Last Wednesday I went to Tyler for a couple of appointments that ended around noon, and afterward I drove to my friend Jill’s house to mooch some lunch. As we built our salads, she asked about George’s progress on his PhD, which led to her asking what comes next after graduation, which led to my mentioning there’s always the possibility he would take a teaching position that would require our moving. Then I told her I can’t imagine trying to pack our house.
We’ve lived here for fifteen years. And for fifteen years I’ve been saying, “I may need this someday,” while stashing various items in drawers, on shelves, in closets, under beds. Sure, I’ve gone through my clothes and given some to Goodwill a few times, and George has cleaned out the attic once or twice. But still. We’ve more than maxed out the junk-o-meter, and lately I’ve been thinking–even if we don’t move–I really need to systematically purge this house of dead weight.
Jill is one of my most organized friends. Not only does she store all her possessions and paperwork in tidy containers or labeled files, she makes a habit of regularly going through drawers and cabinets, pulling out items she doesn’t use, and sorting them for proper disposal. She also has a great sense of what will sell, what is worth donating, and what should be tossed in the trash. She likes doing it, and she admitted as much again last Wednesday when I moaned about my mess. So I said, “Jill, if you’ll come to my house and help me declutter, you can have anything you want that I’m not going to keep. You can sell it on eBay or in a garage sale or keep it for yourself.”
“Okay,” she said, consulting her calendar. “How about next Monday?”
Yesterday morning around 10:00 Jill arrived on my doorstep. In anticipation of her coming I’d already spent 6-8 hours Friday and Saturday going through my closet, drawers, and bathroom cabinets. (To be honest, I was too embarrassed to let her see my really personal clutter.) She inspected my work and nodded her approval, offering only a couple of gentle suggestions regarding the bedroom “decor.” Not a lot I can do about that right now, though. When Luke was home for the summer, George moved his fancy microscope, research supplies, and a vast array of vials containing preserved earthworms from Luke’s room into ours. Let’s just say, I’m not expecting a call from House Beautiful requesting photos for their master bedroom edition.
Jill and I decided to start with the den/Jacob’s room. You know, it’s really amazing how much stuff you can cram into a closet and a few cabinets. When you haul it out into the middle of the floor it looks like a mountain. We don’t have a linen closet in this house, so the den closet shelf is one of two places where I’ve stashed sheets and towels. For years. Many years. There were ancient bathmats and toilet seat covers–stiff and rusty. A set of yellow twin sheets I bought for my college dorm room, still in the package. (I graduated from college in 1980.) Jill stared at me in disbelief. “I won’t tell anyone,” she said. The shelf was packed, wall to wall and three feet high. After going through the mound, I kept only one blanket and one bedspread and tossed the rest. (In my feeble defense, the newer linens are on a closet shelf in Luke’s room. Wall to wall and three feet high. But mostly usable.)
We worked all day tackling the den and kitchen. By late evening we’d heaped ten or so large black trash bags and several boxes by the curb for the garbage collectors. Jill collapsed the back two seats of her Ford Expedition, and we filled the entire back with items we delivered to Goodwill. AND Jill took home three or four large kitchen trash bags of clothing, a bread machine, and a shoe rack.
And that was just two rooms (plus my clothes). But it was probably the two worst ones. If you don’t count the attic. And Jacob’s old room upstairs.
So, yeah. Now I’m committed. (Jill probably thinks I should be committed–to a rehab facility for recovering pack rats.) I’m determined to attack every room, and I’m hereby making myself accountable to you. One day each week will be designated as declutter day. If I don’t report back, ask me. Please. I’m way too good at excuses when I only have to answer to myself.
In closing, let me just say that I highly recommend purging. I feel so much lighter already! In fact, I should probably celebrate. Think I’ll go declutter the pantry a tad, if you know what I mean. Jill got some good stuff, but I still have the chocolate.