I thrive when I am living in a clean and spare environment. If I can find a better way to organize something or keep it clean, I’m going to do whatever that is. I will often make time to periodically clean out the refrigerator, drawers, closets, cupboards and anything else if it means only useful or wonderful things are left.
I abhor clutter.
I am certain this stems from familial examples I’ve witnessed and been determined to avoid at all costs.
My parents took issue with getting rid of anything, no matter how useless the item in question (both of my older brothers have varying degrees of this affliction as well). They were clever pack rats without quite being aware that they were pack rats. The garage became a storage unit of boxes of newspapers they thought they would one day “get to” (whatever that actually means), and the basement was filled with more boxes of items they would never need or use. Sadly, hidden among all those boxes was one I dearly wanted and still miss: it was filled with all my children’s books.
The books I miss most were those by Steven Kellogg. When I was in grade school, he came to visit and signed his books for us. My favorite title of his has always been The Mysterious Tadpole. He signed the inside cover and drew me the titular tadpole (Alphonse) in one of his adorable transition stages.
I treasured that book. Just thinking about it forms a frustrated lump in my throat. Anytime I tried to look for the box my parents packed it up in, I was told not to poke around and, eventually, they admitted the box was lost. It was never found, not even when they moved out of that house so many years later.
I was devastated.
The loss of my personalized copy of The Mysterious Tadpole was one of the first real bricks in the foundation of my lifelong quest for simplistic, clean, and organized environments.
For the past decade (and, honestly, probably longer), a couple times a year, I go through everything. And I mean, everything. I go through every place anything is stored and I put each item into one of three categories: keep, donate, or dumpster.
Even if I like something, if I haven’t thought about it for some time and I don’t anticipate getting use out of it, away it goes. If it is in good condition, it gets donated (or offered up to anyone I think might want it). If it isn’t in a gift-quality state, to the dumpster it goes. While I go through each area, I simultaneously do a thorough clean. I get pretty intense about this. I will sit on the floor for hours cleaning the baseboards with a vacuum, then cleaning solution and paper towels (or a sponge), then do detail work with Q-tips.
I will apply that rigor to all other cleanable spaces.
I go through my closet and weed out clothes I no longer need or want. I donate anything I think could be reused or appreciated elsewhere. This process tends to take a while (and requires multiple trips to both Goodwill and the dumpster). I will go through all my makeup and get rid of anything that is no longer viable (mascara and foundation are often the first to go). I make lists of anything that needs to be replaced. When all is said and done, it feels AMAZING (and yes all caps are necessary). I love knowing there aren’t any hidden items lurking around and taking up space. It’s also why I don’t really collect anything (other than books I suppose, but books are for reading so I don’t really think of it as collecting).
When I consider buying something new (e.g.: clothes, makeup), I ask myself if I want to be the custodian of said item. Do I want to be responsible for its upkeep and storage? Do I want to have to think about it in the future? What will be its purpose? Is it just a random want? If it is, I try to let the urge to buy it pass. I try to be conscious of what I buy, and how much I spend for it. I think about where the item will go and if I think I’d want it in ten years. Sure, occasionally I’ve bought something I changed my mind on, but when that happens, if it’s still in good shape, I know someone else can get use out of it.
Of course, the flip side is that, over the years, I’ve gotten rid of a couple of things I wish I hadn’t (a statue I bought in the Maldives comes to mind). I’m willing to accept that might happen from time to time. It’s a small price to pay to keep the environments I occupy streamlined.
I’ve been feeling the urge to purge again. I missed doing it earlier in the year (and in the time since) due to the seemingly never-ending sickness that my 2017 has been derailed by. But, lately, I’ve been starting to feel a bit better and have been trying to get more done. I’d love to go room by room, closet by closet, cupboard by cupboard, and get everything re-streamlined. It makes me so happy. So, today, I’m going to start with the piano room. My clothes and backup cosmetics live there, so it will be a good beginning. I’m already looking forward to it.
Do you have any cleaning/organizing rituals? If so, what are they? Let’s share cleaning stories!!