Thursday, January 7, 2010

The great New Year's purge

After stubbing my toe on a stack of heavy books while trying to lug a basket of clean clothes through my crowded living room, I yelled, "Enough!" Piles of stuff were everywhere, stuff that had no home, no use, no purpose other than it was stuff that was supposed to be dealt with "later." Later had arrived. I'd reached my max on clutter and crap.

How did we end up with so much crap? I'm not a shopper; I rarely spend money on new things or gadgets. My biggest indulgence is buying books, which explains the stacks of books tucked into every corner because there was no more room on the close-to-bursting shelves. My house is tiny, that's true, and there are three people living in it with one large dog, so some of the clutter is due to the 1000 square feet of livable space. And the holidays just ended, so some of the chaos is the leftover detritus from Christmas. However, the bottom line is that we have way too much stuff. When you can't get to your closet to hang up your clothes, or reach the rice cooker in the overflowing pantry, it's time to get rid of stuff.

But where to start? After a couple of days of putting away Christmas, sorting gifts, and carrying stuff to its appropriate room, I decided to tackle my bedroom first. My room is supposed to be my refuge, the place where I rest and create. Right now it looks a lot like my state-of-mind in the last few weeks of 2009: frenzied, scattered and hysterical. With two shopping bags in hand I swept through my room with a fearless hand, tossing notes, cards, magazine clippings, and so called mementos (why do I keep every scribble every friend has ever given me?). Mismatched socks who's mate hasn't shown up in months were tossed (how much you want to bet the missing socks appear today?). After I found my desk, floor, and bed again, I turned to my bookcases.

This part hurt.

I love books. No, it's deeper than that. I am passionately, obsessively in love with books. Why else would I start a book publishing company? It certainly wasn't for the money. I can't explain my adoration of the written word. Why do I adore books so much that I am powerless against a bookstore with a good sale? But even something as beautiful and perfect as a book can become a serious problem when you don't have any room for them. I must own thousands of books, on every topic you can imagine, and yes, I've read most of them. Books have been my friends since I was in the fourth grade, when I kept my nose buried in one at recess to ignore the fact that no one wanted to play with me. They've kept my mind busy while I sat in the hospital waiting for my daughter to come out of surgery. They've fought off insomnia, curbed hunger, combated depression, and inspired me to learn more. But just because they've been my constant companion for 35 years doesn't mean I have to keep hauling them around like a dusty, very heavy albatross.

Mercilessly, I pulled books off the shelves, only keeping my most favorite, until there was enough open space on the shelves for books to fall over on their sides. That little bit of space instantly made me feel calmer. That's all I need right now, a little less clutter in my environment to balance all the clutter in my brain.

It's going to take several days of hard work to get some measure of control on the clutter in this house. Just the pantry alone will take a week! And Queen Teen has been clamoring that she has too much stuff and there's no place to put anything. I won't even attempt to sort my husband's stuff, though, other than to clear a path to the closet again.

Cleaning feels good, like I'm sweeping away the old year and making room for the new.


leah said...

I love it when things are organized, but I hate the actual process of organizing! We love books, too. In my dream home, there will be a library. A beautiful, floor-to-ceiling with a slidey ladder library. Hey, we can all dream, right?

Terri said...

OK, I am inspired. Look out clutter, here I come!

CC said...

Great job. I love purging. But I hate hiding my purges from the kids!