At first glance, you might think that the photo at the top of this post represents the metaphorical dumpster-fire that was 2018, but it actually might be one of my favorite things about the year.

As we were heading in to the end of 2018 and holiday season, we realized we didn’t have any plans. I don’t mean “no plans” as in “we only have a few family things and we might have a day to lounge around in our pajamas”; I mean nothing. We had scheduled alternate dates to celebrate Christmas with family, no one was visiting, and we were so busy with wrapping up year end at our various jobs that it didn’t occur to us to even make plans with friends. Two weeks with nowhere we had to be and nothing we had to do. No one to entertain, clean the house for, or cook for except ourselves.

It was glorious.

So we rented some dumpsters.

I know that might not sound like everyone’s ideal way to spend the holidays, but it was amazing. We moved in to our house almost 20 years ago. (I have no idea how that much time has gone by.) We came from a different state and a tiny condo so we had nothing when we got here and we just moved with everything we had. Turns out that the nothing multiplied into a LOT of junk. Things from college days. Hand-me-down furniture that people gave us because we had empty rooms in our house and no chairs. Things that we might get to “someday”, like a weaving loom I never use. More chairs. Old carpet left by the previous owners. And we put it in places and on shelves and in boxes and kind of forgot it was there. A sea of clutter.

At some point, I realized that we had created an elephant. A slightly overwhelming and mind-numbingly boring project with no easy way to solve it. Things that were too nice to just throw away so we wanted take them to the thrift store/goodwill. But we had to take the time to sort them first. Chairs and tables that were too big to haul in our cars. And 100 things that sounded like more fun than dealing with the clutter. The elephant in the room; the thing you keep ignoring because you can’t figure out how to deal with it.

So I looked at two weeks of time with nothing on the agenda and said to my husband “Do you want to rent a dumpster?”

I felt a little guilty. Just throwing things away is something I hate. I don’t like to make trash or toss things away just because I don’t like them anymore. I knew there was a lot that could be reused or go to another home. We did some research and found a place that says they recycle as much as they can of whatever you put in the dumpster. They bring it for a week, you fill it up, they haul it away. So, I just took a deep guilt-banishing breath and thought “Done is better than perfect.” (This is one of my favorite personal rules.)

The thing is, once we got going and really looked at things, we realized that most of the junk wasn’t as valuable as we had imagined it to be. Even if we took those pink velvet chairs to the thrift store, they were at least 30 years old and just plain worn out. Nobody wanted them. They really were trash.

We found some treasures while we were sorting. Postcards that my husband had written to me while we were dating. Two mysterious wrapped Christmas presents that we took upstairs and put under our tree. (Turns out we think they were from a white elephant party that got snowed out many years ago, but we had no memory of putting them on a shelf downstairs.) The more we looked carefully at things, the more we could let go and not feel guilty about doing it. We took photos of funny sentimental things (the luggage tag from my highschool band trip to Hawaii) and then let them go.

We laughed a lot. We laughed at ourselves for hanging on to things that seemed ridiculous now. We laughed at things that we had no memory of, but we had kept for some unknown reason. We laughed at the suitcoat my husband is never going to fit into again. We cheered as we tossed things into the dumpster to join the pink velvet chairs. We allowed ourselves to keep a few things that really had no earthly purpose except that they made us smile.

And then the nice guys came and hauled the dumpster away and everything felt a little lighter. There are empty shelves in the basement. The bedroom upstairs is a little echoey now that we got rid of that carpet. Everything feels a little disorganized and not quite done. And I think that feels like a great way to start off a new year.