By G. E. Shuman
A few months ago, my wife and I decided to try to accomplish something we had been discussing doing for more years than I can remember. The idea was to completely clean out our attic, which seemed to be an almost insurmountable task. The amount of work that would be involved in the job was what had hindered us all those other years. Somehow, loading that attic up with ‘stuff’ just seemed to happen. Emptying it never seemed to.
We live in a big one hundred plus year old Barre City home on a hill, and a hundred years ago people must have liked attics. These days homes are usually smaller and if you want an attic you rent a storage unit. I’d be willing to wager that most of what is in those metal buildings springing up everywhere would compare well to the ‘stuff’ that has been in our attic for many years.
Our attic is, literally, an entire third floor of our home, with a walk-up stairway and even a landing, in case you want to stop and rest on your way up, I suppose. The attic was quite full, in some areas waist deep with boxes and bags of everything and anything that could be accumulated over thirty-five years of living in a place while raising five kids along the way.
So, although there have been a few attempts, the attic has never been really cleaned out since we moved in below it. It is far too cold up here to work on cleaning in the winter; besides, what would you do with the ‘stuff’ that time of year? We have also always felt that it would be impossible to stand the heat in the attic in the summer, long enough to do much cleaning, meaning that springtime or maybe a few weeks in the fall would have to do, and the ‘to do’ part never actually happened.
That was, until this year. (If you have a full attic, cellar or garage and you’re willing to sacrifice the ‘stuff’ to get it out of there, here’s what we did. You might want to try it. It worked surprisingly well, so pay attention.)
In late spring I spent about half a day in the attic, simply moving everything from one corner (less than one quarter) of the room. I didn’t remove one thing from the attic, but only moved it over to make an empty space. I excitedly swept my newly discovered space and even shop-vac’d it. Next my wife and I spent about three half-days in the attic together in early July, (It was hot, but not as unbearable as we had imagined it would be. Excuses, excuses.) In those three days we made a small row, in my still very clean corner, of the Christmas decorations, (always an attic staple) and another row for things Lorna wanted to keep, and one for things for the kids to go through before we tossed them out. (Not the kids… the junk.) There was still space, so we stacked all the actual trash in its own row there. You know, the trash was things like plastic and paper bags, old cardboard boxes, and anything that really had no value.
As we went, we realized that there wasn’t a lot in the old attic that held much sentiment or value for us. (When you can look at some ‘thing’ that you own and don’t remember ever seeing it before, it’s time for it to go.) We had discussed getting rid of things so that if we decided to downsize due to our newly retired situation, we could. If not, at least the kids wouldn’t have so much to dispose of someday when we were gone and all the stuff we left behind still wasn’t. This was our mindset as we climbed the stairs each day, and we actually held to it.
As we worked, the small aisles of things we (Lorna) wanted to keep grew slightly, and a pile of boxes and bags of ‘stuff’ we didn’t want at all grew very quickly in the center of the room. This pile ended up being big… and I mean BIG!
Next we hired two of our athletic teenage grandsons with strong backs (thanks so much Quinncy and Xavier!) to bring all of it down the attic stairs, then down the bedroom stairs to the main floor, and then out onto the front porch and down the steps to the front lawn, one sunny summer Saturday morning.
My job in all of this was to drive around town with the eight large poster board signs I had made and nail them into power poles. Our signs specifically said we WERE NOT having a yard sale, but that everything was free. This way, since we didn’t care about the stuff anyway, we didn’t have to hang around the house dickering with customers. (I despise dickering, whether I’m selling or buying, ESPECIALLY cars. Lorna makes our car deals. If she didn’t, I’d walk. No, I’m serious.) Unfortunately, while we were away for a few hours, someone decided that a new folding table we had put some of the stuff on was free too and took it after removing what it held. Oh well. The world is plum full of ‘stupid’ these days.
To make a long and dull story a bit shorter and brighter, everything was gone in only two days, and I think I heard our house breath, or creak, a sigh of relief to be free of the weight way up those stairs.
As a bonus, coincidentally or not, a few things, including a desk, a bookcase, a small carpet, two lamps and even a multi-plug were the last items that were to be taken to the front lawn. I decided to keep them.
When the dust had settled, figuratively and literally, I arranged those things in front of a window at one side of the house. I’m writing this column from my new, quiet (and totally free) writing space, above the street, among the tall trees, in view of the stars, in the sky. It’s really pretty cool.