Somehow I ended up with two weeks off work at the beginning of the year. And during those two weeks my children were in school, so it was like the holy grail of awesomeness when you are a mother.
There was no one begging for just one bag of “fruit” snacks for breakfast. No one fighting over a certain spot at the table because it’s the best one, obviously, and the other one, which isn’t all that different, is complete junk. There was no wildness, no bickering, no jumping off the couch or dumping water all over the floor.
It was just me and a quiet house. In other words, complete heaven. I spent that precious time cleaning, or rather like organizing. It’s the first of a new year, when you want everything to be new and clean and, in my case, paired down. We had so much stuff in our house - mountains of old clothes that were there just because I hadn’t taken the time to decide what to do with them. Keep? Toss? Attempt to sell? Also I still had a ton of baby things lying around because we just decided in the past year or so that we were officially done having kids.
So I downloaded a book on tape from the library, grabbed a large cup of coffee, put in my headphones and got to work. I spent the first day cleaning out the worst closet. It’s bigger than our bathrooms and had become a catch-all for everything I didn’t know what to do with. I filled up mountains of bags to donate and a few bags to sell and about three large bags of garbage. I found a box of old, half-used candles that hadn’t been unpacked since we moved into our house six and a half years ago, so I guess that means I should have attempted this task before now.
Now, I am a sentimental person. I hang on to things because of what they mean to me, because of what I was doing when I wore a certain dress twenty years ago, because whatever it is might be useful one day, or my kids might want to have it when they’re older. But the catharsis, the absolute freedom I felt seeing the floor of that closet completely bare was worth getting rid of all of the stuff that has been hanging around. And I did keep some things. I’m still me, regardless of the empty closet. But I was just more discerning about what I allowed myself to keep.
I put my newfound need to purge to good use by cleaning out two more closets, one of which was my craft closet and was overflowing with material and yarn and old boxes that fell on my head whenever I attempted to open the door. And then I made my way to the basement where I’d stored totes full of stuff from my teenage and college years, things that I’d left at my parents’ house that I couldn’t bear to part with but that I also didn’t really want at my own house. I was finally told on no uncertain terms that it was time to pick up my junk and it’s been stored in my basement for the past two years.
And then I hit up a couple of the kitchen cabinets before fizzling out because of exhaustion induced from a daughter who spent hours awake when she was supposed to be sleeping. Three nights in a row. I spent those last few days relaxing and knitting and totally not feeling guilty at all because of the amount of car loads full of our stuff that my husband drove off to be donated.
I was productive, is what I’m saying.
This column originally published in The News-Enterprise on January 28, 2015.