Somewhere in the mountains, the frost is melting. The anticipated warmth will bring a bumper crop of bunnies, chicks and baby deer. My daffodil bulbs are in the ground and I’m awaiting early blooms in the next couple weeks. Soon butterflies and ladybugs will skitter through my backyard. I feel invigorated at the prospect of new beginnings, fresh starts, clean slates. I marvel at the outdoors, ready to burst with new life.
For me though it’s the crowded indoors—specifically my cabinets, closets and storage shelves–that are busting out all over. I fear that one more windbreaker, jacket or muffler hooked onto my entryway coat rack will topple it over like a poorly played Jenga game. The hall closet’s sagging wardrobe pole is a hoodie away from snapping, and there’s nowhere to wedge another forgotten golf cart, weed-whacker or cooler into the backyard shed.
We recently moved and so did many random belongings from the five people who used to live under my roof. Lots of can’t-live-without possessions traversed 90 miles to our new home, found a cozy nook and made themselves comfortable. I hardly noticed how our stuff had expanded. I just scooted, squeezed and crammed a bit more into our finite space. It wasn’t until I broke a glass trying to slide my Best Mom coffee mug into the cupboard that I realized even a Dixie cup won’t fit.
I admire women who seamlessly keep clutter to a minimum. With their family’s blessing and support, they implement organizational plans, strategies and charts. You won’t see these ladies featured on a hoarders TV show. In my campaign to be counted among them, last year I adopted the New One In—Old One Outpolicy. Now, every time I add a blouse or dress to my stash, I eagerly donate a gently worn one to the local women’s shelter or charity.
I’m always on the hunt for other stuff to recycle, too. If I can repurpose one extraneous thing a day, by the end of the year, I can reclaim area currently occupied by 365 dust catchers, neglected doohickeys and underused garments. I keep a carton in the corner of my garage to corral donations. At the moment it holds a couple of cell phone cases, a deep fryer, mismatched Tupperware and two pairs of sneakers. I’m about 47 items behind schedule.
Obviously I’m not the one who’s afraid to jettison outdated possessions. It’s my family who can’t let go. It was nearly impossible to streamline when I was outnumbered four to one (counting my husband, Nick). I would plead, cajol and threaten my quad of fellas in the hopes of igniting their urge to purge. All to no avail. They would shove more into their closets and dresser drawers. It got so bad that my laundry baskets doubled as portable chifforobes.
I attempted financial motivation by introducing the S.T.U. Clothing Exchange Program. To qualify for new Socks, T-shirts and Underwear, the owner had to relinquish a threadbare, holey one of similar design. When they weren’t looking, I’d toss out some of their excess.
My sons have moved out of the family home. Sadly, a lot of their belongings have not. Boxes of mementos, trophies and other memorabilia too precious to be discarded (or to be taken to their homes) live on in my closet shelves, bookcases and corners of the garage.
I understand their point of view though. I hang on to stuff I may never use again, like a dog-eared copy of “The Poky Little Puppy,” or the orange-colored cotton apron my mom sewed in her junior high Home Ec class. Baby teeth, grade school award programs, all-star jackets and a wedding dress are safely tucked inside my hope chest. Clearly I’m onboard with protecting cherished bits and pieces of the past.
Daily, I tiptoe along the delicate line between keepsake and clutter, searching for the outgrown and the no-longer-needed. Today I ‘ll add an alarm clock, six paperbacks, three purses and a dusty fishing pole to the “donate” box. (Nick doesn’t know about the fishing pole.)
Perhaps someday I will master this high wire act, but until then, I’ll keep counting. Only 328 soon-to-be thrift store treasures still to be uncovered.