I don’t generally pen “how to” columns. “How to be a dork like me” is not a life lesson that is much in demand, generally speaking.
Then one day I realized I was living a lie. I maintain a fresh and clean home and pose as if I am a very tidy person. Actually, we are just well organized packrats. Forget figurative skeletons in the closet, for all I know Jimmy Hoffa may be buried at the back of one of mine.
Determined to do better, we started at the top. First, we undertook the monumental task of cleaning out the third floor. This is an area we turned into a playroom more than a decade ago. It was a wonderful space at the top of the house. Bright and airy, I enjoyed filling it with arts and crafts and colorful toys.
Over the years these collections grew and expanded until “bright and airy” became “cluttered and confining.”
Eventually the children grew as well and I would go weeks — if not longer — without setting foot in the space. When I did, it was generally to exclaim over the mess.
One day, we had collectively had enough. We undertook a weekend excavation of the space. We sorted toys to be trashed, saved or donated. I made so many trips up and down three flights of stairs I should have gone down a pants size (but didn’t).
It took an overflowing truckload to diversify our goods to the proper donation channels. To say we were nearly buried by stuff is not an understatement. This isn’t a figure of speech, like how I use the word “gzillion” with impunity because I’m a columnist, not a journalist and I can get away with lazy nonsense like that. We truly had more stuff than we could possibly appreciate.
How did a self-described “neat freak” end up with nearly 1,000 stuffed animals piled in a corner? How did I not see that, for my daughter, keeping the half-dozen or so toys that had meaning to her, of her own volition, was far more sentimental than the leaning tower of clutter we had going on?
Clearing out the clutter made us appreciate what we had — not miss what was gone. No longer having that clutter hanging (literally) above our heads is a palpable relief.
Next I faced my closet stuffed to the brim with “nothing to wear.” I would be wise to pare down only to items I love and feel good wearing. Why do I keep second-string clothing anyway? I’m not sure when I began to find it acceptable to have clothing I don’t feel cute in, but that has got to change.
This doesn’t mean that every outfit must be formal dress. It simply means every item in my closet should make me feel good about myself when I wear it. Life’s too short to have B-list closets.
It was surprisingly easy to watch the ever-growing goodbye pile of ” “just O.K.” and “makes me feel frumpy” grow. Granted, I had to talk sternly to myself when I wanted to hold on to a puffer vest with faux fur hood. Apparently I was saving this for when I want to pose as a chunky middle-aged teenager with questionable fashion sense.
If you need help in that area, hire a 13-year-old fashionista to help you out. Girlwonder is an excellent organizer. When I get clingy, “but it’s my fifth favorite black shirt,” she gets me firmly back on track. Sometimes the art of the clean sweep means knowing when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em and stuff ‘em into a giveaway bag.
Inspired, we further spent a happy afternoon purging the children’s closets of unwanted clothing. She was eager to bag up many of her outgrown or unworn outfits and most of her brother’s too. “People know we’re related” was a repeat phrase, as she shook her head and stuffed a fairly large portion of his wardrobe into bags.
He wisely steered clear of the whole endeavor, but did have ultimate veto power. All told he pulled exactly two shirts back from the brink.
The truth is, following the season of gifts and acquisition, getting rid of things is addicting too. Paring down and passing on feels good.
This year I resolved to lose some weight and I have. I’ve lost well over 100 pounds of clutter. As tends to happen, I gained something back too. Space, freedom from cleaning and cataloging unnecessary items, and a sense of perspective of what we want, what we need and what we really can do without, while benefiting someone else.
That’s a happy New Year’s resolution indeed.