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Slices of Life: Big purge - Refinishing and cleaning out
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My husband and I recently took on the task of refinishing the wood floors in three rooms that constitute our downstairs living areas - family room, dining room and miscellaneous room. (We're not sure what to call it. Some days it's the sunroom, other days the napping room. Right now, if I am being honest, it is the gaming room.)

I digress. Aside from being a ton of work (we were sore in places we didn't even know we had) the big floor plan necessitated removing everything (and I mean everything) from the three spaces. In the process I was reminded of one semi-embarrassing truth (aside from the fact we have an entire room dedicated to gaming): We've got a lot of stuff.

It happens to the best of us. Things (too many things) accumulate over the years and there's never really a good time or reason to get rid of something that's still in perfect working order even though it's old, obsolete and/or you haven't used it since the last millennium. These items sit in their respective spots on the shelf or floor or cupboard and collect dust.

Emptying the rooms was liberating (and backbreaking.) The space felt pure without all the stuff. During the duration of our project, I came to value the empty purity. I didn't want to refill our new rooms with old clutter and vowed any item returning post-project had to earn its spot.

I scrutinized knick-knacks and whatnots, seeing them with new, critical eyes. How were the fake apples in a bowl benefiting the dining room? Had the cinnamon-scented pinecones from October outworn their welcome, not to mention fragrance? An empty frame lying atop the piano - what was its purpose? We found a container for housing baby fish from back when we bred guppies circa 2007. Removing it was a no-brainer.

All the poster boards we've ever owned with all the school projects from my entire family's history were stored behind a desk. For what, I don't know. I guess when you put a lot of work into a poster board it's difficult to rid yourself of it. Not any more. Goodbye Star of the Week poster from 2005. Be gone.

We had a collection of at least 200 CDs that we hadn't listened to in at least a decade. To be honest, I don't even know if we have a CD player anymore. They were placed in a box and relegated to the basement. This put them one step ahead of the pseudo fruit and scentless pinecones, which were exiled to the garbage.

Also expelled were dust bunnies too numerous to count. I swear those things self-multiply. The wood refinishing project stirred up some dust, but we were plentiful in that department even before the job began. It feels good to know we are bunny-free. No, it feels great.

Then there were the books. I love books, but having hundreds of children's early reader books when you haven't had an early reader for nearly a decade sort of seems absurd, or at the very least a waste of shelf space. The books need new sets of emerging reader hands to hold them and put them to work again. Until then, they sit in the basement alongside the CDs and two big tubs of VHS tapes that hold more nostalgic value than actual worth.

Not everything was banished. Items that made the cut included the furniture, TV, family photos, a life-size ceramic iguana (made by our son-in-law) and a dish full of jelly beans, because pinecones may be out of season, but jelly beans are not. The cats get to stay. As do my husband and kids.

I'd never consider banishing them - even if they didn't help move all the heavy furniture. What's a family room without a family?

- Jill Pertler's column appears Thursdays in the Times. She can be reached at