning technique. It occurred to me that twenty years was a pretty good run for any piece of outdoor furniture. And then it was as if a hypnotist had snapped his fingers, releasing me from his spell. I was suddenly able to let go.

Out the patio furniture went to the curb. Even the glass-topped end table which was without a blemish. Even the chaise lounge thing that still inspired in me those dreams of lounging in the sun reading a book that had never, ever materialized. All of it.

Well, if no one takes it by next Thursday we can ask the trash guys to take it, Steve said.

If it’s not gone by tomorrow, I’ll eat my hat, I said.

I did not have to eat my hat. By the next morning every piece of it had vanished- as if by the wave of some magic Clutter Fairy wand. Amazingly, I was able to register this fact, and not feel guilty, or foolish. I only felt relief. The well-loved patio furniture was off to live another life… and I had my shed back.

Happy Mother’s Day to me.

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