Sunday, January 22, 2012


This January I decided as easily as I choose whether or not to have toast vs. cereal for breakfast each morning, that all the clutter in my house needs to be gone. My mother-in-law once told me, as I apologized for a messy closet in the room she was staying in, "You'll organize it when you are ready." And, she was right.

I have spent at least one day a weekend since January working my way through all of the filled-up spaces in my house. I have cleaned and purged the pantry, the master closet, the sun room and the garage. The pantry was an 8-hour job that required my husband's help. "I thought this would take two hours!" he complained as we moved into hour 4. I have sent at least 40 pairs of shoes-once-perfect onto other lives. I have thrown out all mateless socks and organized all the remaining pairs by color. Out with the old and cluttery and in with the peacefully organized, I think to myself as I move from one space or box to another.

At first it was difficult. Sifting through a box full and overflowing with old bills, flyers from Macy's and J. Jill cataogues I'd find pictures that distracted me and took me completely off task. "You're going to bash right into back of my Impala!" I could hear mom mother yell out the front door as I zipped around the corner and pulled up to a quick stop in the driveway in my beloved yellow VDub Bug. This 40 year old memory made me smile. I also found pieces of my mother's writing and stopped to cry as I read through the long lists she had written, "Pain in my left arm today. Scared. Will call doc." "I am so nervous today. Feel like I'm not in my body. Must get sleep."

Over time the organizing and spelunking has become more of an adventure. Today as I sat next to a box the size of Montana, I wondered if I'd find any money. Over the course of 3 hours in which I moved and shifted, sorted and stacked, I found the missing elevator code information; insurance papers for our kitchen stove, refrigerator and dishwasher; a collection of e-mails I sent out in preparation for a book I imagine writing about kids teachers don't like; a journal I wrote during the first visit back to Idaho after my mom died, and a type-written description of some crazy dream I once had, " I drempt I was in a hotel room and baby Dobermans were trying to get in!" Lordy. And then, way down at the bottom of this box, under the weight of several pounds of mostly unimportant sheets and unopened envelopes I found a tidy little manila file with 4 gift certificates from our wedding (4 1/2 years ago) tucked inside!

My current plan is to organize all the spaces in my life and to keep them that way. I will neatly keep what I want, need, or just don't want to let go. Everything else leaves our home. I have two big boxes left and my dresser-drawers to purge. There are are also a couple of smaller cupboards to clear out. I'm thinking this may be a yearly January ritual for me from now on!

Bags and bags of old bills, receipts, magazines and LLBean catalogues, along with scribbles on scrap paper and 1/2 filled notebooks, have now made their way to the dump. Only the neat and organized will survive.

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