Nary a Bat in My Belfry

Len and I sold our commercial property in December because we’re relocating. We thought we knew where, but it’s still somewhat of a moving target — we’ll let you know when we figure that piece out.

We intended to put our home on the market April 1, but due to unforeseen circumstances (including four weeks in a non-weight-bearing cast), we’re currently making up for lost time getting our home ready to put on the market.

One of the items on our to-do list was to empty the attic space over the garage. In twenty years of living at the same address, things accumulate — big time! When Len got up there to clear it out, he discovered that:

  • Literally, we don’t have any bats in our belfry — or attic, as the case may be.
  • Figuratively we just might be crazy — or at the very least, eccentric!


We created three sections in the garage to sort items: donate, throw, keep.

As a minimalist [who’s married to a maximalist], I don’t want to be possessed by possessions, so for something to make it into the keep section took quite a bit of negotiation on Len’s part because I want the next chapter of our lives to be footloose and fancy-free.

Are you more of a keeper or a thrower?


76 thoughts on “Nary a Bat in My Belfry

  1. I really only try to keep special momentos, like the pictures my kids made in art class in first grade. But moving two times in the last two years has made me toss ALOT of things in haste, things I now wish I kept! So living “footloose and fancy-free” is a great change to embrace…however in my experience I wish I was under a more sound mind when I moved. I would’ve tried to keep a few more items that I didn’t think I would ever need or want again. But they ARE just THINGS, so best to keep it all in perspective, right? 🙂
    Wishing you all the best in cleaning house and starting fresh, Laurie! Moving isn’t always easy, but the change is purifying and exciting! Good luck in your new home! 🙂

    • Deb – When it came to sentimental things, I took really good photos of the items (our son’s childhood artwork, etc) and then created an online album for us/him. Then I didn’t feel one bit bad when I tossed the items that had been in boxes for years. Now we’re all actually looking at, and enjoying, the albums. And the best part? They don’t take up any space 🙂

  2. I have become a thrower over time. Moving every 10 years or so has helped nudge me in that direction. I became more creative and resourceful with less. And seeing your photo of the cleared space just “feels” great to me. 🙂

  3. Oh, Laurie, as you know, I’m like Len–a keeper! It’s a curse, according to Sara–any accumulation of stuff, an evil to be avoided. I’ve made the adjustement to getting rid of nearly everything, but it hasn’t been easy.

    Good luck with your upcoming move. I look forward to learning where you’ll end up.

    Sara and I have arrived safely in Ecuador and are trying to find a long-term place to live. And I’m trying to return to regular writing and blogging!


    • Kathy M. – I see in my email inbox that you’e got a fresh post out there, I can hardly wait to read it! I can well imagine that in your move you had to pare down quite a bit.

      I’m more like Sara and you’re more like Len, and that’s what makes the world go round (as long as the Sara’s and Laurie’s get their way :))…

  4. So familiar…my wife had a garage double-stacked with containers – some containing containers – and she had to clean and sell off when we moved to Costa. Best story – she was cleaning a so-called office that was shoulder deep in paper from as far back as the 1980s. She was complaining about the paper blizzard, and pricing shredder rentals. Then, after two days of bagging paper, she found a…SHREDDER she thought was long ago lost. Now all she can collect are sea shells, and every flat space in our condo is covered. Once a maximalist…

  5. Laurie, I am not sure I fit nicely into one pile or the other. I think I am a selective keeper who limits collecting anything from the outset. But once something has made it into my “keep” pile it unusually stays until I decide it needs a new home elsewhere. But each spring and sometimes in the fall “the things” are reviewed for what can go. Right now on the chopping block is Miss Prissy, my old 1991 Ford 4×4 pick-up which has been with me for over 20 years now. I think I have found a good home for her and she should be on her way in the next couple of weeks.

    How exciting Laurie preparing for you next move! I remember when David and I went through this exercise. So much fun!

    • Don – I’m glad it resonates with you. It came to me several years ago when I was on a “hermitage” at The Llama Foundation in New Mexico. It was, and remains, the single most important thing I’ve learned to date in 55 years of living.

