Down in the Dumps?

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By Jeanne Marie Laskas
Sunday, December 30, 2007

Get in shape, get organized, get in shape, get organized. The moronic rhythm of the same two resolutions was sure to throw me into a seizure. Same promises, year after year, and not even original ones. The same resolutions millions of Americans make, all of us encouraged by smiling hosts on morning shows. Get in shape, get organized, get in shape, get organized. Is anyone winning at this game?

I am. Or, I will. This is my year. No, I mean it. And I'm not saying this with a wink and a nudge toward our shared understanding of how stupid it sounds. I actually mean it. Not about the get-in-shape resolution. I either will or will not eat more fiber, fewer fats, more soy. And I will whirl away on my elliptical four times a week, or three times a week, or two -- or I will skip a few weeks before hating myself enough to start again. Of course. This is how it works.

So, why am I so sure about the get-organized resolution? Is it because I've hit rock bottom? No -- although I have. I have lived toward the extreme edge of civilization on this front for some time. There is a lot of . . . stuff in my house. I am bad at throwing things out. I prefer to push things to the side. The inclination has resulted in certain navigable corridors left in certain rooms of my house, most notably my office, which no one enters except me and my dog Betty -- so why should I care?

That indifference is what got me into this mess. It's a matter of self-esteem. Do I care enough about myself to want to work in a tidy room? Am I afraid of stepping up to the grown-up world of shelves and file cabinets and little labels everywhere? Does some lurking lack of self-worth sabotage my efforts at becoming an organized person?

That idiotic psychobabble is what has paralyzed me. I'll sit here in my messy office and wallow in self-loathing until I have no choice but to log onto eBay and order expensive electronics to cheer myself up.

I am done with all that. Done! I have proof.

It all started a few months ago, when we were about to begin this most recent home remodeling project. I would need to completely clear out the two rooms, our living room and dining room, that our contractor was going to gut. This seemed an insurmountable task, given the floor space left in my house -- could I even fit any more stuff in my office? -- and so I decided to order one of those portable outdoor storage units you see around. Instead of driving your stuff to a storage place, you can get a storage unit brought to your home, sit it in your yard or driveway, or on your street, and leave it there, for a monthly fee, until you are ready to put all your stuff somewhere else. Brilliant, I thought, even as I kicked myself for not being the person to come up with the idea. I went online to order one. I read testimonial after testimonial from satisfied customers. Then I read this one: Warning. Can get addictive. Was going to keep one for only a couple weeks when reorganizing my basement and attic. That was four months ago. I kept adding stuff to it and had to order another. Now I have 2 completely filled. Check with your local ordinance to make sure you are allowed to have these in your yard.

The image of that poor slob with multiple portable storage units in his yard saved me. The ghost of a junk-filled future. Holy heaps, it has come to this: Americans in overstuffed, oversized houses now putting little stuffed storage units all over our yards. It would not, could not, be me. I would not cross that line.

This (finally) brings us to the present, to the dawn of 2008, and to the beautiful sight in my driveway. No, not a storage unit. I have swung the other way: a dumpster.

A massive green open vessel now sits outside my window, offering to deliver me daily of the sins of decades past. The pleasure I get from hauling stuff out over my aching back -- Santa in reverse -- is beyond measure. I try not to think of the landfill to which I am about to significantly contribute. I try to remind myself that I am just playing catch-up; this dumpster represents a decade worth of trash cans I never filled. The thrill of throwing out has made me a better citizen, has, in fact, inspired me to fill my car with bags of perfectly good stuff I've donated to my church's flea market and to bundle up newspapers to drop in the recycling box at my kids' school. I am expelling. I am letting go. I am an advertisement for municipal waste management, or for actually committing to a New Year's resolution, or for the self-esteem required to follow your bliss -- I don't care exactly how you want to spin it. I can only pass along my joy in the hopes of inspiring others.

Get organized. Get a dumpster.

Jeanne Marie Laskas's e-mail address is post@jmlaskas.com.


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