I have just begun the dreaded Purge-O-Rama of 2010 in my house. Somehow, probably in the dead of night when we are doing unnecessary and unproductive things like “sleeping”, the stuff goes through a series of higher math calculations and algebraic equations and silently multiplies.
It starts out innocently enough: a kitchen gadget here, a new book there, a saved scribbled-on menu from a special (weekly) night out at Pizza World. Before you know it, the clutter has morphed into 200 bushels of Crucial Papers And Documents, 8000 Lego pieces, 17 incomplete puzzles, 450 broken crayons and dried out markers, 58 back-issues of Elle Decor magazine, all accompanied by 5 trillion shoes of various colors and sizes (none of them mine).
If you are a personal friend of mine and have actually set foot in my house, I know you are thinking, MOV, you’re crazy! Your house always looks nice, and everything is put away.
Ha ha, my friend, this is where you would be wrong. My house might seem nice and neat, “presentable” even. But, in the 30 minutes prior to your visit, I zoomed around like a fictitious cartoon character (that would be Road Runner) shoving things in drawers and closets, right on top of the things that were shoved there the last time a friend dared to accept my (empty) invitation to come over for coffee. Don’t let the neighbors see that I am a normal person with normal junk everywhere! NO NO NO! Keep up the façade that my house always looks like an ad for Pottery Barn!
What this all means is: today, these same drawers and closets are threatening to crash through the floor to the basement, what with all the extra weight that has been repeatedly crammed inside them. I imagine being the one in the basement when one too many tote bags or board games or soccer balls or baseball hats comes crashing through a giant hole above my head and lands in an angry heap of dust and drywall next to the once pristine pile of unfolded laundry. Why oh why did we buy the 10th anniversary memorial ping-pong tournament umbrella? Did we really need it? My internal time clock of shame has been activated: I must purge.
The Husband scolds, “Why are you bothering to do this? First of all, it's a big waste of time because it will only get messed up again. Second, we might need some of these things you are getting rid of! Third, the items you are tossing were originally very expensive.”
I mention this tidbit of conversation to my dear friend Sammi while I nibble at my panne cotta at the Ritual Procrastination Lunch Out. She looks at me in disbelief and says sternly, “MOV, you have just broken the Cardinal Rule Of Purging: never, oh, never involve any husbands or children. The purge must be family member-free. Otherwise, they will all want to have to have their ‘say’ in the matter and you will not get anything accomplished.”
This is why Sammi is my friend—she doesn’t just say what I want her to say; no. Instead, she is not afraid to dole out tough love where needed.
Obviously, Sammi was right. I change my tack. “Beloved,” I say to The Husband right before he leaves for work, “I'm going to take what you said into consideration. I will be very careful about getting rid of anything. Instead, I will just organize it all.” I smile as I think, organize it into the trashcan.
Sadly, the Purge-O-Rama does not go exactly as anticipated. In a fit of nostalgia, I find myself merely relocating the offending clutter to another place for further inspection and analysis at a later date (there's that date on my calendar: "Never"). Ack! THIS WAS NOT IN THE PLAN. Breathe, MOV, breathe. Focus on the task at hand. You can do this. Be ruthless.
All the offending junk in the laundry room? Transferred neatly to the Guest Room. All the extra old sheets and blankets and towels that are still deemed “perfectly good” but I have zero need for? Guest Room. Files I have not looked at in over a decade, books I cannot bear to part with, sweaters that are too itchy? Uh, Guest Room. Random drawings and art projects, photos of people I don’t know, electrical and computer cords and instruction manuals that go to appliances WE NO LONGER OWN?? Guest Room!
The Guest Room is mad. The Guest Room glares at me.
“How dare you,” Guest Room begins, “why am I the repository for old junk and clutter that no one wants? You know damn well that you should just donate this crap or throw it away or at the very least shove it in the Garage,”
“Hey!” interrupts Garage, “I heard that!” (Who knew Garage had such good ears?)
Guest Room ignores Garage like I ignore my 4-year-old when I am talking on the phone. “As I was saying, I am not happy with this latest development. No self-respecting guest would want to stay here! Is this some passive-aggressive thing you’re doing so guests WON’T want to visit us?!”
I don’t have time to psychoanalyze my motives for storing items in Guest Room. “Look, Guest Room,” I begin patiently in a calm tone, like I do with my mailman when I beg him not to drop all my mail and my latest magazines from my subscription to Important Home Decor Magazines in a messy pile on my front porch floor and instead use the designated MAILBOX, “look, this is just a temporary arrangement. You know I don’t want to store these things here forever. How about being a little understanding, huh?”
Guest Room is having none of it. “I didn’t complain when you put the chair-everyone-hates in here. I was accommodating. I didn’t even say anything when you didn’t bother to paint, nor when you placed the tattered hand-me-down rug in here. I realize that I am somewhat of a forgotten step-child in this arrangement. But you know what? I've had enough! I must draw the line somewhere!” Guest Room is in a huff.
As a parent of two small boys, I am trained in how to handle these types of tantrums. I set a large box of broken Christmas ornaments on the bed in the Guest Room, walk out, and shut the door.