  6. Keeper. Married to a keeper. Who is from a family of keepers. All of whom keep things in our house.
    Immediately following my mom’s death, I went through a period of transition. I didn’t know who I was–career or residence. Thankfully, my husband and I found Mayne Island. My wish for you, Laurie, is a similiar happily ever after ending. : )

    • Leanne – I can’t begin to explain how liberating it is NOT knowing where we’re going. What I do for a living can be done anywhere there’s an internet connection for FaceBook or Skype, and my writing has no geographic boundaries either. Len’s skills will transfer ANYwhere! Thank you for the well wishes. We’ll let everyone know once we sell our home and arrive at our as-yet-unknown destination.

  7. Well, I am so thrilled to hear an update. It was a thought in my attic how your journey was going. Thanks for clearing that up! 🙂 Mucho blessings on your next phase.

    My experience tends to be if you don’t balance your belongings in your capacity to do so, they can take over you and your time. I myself can manage very little, so little it is.

    Sometimes, life naturally purges and limits for you, if you don’t. Lol. Which might hurt in the beginning, but frees you in the long run to run “foot loose fancy free”.

    • Cinamon – How good to hear from you 🙂 I love your statement, “I myself can manage with very little, so little it is.” And your observation about life’s ability to purge for someone if they don’t take the action steps themselves is SPOT ON!

  8. I can be ruthless when I clear out things so I donate often. My husband is not great and getting rid of anything so we have to negotiate. I have a huge box of family photos dating back to 1920s when my grandfather was in the British Army stationed in India and then Egypt. I have been working for months trying to document the family history into a PowerPoint document. Then I can get rid of the majority of photos.

    I remember when my relatives kept things to pass down to younger family members; however, my mother-in-law moved in with us and brought enough dishes and china to start her own shop. It was sad that most of the younger generation were not interested in these things–their styles were Williams Sonoma or Crate and Barrel,

    Good Luck with your clear out, I think I better go look in my attic,

  9. I had to laugh at your words, I am definitely a minimalist married to a maximalist – I love that! “Stuff” just has little meaning to me. But I bravely fight the battle of “I thought there was a table/counter/desk/shelf in here . . .” daily as I dig through piles of his beloved treasure.

  10. We had an amazing and unusual windstorm yesterday. I will try to comment here but nothing so far this morning has gone through – Internet and phone service is a bit crazy

    I like simplicity and few things. My partner designs things this way, but then he holds on to everything – rarely purchases anything but then can not let go of what he does purchase – even his 22 year old bicycle he has traveled thousands of miles on and replaced with 2 new extremely expensive ones???? He thinks his daughters now want this worn out one!!!
    He kept a box of his father’s clothing in our attic for 10 years after his father died – but he threw away daughter # 2s china doll collection from her grandmother.

    We are in big negotiations right now because I am ready to downsize before we retire ( age 72) and he will not even consider figuring out what is in the attic that needs to leave us.

    I do not even purchase much of anything because I just don’t need clutter and have found a great place to share my books to assist the homeless children….I love my Kindle, easier to read and takes up a small amount of space…

    • Patricia – I sure do hope that your negotiations go well, and that you can TRAVEL LIGHT, TRAVEL FAST in your retirement years.

      Like you, I enjoy reading online, or borrowing books from the library and then returning them.

  11. Now am more of a thrower than a keeper but not always – I shudder everytime I look at a photo of the kitchen of my old house in Aurora, Ontario. A garage sale before moving then got rid of a lot, but I found more and more going out the door over the years since I moved in late 1998. Now I’m down to getting rid of paper and old electronic stuff (see my blog post this week at Rule of thumb I learned for clothes – one out for every one in – a friend who used to pile the overflow of her clothes on a bed has a rule of three out for every one in.


    Sharon A.
    Only Child Writes

    • Sharon – I did, indeed, read your blog post this week. Thank you for the link. I’m a firm believer in the one in, one (or more) out method. It makes for streamlined living.

