Here I am—-doing closets again!!! Spring Cleaning!!! I always question why I do them (other than the fact that closets get messy), and I think there are two reasons why I take such pleasure in cleaning out and reorganizing closets. For one thing, it’s something you can control. None of us can fully control our lives, people come and go, things happen, the unexpected and unpredictable turns our lives upside down (romances that go awry, children who worry us, bumps in our careers, lost clients, lost jobs, and all the things that stress us everyday), but when you tidy up your closets, you feel like you’re the master of the situation, you get to make choices, decide where you want to put things, and what you want in your life and what you don’t. You can dispose of every outfit you feel fat or ugly in, the fashion mistakes, the things you bought on a bad day, look at later and wonder what you were thinking. You can streamline what you own, and what you want to keep. The second reason I think I enjoy cleaning out closets (store rooms, basements, attics, garages, any place you gather stuff!!) is because you can actually see the result of your work in a very short time. Writing is a slow business, it takes me months or even a year to establish the outline for a book, think about it, work on the characters and plot. And then it takes time to write the book. And once you’re finished, editors go over it, ask for changes, make you do countless re-writes, and after you deliver the final, final, final version, then it goes into galleys, goes to the printer, has to be bound. From the first moment I get an idea for a book, until you buy it and have it in your hand, it can take three or four years. And some people can take ten years to write a book!!! And even once the book is published there are more delays, with shipping, distribution, then you have to wait to hear how well it’s doing. It takes a long, long, long time to see the result of your work if you’re a writer.
But that’s not the case with a closet. You open a door, you see a mess, you start pulling things out and make a bigger mess. You divide things into what you’ll keep and what you’ll sell or give away, and you reorganize a little. And within a few hours, or at the end of the day, or by the next day, you have cleaned up your life (or so it feels), the closet looks impeccable, everything is neat, sorted out, weeded out and rearranged. And presto magic, instant gratification. You can actually SEE the result of your work. Like painting a house, or building something, or baking a cake. You work, you produce, and you get to see it right away. It’s so different from the long years I have to wait between thinking of an idea for a book, and actually knowing it’s in your hands, or holding the book myself. I love the immediacy of the result of cleaning out a closet, it makes me feel so productive and efficient, and so thrilled when I see a closet all neat and organized.
This time, in a burst of real ambition, I tackled our ‘luggage closet’. We have a room designated for all the luggage of a family of 11, and we’re a family that has always traveled quite a bit, and now more than ever. And when I say ‘luggage’, I use the term loosely. I dug into our luggage closet yesterday, and found the camp trunks of my children, the bags they used to carry dolls and doll clothes when we went away for the weekends. I found dog carriers in various colors, shapes and sizes, hat boxes that were wonderfully old fashioned, a crazy hat box my husband bought for cowboy hats he had bought in Wyoming when we went there on vacation. I found the 1930’s luggage of my mother-in-law, and the 1950’s luggage of my (much older) husband, I found attache cases, boogie boards, skate boards, and strollers. Whatever no one knew what to do with has wound up in that closet, until it was exploding with 25 years of refuse. And there was great stuff in there too, some beautiful luggage that is no longer relevant in today’s world, that would get ruined on an airplane, but it’s too pretty to give up. Some tote bags we bought in England that are wonderfully old fashioned and weigh a ton, but they’re so handsome that I kept those too. Maybe my kids will find them quaint one day. There were suitcases in there that my children have asked about for years (and I had no idea where they were and couldn’t find them in the mess), and there were countless wonderful memories tucked away in that closet, along with wet suits, roller blades, tee shirts from concerts, and souvenirs from baseball games. It was poignant and fun to go through that closet, which when I entered it was literally a mountain of boxes and suitcases, and is now so impeccably neat that I feel like I won the Nobel Peace Prize just for tackling it. There were 25 years of memories and memorabilia in that closet, along with a lot of things we should have thrown away years ago. I kept a lot of stuff, but I gave away dozens of old suitcases that were too battered to keep. And the really sentimental stuff I kept. I can hardly wait to pack for a trip now, go straight to my suitcases and know where they are. It was every bit as gratifying as I hoped it would be. Spring cleaning has begun!!! I feel ridiculously virtuous now, and I had a lot of fun. Someone told me years ago that cleaning out a closet is like life, you have to make a worse mess and take everything out and look at it, in order to end up with everything neat and in order at the end. Maybe that’s why I like cleaning out closets so much, I figure that if I throw enough junk away, and rediscover the good stuff and focus on that, my life will be a better place!!!
Much Love, Danielle