22 June, 2008

Spring Cleaning

So to celebrate our anniversary weekend, Jason and I decided to prepare in case we needed to move soon by emptying the 12 large Tupperware containers in our garage into 3 piles: Keep, Give Away and Trash. As they were before yesterday, the containers were stacked in two piles of six with, hopefully, the heaviest at the bottom and the lightest at the top. Our goal was to reduce them by half and then use the empty half to hold camping supplies (for a quick getaway, I always like to be able to make a quick getaway) and other loose items cluttering up our lives.

We pulled down the top 2 containers to discover our Europe backpacks in one and old clothes in another. If you ever want to understand exactly what your body stench is, hiding underneath all that soap and perfume, put away some clothes for a few years in a somewhat-airtight container and then open it. You will get a full-on body chemistry profile in a single instant. And if you're lucky, it will stay in the air for a little while for you and curious neighbors to enjoy.

As the first hour passed, our giveaway pile had grown to 3 large trash bags and our trash pile to 1 nearly filled bag. The Europe backpacks went into a 4th pile - the eBay pile. Next time we go to Europe, we'll go as adults do: with suitcases.

Jason sent me inside with 4 now-emptied containers to do some de-cluttering in our condo as well. I tackled the 2nd bedroom closet first. This is pretty much the catch-all for all things fragile and useless. We have about a million frames, they're all in there. We have a decomposed computer, it's in there. We have leftover software boxes (three-times the size of the dvd-sized cases the software actually comes in, is that really necessary and is it really necessary that we hold onto them??), my iPod box that we kept for ?? reason; they're all in there. That took two of the empty tupperwares to lessen the load and that was just from the top shelf.

Next, I tackled the puny linen closet. Seriously, this linen closet is great if you have one set of everything you use besides the set you are currently using, and perhaps many people only have one extra and we're the freaks, who knows? But, fact is, we have many towels, for many moods. We have beach towels and bathroom towels and seasonal towels (not my doing!) and we have blankets in case we have guests, we have pillowcases that have no matching sheets, we have dish towels and hand towels and orphaned wash cloths. We don't fold our linens and put them in the puny linen closet; we open the door with our bodies rigid, ready to catch the first thing to fall and we shove in the newly-cleaned linen into any spot that may appear empty, then we shove back whatever attempted to fall and shut the door very quickly, happy in the knowledge that we don't have to open it until the next laundry day. Well, no longer. One now-filled, formerly-empty tupperware later, and our linen closet has been sufficiently tamed.

And finally, I cleared out the top shelf in our entryway closet. It took two empty containers (I had to go out to the garage to grab one more), but the endless paint cans and paint supplies and winter accessories and random Christmas ornaments are no longer threatening to topple every time we open the doors.

Back in the garage, Jason had reduce the piles to the bottom tupperwares and it was time for me to sit down in front of my own, personal tupperware - the parents' basement I never had, to store my entire history, now in the form of plastic. The things in there run the gamut: I have notebooks with half-written stories dating back to junior high, old pictures from school and beyond, several sets of juggling balls, and old tin, old letters to and from friends and lovers, undeveloped film rolls from God knows when, a couple of hats, some school transcripts and lots of picture IDs from all points in my life. At the top sat an old newspaper from my days as Editor of the high school newspaper - this one had my very controversial editorial about preppies and mushroom cloud bangs: it's a keeper.

In an hour, I managed to whittle my history down from one-full to one-half tupperware, commenting aloud, and often in surprise, all the way through. I would have loved to have the time to read through the notebooks, the diaries, the newspaper, go through each and every picture and reminisce about days gone by and friends no longer friendly but I don't think Jason would have the same patience my parents barely had when I did the same thing in the form of cleaning my room. The thing is, cleaning isn't about tidying up; it's about running through a personal history and remembering each step it took you to get where you are now: sitting here in this garage, cleaning it all out. It's cyclical and the things I kept yesterday from being cleaned out, will one day be cleaned out by an even further removed me.

The only thing that truly tugged at my heartstrings as I let it go was my childhood blanket. I don't know if it was made or bought by my parents or grandmother but it was full of memories and stench. Patchwork quilted with swatches of homey fabrics on one side and a cartoon character the cross between Strawberry Shortcake and Holly Hobby on the other. Which reminds me, I need to go out and at least get a picture of it before we give it to the garbage gods. I can keep the memory, even if I can't keep the blanket - it's falling apart and badly in need of a bath but too fragile to introduce to water and therefore keep and it's not like I have children to hand it down to and why on earth would they want if I did: fact is, I was removed enough this time to finally let it go.

At the end, our eBay pile had some good stuff in it. The record pictured at the top is one. We pulled out a ton of old lps, some from our own collections and others from our parents. We looked up many of them on eBay to see their worth - most weren't worth much more than $10, one or two were alternate pressings and therefore worth a little more but nothing to pay off a mortgage for sure (always a good reason for Spring Cleaning). The record pictured, Freedom, is one that came from a parent (can't remember if it's my mom or his) and, I thought, might be worth a little something on eBay so I looked it up. Turns out, there are a lot of records with Freedom in the title but this one didn't come up in current or completed auctions search so I googled it. Googled the title of the album (Freedom), the songs (several - compilation from the 60s), the label (Sessions Presents Freedom), the company (RCA), the cover artist (J.A. Kurtz) ... one solitary, little-described mention, no picture. Googled all of the above in images, thinking someone has to have posted a picture of this iconographic image - nothing.

So I took this picture this morning in the dining room. I opened the curtains to the sliding glass door and let all this beautiful sunshine in, grabbed one of my husband's cameras (he's a professional, he owns a few, all very expensive and I hate holding them but this was an emergency) and his 80 - 200 lens and stood over this album sitting in natural light and took this picture in order to place it on the Internet so that someone else, someday, can get a digital image of this album they found in the midst of their Spring Cleaning and maybe, they'll even have a high-dollar eBay completed auction to encourage them to sell it and pay off a mortgage. To me, the album was the perfect epithet to our productivity yesterday. Stuff is a prison. You feel chained to your stuff, your things, and you feel guilty when you let it go but the fact of the matter is, you haven't thought about that roll of blurry concert pictures or that ratty blanket since the last time you opened this box and if you didn't throw it out, you wouldn't think about it till the next time. Break the chains, throw away the blurry, natty memories, keep the sharper, sturdier ones. Till they get blurry or torn, then toss them too.

Life isn't about hiring a size-larger moving truck to relocate your stuff ... it's about Freedom.


Danielle Filas said...

Welcome to the blog-o-sphere! Congrats on what sounds like a massive undertaking...

dbz said...

it's far less massive if you close your eyes and toss, close your eyes and toss, close your eyes ...

my theory is, if I can't remember I even own it, I don't need it anymore

of course, I'm sure sometime next month I'll find some desperate need for that miniature longhorn skull (don't ask ...) we tossed in the give away pile