  12. What a surprise to find REAL bats! I do love the idea of getting rid of clutter, and I think the only thing I can say is that I’m doing better with the “holding on” than I used to. We’ve lived in the same house for 39 years now, and I don’t bring much “new” into the house (or garage, or attic) but I haven’t really done the kind of purging that I know would feel good. One of my issues is that mother is still living and has a way of frequently asking about things. I think it is a big anxiety to her that when she is gone we will get rid of everything. So it’s clear I have a few emotional details to work out, but baby steps! And I work very hard NOT to increase the problem with the “tyranny of MORE.” Blessings on your move. That’s a very big deal!! Debra

    • Debra – One of my criteria for keeping/throwing is, “Do I want my son to have to deal with this?” It’s amazing how much stuff that keeps from coming into our home.

      I have many clients who after a spouse has died are absolutely livid. “Why did they leave me to deal with all this stuff?!” (and they’re speaking of tangible, material items, as opposed to the administrative aspect of that event).

  13. Glad to hear there’s no bats in your belfry, Laurie, but aren’t there a FEW just for fun? You know, the ones that won’t disappear no matter how many times you throw them away? *grin* I am a thrower. I LOVE to get rid of things! My family despairs. Luckily, Barry isn’t too much of a keeper, so we don’t have to fight that much. 🙂

    • Kathy – The only “bats” that keep turning up, no matter how many times I eliminate them, are Willa’s hair collections. Most people have dust bunnies. We have dust buffalo!

      (For those readers who may not know who Willa is, she’s an Irish Wolfhound who sheds several puppies worth of hair every day)…

  14. Are you more of a keeper or a thrower?
    I say moving is a great way to clean house. It’s time for a garage sale or just passing forward treasures for someone new to love. I have found that it’s easy to throw away furniture and start fresh but clothes… I could probably open a thrift store by now. I am getting better at wasting clothes but it took my brother asking me why I have to have a room just for clothes to finally see the light that I had way to many things of “the latest fashion trend” from many years. Have fun creating your next chapter. What fun!!!

  15. Minimalist married to hold on to everything
    Though I do not like shopping so I hang on to a few things until they must be replaced

  16. Hi Laurie

    I definitely the keeper, and Ailsa the thrower.
    I am reluctant to throw anything out if I think we may have a use for it in the next 20 years.
    I think part of that was growing up with nothing, and learning to make stuff out of the old bits lying around in the backs of sheds that people had put there because they no longer worked.

    I think Len & I would be in the shed raising the barricades while you and Ailsa were outside trying to tear them down.

    I agree that there is a cost, in terms of space, in accumulating stuff, and there is also a benefit, in terms of security – that knowledge that whatever happens, being confident that I will be able to find something in the shed to remedy the situation.
    Not having that reserve of “stuff” makes me feel both helpless and useless in a sense.
    With my stuff, I can be of service to family friends and neighbours as needed. Without it I am reliant upon them, and unable to assist as I otherwise might.

    I collect very little for sentimental reasons, mostly it is practical.

    • Melissa Jane – After 33 years of marriage, we both know how to “pick our battles” and we never (ever!) hit below the belt (literally or figuratively). We speak to each other with respect (cool, calm, and collected), or we gracefully remove ourself from the equation until we can. If he can assure me that he does, in fact, NEED something AND that he will, in fact, actually USE it many times – by all means, buy it. If I can prove otherwise, it’s donated. If there’s something he needs (i.e., a power tool) that he’s needs for a single project that he’s not likely to use again, I ask him to rent it.

  17. I spent the afternoon cleaning out flower beds, an activity I enjoy, while it could be called mindless, I find that I do some of my best thinking while making things clean and tidy. Then of course, there is the gratification of looking back and saying, ” Now, that wasn’t so bad!”

  18. I’m more of a thrower. I love the feeling of cleaning something out and getting rid of excess. It sounds liberating moving somewhere new after 20 years. We’ve been in our place 15 years. My husband hates to move. I hope we eventually down-size. Less maintenance sounds wonderful.

  19. Laurie, I wish you and Len the best on your planned re-location. I know well your present home is located in a beautiful town, but i’m sure that will also be the case with the new house. Unfortunately both Lucille and I are keepers (Lucille defines herself as a pack-rat) and our kids seem to be following suit for the most part. My mother was a major “thrower” though that habit tended to keeps things in great order, something out our own habits can’t quite control. But there are times I don’t stay the course, and usually it’s when a major house cleaning project is underway. Great post!

