Today is New Year’s Eve Day.
Although the brink of a new year means something to many, it also means little to a lot. Some see it as a chance to file the old year away and move on – and others see it as a chance to embrace new goals and vision.
I am somewhere in between.
Resolutions are not for the retired. I have already made and failed at resolutions so many years ago that they are no longer relevant to me. I had resolutions when I was still a working journalist that were geared toward my eventual exit. I trained other people to do what I did, to know what I knew. I had no need to harbor information in exchange for job security. I was ready to retire years before I made the move and the only thing I delayed was going through 34 years of files and records.
Before computers and cellphones saved information for us, we journalists kept copious amounts of information in files. Copies of stories, police reports, court documents, government paperwork, photos and more. I spent years becoming overly familiar with the Open Meetings Law and Freedom of Information laws in both Michigan and Wisconsin so I could request (and so often pay for) documents.
When I walked out of the door of my rehabbed photography lab/office in February 2020, I took two carloads of files with me. Murder trials, governmental misdeeds that led to investigations, medical background, environmental catastrophies and successes. I didn’t know what I planned to do with them, but I knew I wasn’t going to leave them.
That led to an overflow of boxes in my already overflowing collection of everything I believed was necessary for life, health and happiness in my six and a half decades of living.
In March 2021, I was forced to deal with that overflow for a new reason – I learned I would have to undergo major surgery in about a month and I wasn’t sure how I would be able to handle every day life, much less what had become a hoard of paper, cloth, collectibles and clothing.
I formed a resolution: I needed to start getting rid of things I no longer needed.
My friend Jill calls it Swedish Death Cleaning – getting rid of your earthly accumulations before you die and stick it with your kids. When she did it, some of her stuff ended up here, where I have a greenhouse full of plants, pottery and collectibles. Her cleaning was sometimes my collection.
Things became more complicated with the unexpected death of my best friend Terri in July. Now, I took on the task of helping sort and sell her belongings. Needless to say, everyone in her family ended up with more things than expected, adding to our own collections.
But the hardest part was seeing other people going through her cherished items. Not the staff from the auction company – as they were careful, compassionate and really liked her things. It was more the idea that someone was going to touch her things, walk through her house and buy her belongings. She had great stuff!
But the whole ordeal really hit home. I don’t want my kids to have to clean for weeks and months after I die. I want to get rid of things, rather than re-accumulate.
I needed to make some hard decisions, which really got easier over time. I started in a room and worked until I had filled bags with garbage and boxes full of giveaways. I learned to differentiate between the things I didn’t want, but could benefit someone else, to the things nobody in this life wants or needs.
We paid a lot for garbage this year and I made at least 15 trips to St. Vincent de Paul’s donation center. My husband was amazed that I was willing to let go of things that cluttered our garage, and that I was able to finally find the floor in our laundry room.
I have to be honest, I still have a long way to go. I have a junk room on two floors of my house (after cleaning out the laundry room on the middle floor!). While I threw away about 10 boxes of papers from my old office, I still have about 10 to go. And there are about 20 bags of magazines that were recycled, but I still have tons of books.
I gave away clothes, dishes, toys, decorations and more. And, still, they manage to reproduce in the dark and reveal more in the light of day.
I have an Etsy business, where I sell vintage items such as jewelry, porcelain, glass and oddities. I have lots of stuff! I do sell things on a regular basis, but I need to find a better way to store the glass and porcelain. If I were to actually form a resolution, it would be to rearrange my upstairs office to put good shelving in to store all those items.
I don’t need a new year to focus on that.
Don’t get me wrong – I think New Year resolutions can be the starting point for many to open with a clean slate. But I also believe any day that you wake up with the energy and enthusiasm to tackle a project or repair something broken is a good day.
So I will welcome the New Year with hopes for less COVID, more family and friends and a continued cleaning effort. The biggest challenge for me in 2022 will be in getting the date correct on the very few checks I write.
Happy New Year!