The secret I'm keeping

This past weekend we held a multi-person yard sale with a bunch of our friends who are also moving. It was fun - not only because we got to spend a morning hanging out with our buddies and haggling with strangers, but because in preparation, we'd gone through a bunch of the old stuff we have lying around the house, deciding what could go. I really enjoy this process. I mean, sometimes, if I'm in the mood, nothing makes me happier than rooting through my closet, pulling out old clothes I haven't worn in a while and making a pile to take to the thrift shop or Goodwill. Then I organize what's left over, all nice and neat. Maybe I'm drinking a cup of tea while I do this. Heaven.

So when it came to choosing what to sell at this yard sale, I was up for selling a lot. J, however, doesn't share my disposal-enthusiasm. He'll look at something, say an old sock or a beaten picture frame, get all nostalgic and state, "But that reminds me of my childhood."

We've talked about this and the discussion inevitably ends with him telling me, indignantly, "But you're a packrat, too!" I then ask him if by "packrat" he is referring to my handbags, or shoes, and he says yes, and I have to explain to him that having a lot of fashionable things, like purses and shoes, does not make me a packrat.

I mean, I'm not naming names, but one of us likes to keep old magazine issues, in stacks, lying around the house, because "what if we want to read them sometime?"

Stacks of old magazines vs. really cute sandals. You be the judge.

Luckily J finally got in the groove regarding the impending yard sale and the night before was excitedly pulling old posters and t-shirts out from God knows where and exclaiming "Hey! We can sell this!" It's a good thing, too, because we actually made the majority of our money from his old belongings.

Of course, the event was also a chance for J to act on another great passion of his, and that's attaining other people's old stuff for free or really cheap. So while I was dead set on paring down our material bulk to make for an easier move, urging customers who looked even remotely interested to go ahead, buy that warped bookcase, I'd glance over to see my husband in some kind of shady deal with one of the other participants. Rooting through the pocket of his shorts to find ten cents while glancing around furtively, then handing it over to one of our friends in exchange for an old photo album.

"Wait a second!" I'd yell. "What are you DOING?!" But it would be too late. He'd already have purchased something we "could totally use," and as he ran away from me, shouting out the merits of someone's discarded wooden box ("But I love boxes! You know I love to collect boxes!") I'd slowly give up the chase. This was the trade off. Sell three or four things, gain two in return. This is what I married into. And furthermore, as payback, there was no way I'd be packing his impulse buys.

This is a line of philosophy I've tried employing during the packing process. I tell him, "Listen, look at the stuff surrounding you. If you honestly feel you want to put it in a box, carefully tape up that box, then put it in a truck and cart it off to New Haven, fine, do it. But if you feel at all otherwise, let's put it in the trash, or aside for donating."

Now, I'm totally defeating the purpose by writing about it here, in a public forum, but one trick I have learned to employ is getting rid of what he won't miss while he's not home. Before J reads this and has a coronary, I'd like to add that I don't do this a lot. But I think the fact that he has never said to me, "Hey, have you seen the June 24, 2006 issue of the New Yorker?" proves my point. Sometimes you don't miss what you never missed in the first place, even though you insisted on keeping it around.

Yesterday I did something that felt very good and I made sure to do it before J got home from work. I went through every drawer and shelf in the bathroom, throwing away old travel-size tubes of toothpaste with barely enough product for one gel that may have been used once or twice in college...deodorant that hadn't been up to par for one reason or another.

I ran from the bathroom to the recycling bin outside our back door, getting rid of the remnants of circa 1993 hand lotion, and to the trashcan where I'd dispose of rusty old scissors, all the while looking frantically out the window, watching for J's bus.

I finished shortly before he arrived home. The only evidence was the clean, organized bathroom drawers now depleted of overflowing baskets of tiny plastic containers, and the faint, lingering scent of hairspray and perfume samples.

He didn't notice and I know that, if it wasn't for this public declaration, he never would, but still I felt slightly guilty because I knew the process would have been different - longer - had he been home. I'm getting over it, though, because I suppose, to put it all into perspective, there are far worse things to hide from your husband, and really, it's in his best interest. For his own good and sanity. Or, at least, for mine.