No, not Heather, even though she wrote an entirely too flattering post to me for my birthday which immediately made me feel like a douchebag for not ever writing a post about her that explored the depth of my platonic love for the awesome friend that she is.
I'm speaking of the fact that my hoarding tendencies seem to be shrinking faster than my waistline...(don't hate, I'm still quite pudgy about my upper arm area). Tonight was my turn to host our book club. It's daunting, in part, because most of the women in said book club have homes and entertaining skills that rival the Martha Stewart pre-prision days. It's always a little surreal to see them all perched on my hopelessly old, slip-covered sofas in a back room that is probably one hard rain away from rotting and collapsing on top of us, surrounded by (among other things) 3 discarded television sets, laundry baskets full of old notebooks and romance novels, the remnants of at least two previous Christmas themes and a partridge in a pear...well, you get the idea. It's junky back there. I've posted pictures before and despite my deep longing for the tranquility of well-ordered spaces worthy of HGTV, the reality is more like an episode of "Hoarders: Buried Alive" or "Sanford & Son". Tracy and I are both a.) hopelessly sentimental and b.) apparently lazy enough to count the packet of Splenda that has been tossed carelessly into a bin and stayed there, undisturbed, for the last 2 years among our sentimental treasures.
So this week, in preparation for the book club ladies and partly out of a desire to prove something to myself, I decided to once and for all tackle our junk room. I would be ruthless, I would be unemotional, I would purge based on those rules like "If you haven't touched it in a year..." or "If it's broken..." Monday found me determined. I had a plan and a schedule, a deadline even. I made piles everywhere. I lifted super heavy boxes. Our dining room looked like the staging room at a disaster relief center, if the disaster was that everyone lost their scrapbooking supplies and Christmas decorations and urgently needed more. By Monday night, I had managed to clear a space about 4 foot square...and trash every other room of my house in the process.
Tracy was appropriately impressed by my progress and commented that the room looked better, and thankfully didn't mention that our dining room table was now piled so high with crap that collapse could be eminent. "It gets worse before it gets better", I told him, and hoped that was true. The truth was, after a day of hard labor, I realized the enormity of the project and worried that I would run out of time and resort to shoving things under beds and in closets. Knocking on the neighbor's door at the last minute and asking them if they would mind me leaving a couple of boxes in their garage didn't seem outside the realm of possibility.
On Tuesday I plunged back in. My 4 by 4 foot square seemed like bullshit in the bright light of day. Part of the problem was literally a mountain of clothes in the middle of the room that I would add to during the year as the weight fluctuated. I knew I wanted to donate, but I was seized by the same panic that always accompanies getting rid of clothes for me. I was torn. One last sort, for old time's sake? Or the rip-the-bandaid-off approach of just bagging and forgetting? I compromised. I would sort, but the clothes I KEPT would have to be given away also, just to more specific people. I even LOADED the stuff in my car that night. My little patch of reclaimed room grew and I started to see some light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, the rest of the house was still carrying a distinct junkyard vibe, which again, we both politely ignored.
Wednesday. Two trips to local donation center and urgent plea to Tracy to carry the heavier bins down to basement for long term storage. Bonus finding of two bags of clothes about 6 years old which felt like manna from heaven for the shopless. I'm just going to say now, with a few exceptions, I have GREAT taste in clothes. I am taking the fact that I even WANT to wear clothes purchased (in some cases) ten years ago as proof. Wednesday provided some distractions from purging and cleaning goals as I became enamored of seeing myself in the size clothes I was wearing 10 years, and 40 pounds, ago. I needed to buckle back down. Wednesday was the day that our dining room table saw daylight again. I'd even managed to uncover my favorite place mats from the back room wreckage, black box style. By this time I'd realized that the solution to hoarding is giving. Giving stuff away that you outgrow, or even stuff that you really like, but don't necessarily need is cathartic. I had a great conversation with Lisa, a woman who manages the thrift shop for Operation Care in Shelbyville on one of my two visits that morning. She explained to me that they partner with many local organizations, and stockpile stuff for disaster relief as well. It inspired me to cut even deeper into my belongings, which I might not have done otherwise. Light fixtures and furniture...things that might have sat ignored for another year or two went on to do some good for someone. I went to bed last night feeling lighter.
Today was cleaning up the loose ends. Setting stuff to rights and staging as best I could without spending a dime. I felt good about it, even though the end result is still the "before" picture in an issue of "Real Simple" magazine. But one of the reasons for doing this that occurred to me was the simple act of working with what I have re: this house. It's old. It's quite shabby minus the chic. But I want to love its interiors right now just as they are. I don't want to use the fact that it's dated and dreary as an excuse to trash it up. I feel like this year, something is going to come into my life that I need to make room for (no, not a kid, Mom...JEEZ!). Maybe it's just going to be a feeling of acceptance and care for this place that shelters us. There will be improvements, undoubtedly, and I'm going to trust that the means to make them will arrive. But in the meantime, I'm going to show it some damn respect. I'm going to take care of these scratched up floors and this mismatched furniture and LIVE here, instead of bingeing on design magazines and thinking about what this place would look like "if only" or carelessly tossing Splenda packets in the back room because "Why bother?" Tonight, I'm just going to enjoy the fact that even though the house is still small, my capacity to love it is expanding exponentially.