Spring Cleaning is such a great ritual. The first signs of warm weather always get me thinking about it. Windows open, rugs hanging on a clothesline, corners scrubbed with a toothbrush. I feel so Laura Ingalls-y after I’ve washed and scrubbed every corner of the house.
But let’s be clear—keeping a clean house has very little to do with organization. My house is clean. I promise. But there is stuff. So much stuff.
In my line of work, I see the clutter issue every day. It haunts me. Anyone who does not move every five years is in danger of succumbing.
Over the years, things get tucked into drawers, stacked on bookcases and packed into the back of closets. When my daughter left for college a few years ago, we unpacked her closet, and it was like adding water to one of those little tiny sponge animals we bought for bath time when she was little. I have no idea how that much stuff was crammed into such a small space.
I want to organize my stuff. Really I do. But as far as I’m concerned, all those lists from Real Simple are easily filed in an folder, but rarely executed, and not really all that simple.
Because no matter my great intentions, somehow the process always takes a detour. I’ve learned to start with small goals. One room at a time. Three piles: keep, throw away, and give away. And it starts with the first drawer. Which, in addition to socks and t-shirts, I find contains Sunday School crafts from my kids and a collection of ID cards with an amazing range of photos of the kids. Dang they were all so cute…I can’t throw those away. I mean, my husband hung on to one of his ID cards, and now I don’t know what to do with that either. But it sure is cute.
Oh, wait, back to reality and sorting. In addition to “keep—throw away—give away,” I decideed to add another pile, “not sure, ask the kids”.
It’s this way no matter what room of the house I try to conquer.
I’m a fairly organized person by nature, but this kids’ stuff trumps me. Not the hand-me-downs I’ve been recycling for two decades. It’s all the miscellaneous things. ID cards. Collections. Awards. Science projects. Attempting to sort through their stuff and determine what will be valuable someday is an exercise in futility. I mean, what if my son becomes famous some day so the cast from the unfortunate incident when he was 18 months is worth a million dollars? Okay, unlikely, but still, it’s in perfect condition.
My kids have grown up in an era when they received an award for anything they did. Certificates, ribbons, trophies, medals. I’ve tried suggesting they keep the important ones, but let me tell you; they are all important. Especially the cross-country-runner trophy I accidentally dropped and the head fell off. That one was super important.
I have a nature lover, who finds things wherever we go. Seashells. Horseshoes. Owl pellets. Possum teeth.
The craft queen has her stuff, too. Glitter. Yarn. Paints.
And then there are all those Beanie Babies! Weren’t they supposed to fund the kids’ education? Maybe if I hang on just a little longer, I can fund my retirement. Meanwhile, I’ll try to keep the dog from destroying them.
In our mudroom, one of my children is currently brewing mead for his Literature professor. He’s hoping for extra credit. I’m hoping it doesn’t explode. Either way, there’s really no place to put it. Except in the way.
I’ve pretty much determined there isn’t really a system for getting all this stuff under control. De-cluttering my house will have to wait until the nest is empty. For now, I’m just trying to keep the piles under control…and maybe figure out what to do with the possum teeth.