I’ve been cleaning out my house for, well, it seems like forever. The reality is that while my house may be clean, it is cluttered. Extraordinarily cluttered, by my child’s things, my husband’s things, and a lot of my things.
I am claustrophobic, so much so that I cannot even pull the covers up over my head, so much so that if my space is too cluttered, I start to lose it. I like to have my things contained in an organized fashion. I’ve been known to refer to The Container Store as my spiritual home. I have turned The Boy into a convert, and he likes to have his Lego blocks organized either by the complete set or color and lined up on a bookshelf for ease of access. It sounds crazy, but he actually plays with them more if the blocks are organized and he can find them easily.
I came to neatness and organization relatively late in life, only after I’d left home for college. Previously, I had been a slob of biblical proportions; many times during my adolescence I came home to find the items previously strewn across my bedroom floor in a trash bag in the backyard or a bag of stinky trash sitting on my pillow. That all changed when it was my space; I had to learn to deal with a roommate even messier than I was. Fortunately, she found a sucker, I mean boyfriend, near the end of our first semester and moved in with him, leaving me alone with my newly organized and sparkling space. Jess, although you and I never shared a single moment of friendship, I do owe you a debt of gratitude for turning me to the light of cleanliness.
Sure, I had those insane nights when I would try on and reject almost everything in my closet before heading out, leaving a tangled pile of leggings, jeans, silky blouses, blazers and shoes on the floor, but when I returned home that night or the next morning, I cleaned it all, put it all away. A place for everything. I still have those nights, but now it’s dresses and heels usually on the floor of my walk-in closet, which fortunately has a door, for I’m not quite as efficient as I used to be before I had a family. More often than not, the day the cleaning lady comes sends me into a minor frenzy culminating in all of the unfolded laundry landing in a heap on my closet floor.
Recently I pulled out everything and put it into a pile in the middle of my bedroom floor: laundry, pajamas, sweatshirts and yoga clothes, shoes, boots, books, and greeting cards I loved and bought oh-so-long ago in the hope that I would some day have a reason to use them. I now have a bucket full of greeting cards, organized by occasion, so if anyone needs a spare birthday card or Valentine’s Day card, let me know. I also have a pile of stuff to go on eBay, all of it clothing purchased before I was married, and all of it still with tags on. Most of it I’m sure will sell for some nominal amount as it all falls into the category of workout clothing or “going out” clothing, but at this point I just want it out of my house.
At about this time last year, I dedicated myself to organizing the pile of books around and under my bed. I took myself to The Container Store and purchased three baskets into which I planned to put the books I was keeping to read. The rest of the books I donated to my local library because let’s face it: if it had been under my bed for more than six months and I hadn’t read it, the chances of me ever reading it were slimmer by the moment.
So I then had three much smaller piles, separated into categories: pleasure reading, business/reference reading, and self-improvement. Each pile was in its own basket, pushed under the edge of my bed. You know where this is going. Out of sight, out of mind. All those books? Not a single one got read, and all I did was add more to the piles, outside of the baskets because I felt too rushed to take the time and incorporate them into the baskets or decide what I wanted to read when I had a few minutes. A magazine was easier and could be read in smaller bits. Of course, most of the time I never went back to it, and hence I have piles of unread or barely read magazines dating years back.
My book and magazine piles are larger now, but part of my determination to have an uncluttered house and life in 2014 is to go through those piles and either read the books or junk them and donate where needed. Of course, reading the books isn’t so easy, as many of them are “workbooks” and reading them will entail me undertaking a life change. For instance, one of my husband’s Christmas presents to me was an online course with Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection. The course started on January 12, and I haven’t even been able to begin it. Fortunately, however, it is an online course so I can begin and go back whenever I need to. There is a book and a workbook to accompany the course, and I have a lot of those types of items stashed in my little baskets: I call them my makeover books. Apparently, on some level I believe that I need a makeover.
My magazine piles go back years. Ernie Hemingway and I married in November 2006, and just this weekend I found a travel magazine from 2006 with the most romantic honeymoon destinations. We didn’t even thumb through it; despite his ex-wife’s best efforts to ensure that we couldn’t go anywhere (a story for another blog post, perhaps), in June of 2007 Ernie and I spent two weeks in Paris and stayed at a friend’s apartment while he was back in the US visiting family. It was a wonderful, peaceful time for us, and we spent our time just wandering the city, talking and laughing, planning our life together. It was also during those two weeks that we found out, against my doctors’ predictions that I was pregnant with The Boy.
But now I am starting to lose it because my space is so cluttered. I’ve no one to blame but myself. The last three years have been difficult, and it was terribly hard to motivate myself while struggling with depression. After a long road, I finally feel better, but now I realize that part of getting even better beyond where I am is changing my pattern of clutter and holding tight; otherwise, I will simply dissolve into a puddle on the floor and the depression will have won.
So, I am committing to throw out something each day, even if it’s only a pile of outdated magazines that have been sitting on my laundry table for six months waiting for the reading that will never happen. In fact, I’ve become so disgusted with my inability and failure to read my magazines that I have cancelled all but two subscriptions: Time and The Writer. Both Ernie Hemingway and I read them, so even if I don’t get to an issue, at least he will.
Here are the piles I threw into the recycling bin yesterday.
My task today is to find the surface of the laundry table and then use it only for folding laundry. Here is the before of the laundry table and the laundry pile.
Wish me luck.