In the Eighties, Bruce Feirstein followed up Real Men Don't Eat Quiche with the very funny Nice Guys Sleep Alone. It included a chart of a relationship's happiness over time, from the peaks of initial infatuation and first sex to the valley of "he reveals his entire sexual history" and the off-the-bottom-of-the chart "she reveals her entire sexual history." Of the labels of the y-axis for happiness, I remember only the one at the bottom, representing basest depression: "willing to clean closets."
That association has remained with me since: closet-cleaning as canonical expression of despair.
Last Sunday, I cleaned my closet.
It has been a notably non-utile storage space, filled mostly with clothes I don't wear, whether because they didn't really fit, they needed mending, I didn't have occasion to wear them anymore, or, in many cases because they were just plain ugly. The top shelf was a jumble of sheets, blankets, towels and clothes that I couldn't even get to because the floor was a jumble of old shoes. (When you're an aerobics junkie and your feet are a principal means of transportation, you go through shoes pretty quickly. After a few years, it adds up.)
I recently read Julie Morgenstern's Organizing from the Inside-Out. It contains a lot of good advice. Much of it seems obvious once stated. Choose a discrete target area. Keep at it without getting distracted by all the other targets or other projects that will continously suggest themselves. Sort it all first; purge only after everything's sorted; find a home for everything (you can't have everything in its place without a place for everything); only after all of these things should you consider getting new containers; finally, maintain order.
Getting distracted is a specialty of mi -- oooh! shiny!
Um, I'm back now. (In seriousness, writing this took more than one sitting, and you will never know of how many entries, even the short ones, that's true.)
So, with nothing else scheduled for the afternoon (so I didn't have excuses to stop), I took it one item at a time, and decided one of: throw away; donate to the Free Box in People's Park; bring to a thrift shop; get mended.
Of invaluable assistance in all this was my girlfriend, Malasada (not her real name, but, by her request, her nom du MemeMachineGo!). Whenever facing up to old clothes seemed overwhelming, just the presence of someone else for whom they had no psychic weight was extremely grounding, reminding me that, with any degree of objectivity, it was a very silly thing to feel overwhelmed by. And she's personally experienced in de-cluttering and so was ready to call me on any temptation to put off a decision. (She calls it, correctly enough, 'purging,' but having had a good friend in Overeaters Anonymous, the word has alarming connotations for me.) Plus, she has actual fashion sense, so I could defer those decisions.
I've been greatly enjoying having a functional closet full of only things I actually have use for. I forget where I heard that removing clutter from your life makes room for new good things to enter, but I believe it, and will probably write more about it later.
Regular readers might be forgiven for having been sidetracked back there. "Wait, girlfriend?"
Yes, for several months now. Why, yes, I have been holding out on you. And if said regular readers are now making the obvious speculations as to why posting frequency has declined over the past several months, they're largely correct.