Thursday, May 5, 2016

Had my storage unit been burgled? Would that be devastating--or a blessing?

I was working 45 minutes from home when I received a voicemail from the manager of my storage unit asking me to call her.

"This can't be good," I thought..

She had bad news: "During our inspection, we found your lock wasn't on properly. The door wasn't really locked."

"Did you open the door and see if my storage unit is empty?" I asked.

"No. We don't do that. You need to come as soon as possible and check your unit to see if anything is missing."

Mostly, my storage unit held remnants of my old life--the one where I was a married soccer mom raising two kids, hosting holiday meals, and maintaining a big house. In the past five years, I've sifted through the shards of my previous life and have let go of lots of stuff. But I still owned more stuff than can fit into my 600-square-foot apartment, so I paid for storage.

On my drive toward my storage unit, I considered its contents:
  • Hostessing supplies I'll likely never need again: platters, candles and candlesticks, and tablecloths for a family-size table I no longer own. 
  • Boxes of Christmas decorations. Due to space limitations, I have an artificial tabletop tree and use a small portion of my ornaments.
  • Yard tools: I may never have a yard again. 
  • Kitchenware that doesn't fit into my compact kitchen. 
  • Camping gear: I still use some of this stuff.
  • My son's Star Wars action figures. He says he doesn't want them, but I can't let them go. Am I holding onto his childhood?

  • My Luggable Loo--a porta-potty I bought when I lived for three months without a bathroom, heat, or running water. I'll keep her. She could be useful for car camping at primitive sites when my only option is squatting behind a sagebrush on a dark night while worrying that a rattlesnake might bite me in the rear.

  • The only furniture left in my storage unit: Two Shaker chairs and a 1930s floor lamp.
  • My wedding dress, handmade by my sister, Becky and my friend, Reenie in 1983. I am divorced. My daughter doesn't want the dress. Why have I kept it?
  • Four area rugs that once graced oak floors in our circa-1921 house. I likely won't live in a big house with wood floors again.
  • Hundreds of family photos--loose photos, in albums, and in frames. I no longer have space to display many photos. When I've sorted through these photos from my old life, I cry. It's painful to face the failure of my marriage. I do plan to make photo albums for my kids and even my ex-husband, but I've avoided it. 
  • The rest of my storage unit is what my Swedish Grandma Lydia would call "stuff and junk."
At first, when I had to quickly empty my house, I gave away truckloads of belongings.When I moved, I rented an enormous 20 x 10 storage unit. 

But now, 4 1/2 years later, there's not much stuff left. I rent a 10 x 10 storage unit that's about two-thirds full. I was planning to get rid of more stuff and get a smaller storage unit last fall, but then I broke both wrists in an ATV accident--and I couldn't hold a hairbrush or zip my pants, let alone move boxes. My accident sidelined my plans to continue winnowing my stuff down to the essential.

Recently, my storage rental had increased. I calculate I've spent about $5,500 on storage rental since my divorce. Holy cow! What a waste of money! I'm living on an income that's far less than what I made at my previous job. I pick up pennies I find on the street, yet I've been throwing away money on storage. 

By now, I was pulling into the storage facility. Had my unit been burglarized? What if all my stuff had been stolen? What if when I lift the door and look inside, I find it empty? Would that be a tragedy--or a blessing?

Why was I holding onto stuff for a life I no longer lived? At that moment, I realized what was really essential: the photos of my kids growing up.

A few minutes later, I unlocked the padlock, lifted the door, and held my breath. I let out a sigh.

The good news: No thief had stolen my stuff. I still had all those photos of my kids. That's the essential nugget I'd keep.

The bad news: I still had to get rid of lots of stuff.

After facing the possibility of losing everything, I realized most of it was chaff I could release to the wind. For the first time, I felt all this stuff no longer owned me. Time to lighten the load in my canoe and paddle forward to the next adventure.

Paddles up!