How I cleaned my closets and found myself
My spring cleaning, such as it is, has changed over the years. As I tackle closets and files, I become ruthless. Each item I get rid of gives me a sense of freedom. And self.
There was a time when spring cleaning meant moving everything, cleaning, and then putting everything—everything—back. I had all the clothes I’d bought over the years. Some I hated and never wore. Many were just too small. I figured I might drop 20 pounds one day, so I hung on to slacks I couldn’t begin to squeeze into.
What was really incredible, however, was the amount of other stuff I had accumulated: knitting needles and yarn even though I hadn’t picked them up in years. Crochet hooks even though I’d never crocheted. A piano. Canning equipment. If the day ever came when I felt like learning to play the piano or putting up a harvest of vegetables, I’d be ready!
Sometimes I avoided closets. They were reminders of goals I’d set and hadn’t begun to reach--of dresses I wasn’t sewing, sweaters I wasn’t knitting. I began to realize that perhaps one reason I didn’t knit anymore was that I designed and made quilts. And I didn’t can vegetables because I was out watching birds or writing a story. As I came to accept who I was, I also came to accept who I wasn’t.
That spring years ago, my cleaning became a purge. I called a friend who’d always wanted a piano. “Your piano is in my house,” I told her. “Can you come and get it?” She did. I gave the canning equipment to a friend who cans, and the size smalls to Goodwill.
Instead of guilt, I now feel something approaching joy when I get rid of things. Joy that I know who I am, that I know I’m happy making use of the gifts and talents I have. Joy that I’m passing on things to people who can use them. Joy that I make time for the really important things and people in my life, especially my grandson.
This sense of self has brought order to my life. But not too much. Books will always litter my living room. The floors need polishing because I’ve been out watching migrating sandhill cranes.
My closets are free of knitting needles and crochet hooks, though. My attic is empty. I’m not totally free of illusions, however. I’m hanging on to a couple too-small dresses.
© 1987 Updated 2008