Saturday, August 1, 2015

Clean and clear and under control

I don't know if Neutrogena still has "clean, clear, and under control!" as their creepily chirpy tagline for teenage skin care, but those commercials will probably stay stuck in my brain until I'm dead.  Their products weren't enough to get my adolescent acne under control--or even my adult acne, for that matter.  But when I'm cleaning something I think of the phrase and feel very, very much in control.

I've been going through some of our junk in fits and starts for the past couple of years.  But the last couple of months have felt way too crowded in our apartment.  We had a good start with the practice of getting rid of things during Lent, but my work's been busy and there are other things to do with our time.  Plus, I just wasn't ready to let go of some things.  And then I was.  So ta da!

I read a book about clearing out your physical and emotional junk a couple of weeks ago.  And one of the things I liked was the author's attitude to giving away some of your things.  Some things don't need to be thrown in the trash.  They just need to be enjoyed by someone else.  For whatever reason, a lot of times I feel like I've wasted my stuff if I didn't get a lot of use out of it.  Yarn has to be knitted up.  Clothes have to be worn until they're worn out.  Books have to be read.

Except, um, they don't.

If someone brings yarn to my knitting group, people are delighted to take it.  If I bring yarn to the knitting group, I'm always happy when someone else has a plan for it.  It makes me incredibly happy to give some of Evelyn's outgrown toys and t-shirts to Ellis.  I love finding things on sale at thrift stores.  None of this stuff is going to waste just because the original purchaser couldn't find a satisfying use for it.

So far, I've gone through our bathroom (again), our bedroom (finally, Cody's winter clothes are packed away!), most of the living room, and my office.  So many books are gone.

And it feels really good.

I expected to feel some regret about the books and movies we were donating, but so far it's been fine.  There were gifts that I felt obligated  to hold onto until I realized almost no one comes over.  And if they did, they wouldn't be making sure we held onto a movie they gave us 5 years ago.  There were things we gave back to people we borrowed them from, clothes we were excited to find and wear again, and approximately 5 pounds of dust and an hour of choking and sneezing for every bookcase and dresser we went through.

The dust problem was actually really gross and kind of surprising.  My work is still in a bit of a busy season and I've been a little lax on wiping down surfaces as much as I probably should.  But still.  I eventually faced facts that the vacuum that was old and tired when we inherited almost 9 years ago was just about done for.  So this morning we went out and got a new vacuum.


We're going to be making payments on the Sears card for this for quite a while and I'm going to smile like a crazy person every time we do.  I haven't cleaned our bare floors yet, or filled out the warranty, but it's only been a few hours.  I've vacuumed all the carpet and gone over the door frames and baseboards in the bedrooms, and Cody already had to dump out the cylinder.  Having a clean floor feels just as good, if not better, than clearing out clothes that didn't fit and old syllabi that I've had for over 10 years (whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy, Jennifer?!  You made your family move those papers 5 or 6 times!!!!).

So.  I still need to go through part of the china cabinet.  I cleaned up a lot of it last fall, so it shouldn't be too terrible.  I need to go through the kitchen, and it's been nearly a year since I've done that.  Evelyn doesn't need nearly as many cups with lids as she used to. I'll wait for Cody, though.  And I need to go through Evelyn's room and closet.  I've had a hard time letting go of her clothes and some of her toys.  It's been strange to take things that I thought I'd be using for more of my babies and send them out into the world.  But.  I have to remind myself that I don't actually want any more babies, and I don't want to clutter up that one girl I do have with so much stuff that I can't squeeze new clothes into her closet.  And she's getting new school clothes!  That old stuff needs to get out of her way!

Trooper that she is, Evelyn's been helping us go through our stuff as well.  No really!  She knows that more space on her bookshelves means she can get some more books, or can at least find her puzzles and coloring books more easily. She's also been pretty thrilled with the jewelry I haven't worn since I was a teenager, and she's claiming a lot of picture frames I intended to donate.  One frame I've never really cared for looks pretty great with her new drawing in it. 

So.  2 more areas to clean up, and that's it.  I've already promised Cody that I wouldn't re-do our bedroom until the fall.  And I've already promised myself I won't have to go through the coat closet until later in the year.  By this time next week, I'll have gone through almost every single thing in our home.  We'll have a little more space to play and a lot fewer things to clean and it won't feel like the walls are closing in on me.  Maybe I'll even find the last of the pacifiers and toss them once and for all! 

Fine, probably not.  But it's nice to have goals.

Things I found helpful:
-How Long to Keep Records
-Just about everything ever published in Small Notebook, but especially the posts on simplifying.
-My friend Kelly posting links about minimalism on her Facebook.  She shared something yesterday about a thirty-day challenge by The Minimalists.
-Throwing Out 50 Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life by Gail Blanke.  I checked this out from the library and it gets a little woo in places, but I liked that she emphasized pulling out things and enjoying them.  People like having things.  Not every clean-up session has to be a slash-and-burn affair.  I found a bunch of letters my mom wrote me when I was in college.  I didn't remember getting so many! I was happy to have them in a file with my Mamaw letters and some other things I wanted to keep from my college days.

1 comment:

Vincent Gerrits said...

I agree. Nothing feels more rewarding than seeing a clean floor. That's the most immediate and clearest evidence of a well-organized home, since that is what greets you when you step into a room. I hope you finally achieve that soon.

Vincent Gerrits @ Servpro Industries Inc.