Home > columns, life on the ground > The Junk Room

The Junk Room

September 10th, 2013 at 9:49 am

Today’s Flyover People column as seen in The Emporia Gazette:

junk room1


During Labor Day weekend, boxes were scattered about in our living room, the kitchen, the hallway. Stacks of books leaned like the Eiffel Tower.

Dave and I moved century-old, real-wood furniture. A cabinet went into the bedroom. Dave removed three interior doors and we lugged the roll-top desk into the living room. We carried my computer desk from the living room into my now-usable office.

We filled a half-dozen trash bags, put items in boxes for a garage sale, and packed four (more) boxes of books to donate to the library’s book sale.

After two days, I was so tired of stuff. I just wanted to get rid of it all and live in an empty house.

When people are in their 20s and 30s, life tends to be about accumulating things. We move into our first homes and begin to fill them with furniture and gadgets and clothing and décor.

In our 40s, when basements and garages are bulging, we notice that we’ve been pretty good at acquiring and not so good at releasing.

A lot of the stuff in our house, maybe 20 percent of it, is stuff that I’ve dragged home from my dad’s house over the decades: furniture, childhood treasures, wooden decorative items that Dad made.

My dad was a collector. He saved everything: Lions Club memorabilia, yardsticks, obituaries of townspeople. His things meant so much to him.

Two years ago when my dad died, I hauled home two more carloads of the things he held onto the longest: family and Pawnee Rock history preserved in photographs and newspaper clippings. A lot of that will be shipped to my brother in Alaska.

I knew I had to do something with Dad’s things, but I just wasn’t ready to face that yet. Everything was in the exact same place I put it when I brought it home two years ago. Much of it got piled in the back room, which had once been my office. It became “the junk room.”

Every time I’d decide to tackle the room, I’d work for a while, but it seemed as if I was simply shifting stuff from one pile to another.

I felt stuck. And that’s the thing with too much stuff. It sucks the life out of you. It weighs you down. Clutter saps your energy. Even if you close the junk room door, you know there’s a mound of stuff behind it that you don’t know what to do with.

I have to say that no TV show makes me more nervous than “Hoarders” on A&E. I watch it, but as soon as an episode is over, I search the house and throw away at least five or 10 things.

On “Hoarders,” helpers are there to assist in the clean-up of these catastrophic messes that people have created, but unless and until those hoarders get rid of the thought patterns and the issues that created the problem, the clutter will return.

Like those hoarders on TV, I couldn’t face my own room and get it organized until I changed the thought patterns that were running my life.

All I knew was that I felt stuck. So, over the past few months, I’ve monitored my thoughts, challenged them, found out which thoughts were useful and which ones weren’t. I made a point to quit thinking the self-defeating thoughts. Walking helped, as did meditation, reading, and talking with friends.

And then several weeks ago as I was emptying a family china cabinet so that my cousin Laramie could pick it up, I felt a different energy. I knew was ready to take on more sorting, more tossing, more cleaning. When Labor Day weekend arrived, Dave and I did some heavy lifting. We got the energy in the house moving again. We’re not finished with everything yet, but we have a good start.

I was a good disciple of my father’s; he taught me how to hold onto things. It’s not easy for me to release belongings, especially the things that Dad gave me. But I have to honor myself, too, and find a balance.

All of these things, these belongings, were just a symbol of what I really valued – my father’s love – which is still accessible. And when I take the time to feel that love, it’s much easier to let go of the stuff.

Copyright 2013 ~ Cheryl Unruh

columns, life on the ground

  1. Deb Divine
    September 10th, 2013 at 10:25 | #1

    I, too, inherited the collector gene! I’m keeping your article as inspiration. Thanks.

  2. September 10th, 2013 at 12:23 | #2

    Still boxes of stuff from my parents home unloaded 3 years ago to my home…I was voted “keeper” of the stuff because I lived the closest. Doesn’t seem a valid reason for me to have to deal with it but now that I’m retired I think it’s time. My winter project coming up.

  3. ginger porter
    September 10th, 2013 at 12:58 | #3

    Beautiful!! A real tribute to your Dad!

  4. September 10th, 2013 at 15:18 | #4

    Love this, Cheryl.