Saturday, July 9, 2011

Clean Sweep

It's rather funny how people can walk past the same messy sections of their house each day and then suddenly one day we JUST CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE!!. Just like that, we have to clean up the mess we've long ignored. That's what happened to me today. With everyone in the family gone, to friends' houses or to their summer jobs, suddenly the two neglected baskets of clothes needing folding were being folded. The clutter on the so-called puzzle table (which hasn't hosted a puzzle for months) was sorted through and put away. The three bins in the mudroom holding pens, markers, papers, and notebooks, and other various school-related items, were emptied. I tore through the fridge, cleaning out food containers and checking expiration dates. I even reorganized my deck's furniture. Then ironically, I sat down to give myself a break and turning on the tv, I came upon the show "Hoarders".

It's not a series I enjoy watching, nor do I usually take in more than five minutes of an episode when I do happen upon it. I find it sad to watch those who suffer from that condition. Tonight's episode for example featured a Mom, now in her 60's or 70's, who became a hoarder after losing her family's photo albums and her children's baby books in a fire 30 years ago. The tragedy of the fire compounded with the loss of sentimental possessions seems to have been the catalyst for this poor woman's malady. As the camera crews uncovered the horror of her living conditions, the general public, myself included today, were there to watch in disbelief that the woman would fight with a therapist to hold on to a broken toilet seat or a box of light bulbs bought by the woman decades earlier.

Years ago, folks less troubled but whose clutter had gotten out of control, were featured on television shows such as TLC's "Clean Sweep", where the host would cart in an organizational expert and a team of designers to help a family reclaim a room now in disarray. To see the transformation of both the physical space and the family's attachment to items they no longer used but which were sentimental and therefore difficult to abandon, required only an hour of the viewer's time. Loving interior decorating and creative transformations, I enjoyed the show and it taught me how to quickly go through a drawer or a closet by separating the items into three piles, "Keep, Sell, or Trash". Although in my case, the "Sell" pile usually is donated to Goodwill.

When you are a child of two children of the Great Depression like I am, there's a fine line between honoring the idea of making things last and learning to let go of material items. I cannot deny that I still have some beloved unused but sentimental items that are simply taking up space in my hope chest or in other parts of my house--particular clothes from my childrens' toddler years, doll clothes made for my dolls by my Nana, even a few sentimental tee-shirts from my childhood. My children will quickly attest to the fact that there are some toys and books of theirs that I would have a harder time letting go of than they would. But I make regular donations of clothing, books, and other household items each season and I like clean, streamlined interiors, although I do prefer my house to be comfortable and cozy looking. I'm by no means a neat freak. I am not bothered by the fact that magazines are on the end tables and that books are stacked five high on my nightstand. I don't mind that there are several Wii remotes on the back of the couch or a few spare batteries tucked onto the edge of a bookshelf. I don't mind birthday cards set in the dining room window or the kids' pottery on my bedroom bureau. But I do think it's time to junk that bulky desktop computer that no one uses yet which sits on an used desk in my dining room, and I am ready to find a new home for the big box of wooden Brio train tracks that is taking up space on the bottom of the family room's bookshelf. I might even suggest it's time to throw away the construction paper chain link record of books read by each family member since I don't know when that circles the edges of the family room. It's time.

But once those items are taken care of, I'm pulling out another puzzle to put on the puzzle table. I know once I get it started, everyone will join in to complete it. That's what I wish those poor people who hoard could bring themselves to understand, that when you clear out clutter, letting go of the old, worn out, or stale, there's suddenly room for what is fresh and new, fun and life-affirming.

Now if only I could tackle the cellar. Maybe next week. It's time to reclaim that space too. A ping pong table and foosball awaits us there.

1 comment:

  1. i have a really hard time letting go of things. I have a draw filled to the brim with old birthday cards and things because some of them are from my great grandmother and grandfather. I have a lot of their things from when they passed and I have a hard time throwing out things I might be attached too.