Saturday, November 30, 2013

Holiday Purge

I must be in productive mode because I am writing.  More than that, however, over the past three days, I've managed to clean out the walk-in closet (our main and meager storage space) and uncover the Christmas decor within.  (That sounds like a self help book: "Uncovering the Christmas Decor Within.")  Last night, I boxed up unnecessary nick-nacks in the family room, making space for my favorite seasonal fru-fru, and redecorated the mantle, but sparsely.  My goal is to keep most of those items boxed after the holidays and see how I like keeping some treasures in storage as opposed to on messy display.

Clutter is the corporeal and metaphorical bane of my existence.  I have all this "stuff," these "things," these beloved trinkets and memorabilia that remind me of different life stages, and forever, I have felt the need to keep them out and visible.  Whenever I've tried to donate some of them, my sentimental side has rebuked me, uttering the miserable words, "You'll miss that" in my impressionable ear.  And so the things stay, though I have developed a love-annoyance relationship with them.  I justify it by saying I've spent so much money on those "things," ridding the house of them would be wasteful.  It's not like they would mean anything to anyone else, and even the thrift store wouldn't get much for them.  Asian dragon masks, for example...unique but not hugely popular in the deal-seeking world, and certainly not useful.

Thursday, however, Thanksgiving Day, my husband's sister, a smart and beautiful lady with an extraordinary home she and her husband work tirelessly on, was talking about boxing things up and saving them for the kids.  Hers have moved out.  Ours have not, but it occurred to me that they are old enough for me to start a nest egg of articles for them which they will have the opportunity to accept or reject when they are ready.  I needn't put every framed photo of them on the wall, nor must I use my desk to archive their elementary school achievements. I have scrapbooks and hard drives and at least two chests full of such things, so there is no reason why I can't pack up a few and (try) to get them in the now clean closet.  While the kids might not want the dragon masks, they probably will want some of their larger baby photos, and it's not like I don't have plenty left in our spare room, a subject I will leave for another day.

The best side effect of this endeavor has been discovering that which I can easily part with--my attempts at painting which are immortalized on my other blog and don't need to take up floor or wall space, a cracked black vase, a ceramic Egyptian cat whose head fell off when I tried to dust it.  And dusting.  This adventure has taken me deep into dangerous dust-bunny territory.  I'm still feeling filthy this morning, but I am satisfied knowing the dust is now in a place where it can be vacuumed.  It is becoming less of a threat to our sinuses and lungs, and the flies the spiders murdered over the summer can pass into their next incarnation, hopefully one that will not invade our house.

From these descriptions, you might get the impression our home is a hazard and deserves a thorough inspection by the Health Department.  It's actually not unsanitary--we do clean, and we have a professional cleaner come in once per month to make sure we're not losing value on the house.  It's just that clutter hoards dust the way I hoard memories, and I'm having to understand that either or must go.  Since I can access my memories in other ways and refuse to give those up, it's the clutter that needs to be evicted.  While I can't part with it all, saving some for those I love who will not have many things themselves (and hence, to whom it won't be clutter), makes the separation more manageable.  I do fear, though, that our one large closet won't be big enough, so I'm thinking of creative ways to store.

When I look around, besides memories, what I see is excess, part of a lifestyle our country encourages.  While we don't have the amount of excess some others do, we have enough to say we've been incredibly blessed and that it's time to plan for the future.  We frequently give away our unused items, the ones that don't hold any emotional attachments, so in that way, we share already.  But thinking of our children as near-adults is a new (and somewhat nerve wracking) phase in our lives. 

I've no desire to become an empty-nester.  Yet, I do look forward to less laundry, finally finding the eight pairs of scissors that disappeared over the years and the return of the tape to its rightful place.  It could be the sea change will be more noticeable when the children move out, but then, it might also happen as they mature.  That second possibility is most likely not probability, though, so for now, the best I can do is reduce and continue offering gratitude for all we've been given, viewing clutter as evidence of wealth, which is what it really is.  But it's time to save some of that wealth, and if, when the time comes, these things are viewed as annoyances instead, accept that and remember if I've lived with the nick-nacks staying in the closet, I probably can live without them entirely.       
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