Thursday, August 5, 2010

Cleaning out my Closets

the picture is my 8 year old's bed. note the shoe box lid and the softball mitt... ?

I find shows about hoarding inspirational.

I know, that’s alarming. My husband, a Neatnik par excellence, is appalled that I watch these shows. Granted, our house is cluttered, but we don’t have 57 birdcages or paths carved between boxes or mountains of garbage anywhere. Except in my teen’s room, but that’s another story.

Still, when I see these sad shows about people who are paralyzed by stuff, I feel motivated to clear out the clutter I don’t even know I’ve held on to. While my spouse claims Nothing In This House is His, as soon as I try to purge baby clothes or stuff that the kids owned when they were tiny, or the tattered copy of Raisin in the Sun he had to read as a freshman in high school, Mr. Neatnik turns into Mr. Sentimental. So I have to use my motivation while he’s at work.

Since my last post I have been once again trying to make progress against years of closets being so accommodating to my emotional inability to get rid of some things. I also suspect that in a previous life I must have survived (or not) the Great Depression, I always feel like Things Could Be Useful. Just often enough, they ARE, and this simply enables my mini-hoard.

Back in November/December I dug through old boxes of fabric to find the material I used to make maternity clothes when I was pregnant with my teen & my tween (now maternity clothes are Super Cute, not so much the case in the mid 90s)…and I used the dang floral and knit stuff to make American Girl doll clothes for a Christmas gift for my girls. Voila! A Rationale for my Hoard!

Still, I really, really like things to be clean and neat, and my brain functions MUCH better when the clutter levels are low. But just because I’m motivated doesn’t mean my KIDS , aka Heaps, Spreader, and Squirrel, are all equally on board with my Tidy Plan.

I find, too, that cleaning out closets really is a trip down Memory Lane. Some memories are happy ones, like finding my teen’s first Yankees outfit (in newborn size…it is so adorable), or discovering a ticket stub from a long ago trip to Broadway. Unfortunately, there are a lot of hard things hidden in closets. Maybe that’s why one famous rapper refers so darkly to cleaning out his closet. He wasn’t talking about cute outfits and ticket stubs, but the scary, hurtful things that we bury.

I hold onto stuff. I know it. Sometimes by holding on to THINGS, it helps keep pain at bay. But healing requires facing things, too. To quote a song my daughter is blasting in my house at this very moment, This is Where the Healing Begins…where light meets the dark.

Recently life has kind of raised the Joystick of Smite at our family again. I think every family has this experience at some point, we just kind of specialize in long drawn out smite. Either way, I now have a tv style deadline to de-clutter. I finally got the little baby clothes down to one sentimental bin (although there might be one more in the attic. Oops), I organized all the gift wrap, managed to fit the baskets for next year’s big fundraiser INTO a closet (instead of all over the basement & guest room), cleaned out my sock drawer, aka The World’s Most Futile Task If you Have a Hungry Laundry Room that Samples Socks…I have been busy, when I’m not wandering vacantly around my house pondering smite.

The point of all of this is that I finally at least attempted to de-clutter The Box. Probably every family has some equivalent of The Box. Even here it’s really a white basket, one see-through file thingie, a few books, and 3 magazine holders. The Box is like mixed martial arts. Some of it’s cool to see, but there’s a punch or a hidden kick that’s gonna come when you least expect it.

Honestly, the magazine holders only got a cursory glance. Some of them I had organized a few years ago, filing one failed plan after another in manila folders, bringing at least paper order to emotional and physical chaos. There are a few old calendars which I didn’t open. I know what’s inside, the daily record of a particular season of our Long Smite. The medical info in those magazine files stay.
The slant board, Braille work book, and foam Braille cell got put in the top of a closet. I don’t need those now (although the slant board would likely still be helpful), but I NEED to save them. Those are evidence of a small miracle, of eyes that literally were nearly blind and now see. Not perfectly, but they see. The Braille stuff stays.

Facing the white basket with the see-through file thingie and the photo box was bittersweet. In this box are the emotional records of our first active go-around in the Long Smite. Cards upon cards…scribbled pictures on hospital letterhead…notes from a pre-Make a Wish shopping trip…a Braille Mother’s Day Card…a picture of SpongeBob for a friend who succumbed to the same smite we fight, as well as elaborately stickered posters that same friend made for my daughter. A manila envelope full of addresses for thank yous I never wrote, to people all over the world who sent hats to my little girl.

A week ago, when we returned to the hospital, we brought a bag full of unworn hats from that time to donate to the kids in the clinic. Another bag waits for winter.

Admittedly, I did have the thought that perhaps bringing unused hats on a scan day was a bad idea.

Still, the Box holds more than cards and pictures. There’s pain in the Box, for sure, but there’s so much love. Love from people we didn’t know, love from friends we only know because we share the same pain, love from family and acquaintances, love from people who just happened to hear about that kid who needed encouragement and thought they should do a good thing.

When I look in the Box, I see the goodness of people that sometimes is so hidden in modern society, in berserko style Jersey traffic, in customer service calls gone awry. The Box holds goodness and love.

My child wants to look through the Box again. Hopefully in looking there SHE can draw the strength she needs for whatever lies ahead. Again to quote that loud song, “grace collides with the dark inside”…the Box does have grace within. I truly hope this IS where the healing begins. The Box stays.

I guess I’ll stick to purging t-shirts and working through the multitude of scrunchies in my girls’ room, and leave the Box alone. Maybe my spouse will finally let me get rid of that copy of Raisin in the Sun…


  1. is there a "like" button on here?

  2. So real, so true. There's something so cathartic about letting go,,, and so tragic about letting go of the wrong things. So glad you have a box of love to help thru hard days and enlighten better ones.... Love reading your blog

  3. I have come to believe that the best part of facebook is seeing the postings for your blog....

    I have a silent hoarder of a husband too.... he would never admit it, but he is through and through. His favorite quote is "Just put it in the attic"... Thank you for the inspiration...