uncluttering life

At my book club the other night (the one where we drink wine while holding the book, sometimes making vague comments on the artistic renditions of the cover), a friend told her a story. She mentioned that while she’d been home in Newfoundland, she was cleaning her 70 year old mother’s closets and discovered an old, papier-mâché box full of calendars from the seventies and eighties. Calendars. Decades old. I laughed, thinking, seriously.

My mother has a cold room. It’s full of large, out-of-use Tupperwares from when we were kids that sit under inches of dust and haven’t seen the sun in years, keeping in company dozens of glass jars and bottles, long emptied of their relishes and jams. Broken down coffee makers that worked their very hardest for dozens of Duffys sit at the back of the shelf, only to circuit a short and one hard-working day, to have made their last lonely cup. Then, they retire to the cold room.

I don’t know it is about the spring that sparks a fury of needing to get your year’s collection of items – important and non-important – categorized, thrown out, put in a box, or given away. But the movement is there, and we are definitely a generation of unclutter, or at least the best of us thinks we are. Recycling bins get usually filled once a year with old toys and the clothes make their ways to swaps with the girls over hummus and tea.

I want to think i’m not a clutter bugs, but the truth is, i probably am. Piles upon piles of newsletters climb over the kitchen counters, gathering with them water bills and file folders and ribbons and scotch tape, and migrating somehow to the stairs, where they wait patiently to go to Mom’s office to be sorted and told where to go.

I guess the problem is it’s just so easy to accumulate JUNK: first you’re single, free and easy, living in the wind, then you’re married, which comes with it’s own wonderful set of parameters. RESULT: You rapidly double your possessions. I get his left-handed guitar, and he gets my old typewriters. It’s a trade off.

Then, you add a child. And POUF! Your free and easy lifestyle is the only thing that’s in the wind. You’re left with the treasured art of kindergarten, birthday cards where your child’s 4 year old friends write, “i love you,” their first blankie, then trikes, bikes and wheelbarrows. Their first medal for soccer or skiing adorns their bedpost.

And then come the animals. I actually have a laundry basket upstairs – that was full of clean laundry – which my cat Switch started sleeping in, and for a week i couldn’t bear to put the laundry away, because at at first i thought it was cute. But little by little, i needed the sheets and dish clothes under the large, orange beach towel on top, which Switchy had somehow claimed. Now it’s been a month, and she refuses to sleep anyway else.

Last Christmas eve, my father dropped off an old two keyboard organ, with all the bells and whistle, that he bought for us in the early eighties. The thing was practically the first synthesizer ever invented. He claimed it was for Leila, for Christmas. Thanks, Dad.

I give up. I should just sign myself up for one of those hoarder shows and get it over with. Unless I decide, right here and now, that I WILL NOT BE A COLLECTOR OF JUNK ANYMORE.


A valiant attempt to see junk to the door, i will make. A closet of family reunion cookbooks and games, i will give away. A closet or two with unnaturally high piles of laundry, i will vacate.

Next thing you know, I’ll have a broken coffee maker or some old Tupperwares stashed away. I’m sure I’ve got an old calendar or two around here – and i know i’ve got papier-mâché. And maybe that won’t be so bad after all.

Do all girls turn into their mothers?

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  1. we start our own piles and closets of “treasures”. Funny you should write about this- the past week I have been staring at my bookshelves wondering why on earth I have all those books and why in this day and age do I need 3 dictionaries. And what in blazes am I going to do with the boxes and boxes of material and craft items- I haven’t sewn or crafted since my daughter was born- she’s 18 now.
    We start our own piles; and then yes, spring comes and its time to sort and move them around and just perhaps let go of some of these treasures.

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