Digging out from under a mountain of unwanted junk

There’s a saying that goes “The things you own, own you.” After the past week, I understand that phrase better than ever.

Ceiling cat exploded.

An overflowing toilet saturated my ceiling until it collapsed and poured water everywhere, ruining my humidifier. Go figure.

On Nov. 30, the ceiling in my apartment collapsed. The tenant above me had left his toilet plugged and running by accident and the water overflowed onto his floor. It kept flowing until it seeped down into my ceiling and poured through onto my floor and worked its way through my floor until water was pouring into the apartment below me.

A man who was in the building to work on the heater heard flowing water and entered my apartment to discover a waterfall. He got into the apartment above me and shut off the water. It was some time after this that the water-soaked ceiling collapsed, breaking the lamp and humidifier beneath them.

I discovered the incident when I came home for dinner at about 5:30 p.m. There were phone calls, a lot of fast thinking and fast talking, and I accepted an offer to move in to my best friend’s spare room. I packed up all the clothes I would need to last the week, along with a few valuables, and left.

The following weekend was spent in a frenzy of packing and transporting tings I wanted to keep and getting rid of things I didn’t want or need. My friend had only so much space for me and my things, and I didn’t have time to transport everything I owned, so a lot of it had to go.

To give you an idea of how much crap I had, look at this photo:

That's a lot of junk

That is a 32-gallon trash can. I have filled it, and then emptied it, more than 14 times in the past week. Part of that was from things ruined by the water (less than one canful). Part of it was from junk in my fridge that had to be thrown away.

Most of it, however, was just all the stupid junk I had accumulated over the past three years. There was a lot of it. Much of was all the half-started projects I’d done over the years, or cheap things I’d bought because they seemed like a good idea at the time, then broke. There were also a lot of useless mementos, like all my college notebooks and a few gizmos from here and there.

But really, it was just a bunch of crap that no one wanted — not even me — and had to go.

In addition to all the stuff I threw away are the things I sold in the style of a fire sale (A hutch, some kitchen items, my guitar) and the many, many things I gave away.

One fortunate turn of events came when some people who were moving into the building came by. They had very little furniture and they got my table, a writing desk several other items free of charge. My need to downsize met with their need for a dinner table and such and things worked out rather well.

I also let go of my futon, my window air conditioner and a bunch of other things.

But back to all the junk I threw away. I kept remembering, as I tossed each item in the garbage bin, how much I’d paid for the stuff in the first place. Big dollar signs flashed in my mind as I realized just how much money I’d wasted over the past few years on a bunch of things I didn’t really want.

There are countless people around the world who have trouble finding enough food to eat or safe shelter, and there I was, surrounded by my own wastefulness. I felt deeply, deeply ashamed.

I’m going to remember that feeling whenever I go to any store from now on. I’m going to ask myself if I really need something when I eye it on the shelf or, at least, if I really want it that bad.

I can’t ever let my life get this cluttered again.

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