About two months ago, my husband had unplanned open heart surgery. He woke up one Monday morning believing he was strong and reasonably healthy, and went to sleep that night in a hospital bed, awaiting a heart catheterization procedure scheduled the next morning. On Wednesday, he underwent a quadruple bypass.
In the movies, the loving spouse would hover nearby, sleeping in uncomfortable hospital chairs, declining food and surviving on bad coffee and stale chewing gum or linty cough drops from the bottom of her purse. The patient would rest calmly, preparing himself for the ordeal to come.
That isn’t our life. I was 100 miles away at home, caring for the chickens and the dogs and trying to get the house ready for Paul’s homecoming. I had to do some cleaning and organizing and rearranging. I had to rid the pantry of junk food and plan heart-healthy meals. I had to try to figure out how I would manage it all if he didn’t come home.
Paul was sitting in his hospital bed worrying about all the things he needed us to know about caring for the house: the woodstove, the water softener, the reverse osmosis system, and all of the other things he does and never really talks about.
Because here’s the thing; our house. If our retirement account suddenly hit our magic number tomorrow, we would still have to deal with this house. It’s large, over 5000 square feet of living space and sits on 12 acres. We have lived in and added to this home for more than 25 years. We’ve raised kids here and have housed other family members anywhere from a few months to many years. People have moved in, moved out and left stuff, died and left stuff, or just visited and left stuff. We buy stuff, people give us stuff, I had a shop and when I closed it, there was leftover stuff. Our house is… stuffed!
I’ve known for years that I needed to declutter, but it all seems more urgent, more important, and more imminent that it did two months ago, and it’s time to quit dreaming and get serious. I’ve long been a fan of The Clutterbug Podcast with Cas Aarssen, and I recently discovered someone with whom she collaborates, Dana K. White of A Slob Comes Clean. I love Cas’s energy and enthusiasm, and I love Dana’s non-emotional, no-nonsense approach to clutter removal. If you want a simpler (but not necessarily minimalist) life, I highly recommend these two ladies for wisdom and motivation.
I started getting serious about mucking out about two weeks ago and have already tossed or donated so many bags of clutter. I did this without saying a word to anyone in my family because, if I’m honest, I’m the biggest offender. But when my husband started to see the results of my work, he was inspired to join in. We are both learning to let go of things that aren’t serving the life we live right now, regardless of value or usefulness, and our lives are already simpler and better.