    • Sam – There’s nothing I like more than a “major house cleaning project” — something I can really sink my teeth into. Maybe I missed my calling…perhaps I should have been a professional organizer 😉

  20. Ooh, I am excited for your upcoming adventure!

    I am a thrower through and through…and not just with stuff.

    I now make sure that I don’t ‘make room’ for people who I don’t completely love being around. In the past, I’d waste far too much energy trying to dump the ‘drains’ (people who sap your energy) so I’ve learned to be a lot more protective of my solitude and am now very upfront about being an introvert. My best friends and my husband are all complete introverts too so I feel I am in good company!

    And don’t you get some great comments on your blog? I just love reading all the different perspectives from such lovely folks. 🙂

    • WarmGinger – Your comment put a face-splitting grin on my face 🙂 You see, I’m an introvert (who functions as an extrovert). And I LOVE that you no longer make room for people who are not positive, uplifting, constructive, and healing. Life is much too short to be hauling around that kind of energy-draining “baggage.”

  21. I had two events in the past two years that led to a throw away party. Since those events I’m turning from a keeper into a thrower. When the cellar got flooded, there was no way in keeping things that had been stored there. We got some money from the insurance for the deep freezers, and the clean up, and since then the cellar is orderly clean and as empty as it can be. Last year I decided to change my office into something more versatile, and I’ve thrown away 600kilos of stuff.

  22. We’re getting rid of stuff little by little as eventually we’d like to live mainly in our motorhome touring Europe and maybe the north of Africa.

    Unfortunately, we had some tennants a few years ago (when we lived in the school we both work at) who left an awful lot of mess behind, both inside and outside the house. The garden and front drive were a tip and it was almost impossible to move in the loft. We quickly cleared the outdoor space and a lot of the loft, but I believe we still have some of their junk up there and it makes me feel very resentful and weary about having tennants ever again.

    We need very little to be happy. The rest is just greed.

    • Fatimasaysell – I wonder if you could host a “throw away” party. Rent one of those commercial sized dumpsters and have your friends come over to help you haul stuff out and throw it. Then afterwards you could all enjoy an excellent meal as you watch the thing get hauled away 🙂

      • I like the idea of the skip to be hauled away! As for the throw-away party, the problem would be getting in the loft in the first place, as it isn’t safe for people to walk on it. At the moment, hubby climbs up there using ladder and passes stuff back to me and my son, but only when I am in the mood for such things! It is a chore I’d gladly delegate to my friends, but it doesn’t seem fair.

      • Fatimsaysell – Yowza! It sounds kinda dangerous. I can understand why you don’t want to involve your friends. Best wishes as you bit-by-bit eliminate the “stuff.”

  23. I’m afraid I was born a “keeper”. This is not a bad thing, as far as my wonderful parents are concerned, as I’m glad they saw me as a keeper 🙂 but with regards to keeping any place of mine vaguely tidy, it’s a bit of a nightmare. I truly needed to marry a minimalist, such as yourself but have found myself with someone worse than me. Now I’m trying to throw stuff out – who’d have thought?

    • Long Life Cats and Dogs – The comment about your parents finding you a “keeper” made me smile. (As far as starting to offload “stuff” — it’s never to late to start)…

  24. Ex “Keeper” and current “Thrower.” It’s a necessity. One thing/item comes in, one goes out. (Most) Everything sentimental stays, within reason.

    • AirportsMadeSimple – I take photographs of the sentimental items and put them in their own online photo album. It takes care of two things: I can refresh my memory any time I want to, and it doesn’t take up any space (nor require any dusting) 🙂

  25. Pingback: Keeper or thrower | Ted Howard NZ's Blog

  26. I am So HAPPY that I read this posting! I am seriously thinking of moving…and I am so overwhelmed! Like the categories–Donate/Throw/Keep. YES–I will be putting them to good use! Thank you!

    • JohannIsThinking – Those three categories have been a lifesaver! And for something to make it into the “keep” pile there better be a really good reason. My mother always said, “Travel light, travel fast.” My mother was a wise woman 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.