Thursday, January 20, 2011

Some people find peace at a church service or on top of a mountain. I find it in my walk in closet.

For a clutter phobe such as myself there is no better feeling than that of stuffing unwanted and unused household items and clothes into heavy garbage bags. It is so freeing to take all of those fashion mistakes and odd decorating ideas and just let go. I don't even think about it. I don't hold an item in my hands, deliberating it's fate. I don't play the "what if" game. What if this comes back in style? What if I lose another 20 pounds? What if I gain back those 30 pounds I recently lost? What if my son decides he really does like to color, after I have donated all of these untouched coloring books? What if my husband suddenly takes me out somewhere fancy and I need these shoes I have only worn once? Seriously?

If I lose more weight, or should I say when I lose more weight, those pants will still be ugly. If my son suddenly asks for a coloring book he can get a new one. And I will never wear those shoes again, no matter where my loving husband takes me. They are too high and walking in them was too painful. Period. So everything went, straight from the closet to the bag to the donation center.

Now when I walk into our large walk in closet I can actually see my clothes. I can see my shoes. I can see my purses. I can see the hamper and actually open it to hide away our dirty clothes. A while back the overhead light in this closet needed replaced and all we had were 100 watt bulbs. Now you could land a plane in our closet, which I find totally awesome. I walk into this bright, glowing, clean space and I actually feel peaceful. Weird. Some people find peace at a church service or on top of a mountain. I find it in my walk in closet.

Last month, before our annual Christmas party I cleaned out my son's closet. I knew other little ones would be playing in his room and I didn't want any of them to share with their parents how messy "that boy's closet was!". I also didn't want anyone getting hurt when they slid open the door and something heavy feel from the shelf above them and landed on their precious little heads.

A few weeks ago, before all the craziness with my mom's illness and our second adoption, I cleaned my home office. While I didn't touch my husband's desk I did completely clean out and organize my work space as well as the rest of the room. I work from home and so managing the household, the writing, the career, the child, my mother's affairs and the second adoption tend to take up a lot of space, both mentally and physically. And the physical space in the office was starting to make me hyperventilate every time I entered the room.

Earlier this week I was on a conference call for work and decided to look for something I swore I had stored in one of our kitchen cupboards. The cabinet above the laptop on the kitchen counter holds papers and photos and craft supplies and thank you cards and sunscreen and band aids - it is somewhat a cross between the bathroom medicine cabinet, the diaper bag and an extension of my office. At various times this past year one of us has opened this cupboard only to find ourselves dodging whatever item has flung itself out and towards our heads, often landing on the laptop, which is now missing a few keys, one of them the "o" key. This frequently makes it difficult to sign in to my email, which requires hitting the "o" key 6 times between my screen name and password. So when I absent mindedly opened this cabinet while on the call the other day and a journal flew out, hit me in shoulder, bounced off the laptop and landed on the floor, hitting my bare toes on the way down, I knew it was time to take action. Twenty minutes later that cupboard was no longer a menace and using the kitchen laptop no longer required a hard hat.

My husband and I have started cleaning out the back bedroom, which will be the new baby's room. My son's old nursery furniture was moved to this room when his big boy bed came home, but otherwise this room has really only been used to store luggage and misc items. It is a small room and thankfully there is not that much in there, but it will still take us a while to cart the luggage to the basement and sort through the odd belongings in the drawers of the dresser. I cannot even tell you the last time one of us opened one of those drawers. Plus, I think we still have a suitcase from China in that room, unpacked. From China. From our trip. In 2008.

I don't know where this clutter phobia came from. My sister seems to be the same way, although not as extreme as I am. Growing up our small cape cod home was comfortable, clean. We both had large bedrooms that would, on occasion, get completely out of control. We had a father who would threaten to bring a shovel up to our rooms and dig a path to the trash can  for us, at which point we would pick everything up and bask in the glory of a shiny clean room for a few months until everything feel apart again. After my father died my mother started to collect things. She started to fill every surface of her home with papers and junk, really. Nothing she truly needed but everything she couldn't live without. Every bed was covered with fabric and yarn and clothes. The kitchen table was covered with medicines and cook books and plants. The sun room filled with furniture and lamps. The sofa covered with magazines and newspaper clippings. And by every chair sat my mother's "tell"- her little note pads in which she recorded every pill she took and every list she made, along with dozens of ball point pens.

Looking back it is hard to tell exactly why my mother did these things. Maybe she was developing Alzheimer's Disease much earlier than my sister and I caught on to it. Maybe she just was always like this and my father kept it in check, forcing her to let go and keeping our home clutter free. Whatever the reason, I know one thing. I do not want my children to sort through my home after I am gone and find drawer after drawer of empty vitamin bottles and bars of soap. I want to bring my boys up in a home that is clean and comfortable. Where they can eat on the couch and play in dining room. Where they can have books in the living room and monster trucks in the bathtub and where we are organized and peaceful. I want a home where we know what we are having for dinner, and what ingredients go into that dinner. Where we all know where our shoes are and where to find an empty jar when we want to inspect a bug more closely. And I want to be the one who keeps the order in our home, so that all that other stuff is simple.

In a month or two the baby's room will be cleaned out and ready to go. By then we will have tackled three closets, one scary cupboard, two rooms, and one suitcase from China. After that, who knows. Since I already tackled both the hall closets last year I am not sure what will fall to my de-cluttering bug next. All I know is that 2011 will be the year of less clutter and more peace. Simple, right?

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