Twenty years is a long time. It’s an especially long time to go without cleaning out your drawers, closets and cubbies; and, that is exactly what I’ve done. Initially my excuse was that I was too busy - the kids were little, I was working, and there was a lot going on. The next excuse was that I was still too busy – the kids were in high school, I was working more, and there was still a lot going on. After that the kids went to college and I was still busy, so all those drawers, closets, nooks, crannies and cubbies stayed cluttered.
Most lately, my excuse for letting what was once clutter turn into chaos has been that I had to work all the time because Mr. Clark was down-sized and the job search wasn’t going well. Now that Mr. Clark is employed again, I am taking a break from overwork and my primary goal is to regain control of my life, one room at a time. It’s a daunting task, but it really is time!
I started with the kitchen, which was a good choice because it was evident there that I had crossed the line from chaos to crazy. The pantry had some items in it with expiration dates in the late ‘80’s. In one of the four junk drawers, I found my cork collection. Why I saved hundreds of wine and champagne corks is beyond me; I think it had to do with a picture of a bulletin board made from corks I saw in a magazine years ago…Good bye cork collection!
The contents of another junk drawer included five rolls of electric tape - all half used, four bales of thin wire – also half used, six boxes of emergency candles – I guess I was expecting quite an emergency, a bunch of new and half-used birthday candles – all out of the box, seven bottles of various types of glue – all too old and hard to use, and several toy Crash Test Dummy heads and bodies – broken and in need of some of that tape, wire and glue. My married, adult children haven’t played with Crash Test Dummies since they were in the third grade, so that tells you how long that drawer had been neglected.
In my desk, I found 10 rolls of scotch tape, some 32-cent stamps, a couple of my son’s school progress reports – from the eighth grade, several menus from restaurants that went out of business in the mid-‘90’s, about 500 loose paper clips and thumb tacks, and a fine collection of warrantee cards and instruction booklets for appliances and tools that have long since died and gone to household heaven…Good Lord! How nutty do I really need to be?
Five large trash bags, four bulging Goodwill bags, two big rolls of shelf paper, and eight drawer organizers later things are looking pretty good in the kitchen. I still have to give everything a thorough cleaning and I may even decide to repaint the walls…It’s just a start, but it feels good to begin to regain control.
During a break in my kitchen rampage, I read an article by a woman who calls herself “the most organized person on Earth.” Deniece Schofield is her name and she writes books and conducts seminars on getting organized. Not surprisingly, she has some pretty good tips:
- Working room by room, put things in four boxes – Trash, Donate, Goes to Another Room and Don’t Know Yet. Put the Don’t Know Yet box in the garage or attic, and if you’ve not opened it six months later, donate or trash the contents. (I’m eliminating the Goes to Another Room box and the Don’t Know Yet box to streamline my process…)
- Store infrequently used objects. The tendency is to leave them in easily accessible spots, which creates clutter. (This means the card table chairs that have been collecting dust in a kitchen corner for two years have to find a new home…)
- Use drawer dividers. (Amen!)
- Find an organizing buddy to help keep you motivated and on track. (“No! You don’t need to keep those beaters, in case the mixer they go to shows up,” says Mr. Clark…)
And last, but by no means least: Eliminate floating bits of paper. This is a big one for me, as I have newspaper clippings, magazine articles, recently and not-so-recently paid bills, notes to myself, letters to write, to-do lists, and who knows what else – in piles everywhere. I even have a closet full of Nordstrom and Macy’s bags – the big ones with the handles – that contain piles of “floating bits of paper” that I have scooped up in an attempt to create space (and look less crazy) before company arrives…Ms. Schofield would be appalled.
I don’t know why I keep all these things. I think it has to do with being a sentimental person who is often worried about impending disaster. It’s as if by keeping things in piles and rarely-opened drawers, I’m keeping memories alive or feeling more prepared. Of course, that’s not the case; it just creates clutter. So, from here on out it’s the Schofield plan for me. After all, it’s never to late to change!
Lorin Sinn-Clark is a columnist for the Barrow Journal. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.