Cleaning the Closet

Wallpaper - Hyacinth, pattern #480 - 1915-17
Wallpaper – Hyacinth, pattern #480 – 1915-17 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been decluttering my apartment — but I’d rather be in Paris.

I hired a home organizer, the Clutter Whisperer, and bribed a girlfriend, Barbara, to help me declutter my stuff. My brother and sis-in-law helped a lot too.

“The 1970s called, Mary Beth,” my bro Brendan said. “They want their chair back.”

I cannot do this kind of spelunking alone. Or without some humor, apparently.

Cynthia, a.k.a., the Clutter Whisperer, whom I found years ago on Craigslist, gave me some advice: purge your books and your clothes. I like her nonjudgmental approach. She said I’d do well in a big old farmhouse rather than a NYC apartment. That’s nice. I’d do better with a backpack in Europe too.

In my defense, as I tell my mother, “City apartments don’t have garages, basements, attics, big closets, cars, or home offices.” I know. I know. We have museums and parks. And I’d take them any day. I like experiences way better than things. But I have to get rid of the things so that I can have the experiences.

I thought when I left my job a year ago, I’d stay on top of my family’s stuff. A family of five just accumulates. And with Chris’s Parkinson’s, he’s a bit slower to help or initiate decluttering.

Also, I’ve been way more interested in my biz and my freelancing work than in home-centered activities.

I have excellent taste. I’m good at noticing (and sometimes making) beautiful things, I’m just not good at showcasing them or bidding them farewell (as in kids’ art projects!)

When working on my closet Friday, Barbara offered me this quote from William Morris, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful and believe to be beautiful.” Tall order. As I cleaned the closet, I found:

  • a journal from my raft trip on the Rio Grande in 1992
  • Hi8 tapes from the kids as toddlers
  • an orange tank top with the price still affixed (LOVE orange, but often wear the basic NYC black!)

These things were all kind of beautiful and kind of useful. The “kind-ofs” get me. I hang on to “kind of.”

I am asking the kids to join me in the purging of books and clothes.

I feel like contacting Gretchen Rubin. In her book The Happiness Project she talks about the joys of decluttering and, even, gasp, keeping an empty shelf. I’d like to do that. I’d like be a minimalist. I’d like to escape to Europe.

Right now, I’m traveling through my daughters’ seventh grade papers, going back in time. And if I’m lucky, I’ll recycle the past and move into the present, perhaps even experience a park or museum today.