If you live in Texas then you will know what I am talking about when I say “what happened to winter?” If you are living in the snowbelt, which this year could be anywhere north of the Red River, you might close this page before reading any further, from sheer frustration.
Throughout the entire month of February, I would swear the average temperature has been 90, or close to 90. I might be exaggerating, but it sure feels that way. My heavy wool coats have languished in the closet, replaced by sweaters, pashminas and my trusty jean jacket. Layering has been the fashion statement of a very feeble winter season.
What these mild temperatures have awakened in me is a pressing need to do deep cleaning. Which is also known as spring cleaning in some circles. But I have renamed this yearly task because IT ISN’T SPRING YET.
Deep cleaning’s companion, simplification, is also along for the ride thanks to a nifty little book I just read, The Art of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Which means, after I am done, not only will my windows sparkle and shine, but every closet, nook, cranny, unlabeled plastic bin and glove compartment will be thoroughly gone through.
Tip Number One: Start by discarding and tidying in one go. Do this as quickly as possible.
In keeping with my new form of mania, I have pulled out all the boxes that have been in our garage since we moved houses, from our ranch outside of Fredericksburg to our new home in Mason. Five years ago. I figured it was as good a place as any to get started. This first step satisfied what I refer to as my ‘useless storage guilt’. You know, the guilt that begins with finding boxes that actually have a date on them, and have moved with you several times. The ones that haven’t been opened since 2004 . The year you packed the box.
Or, you might find, as I did, things I had been looking for and couldn’t locate because, for a brief moment in time, I was organized enough to put them in a
storage, then forget where that was. Which is exactly what happened this week. I opened up a box labeled “wedding things”, a vague description of the contents, and finally found a photo album I have been looking for, along with my daughter’s honeymoon itinerary. Also included were receipts, wedding lists (to-do and otherwise), a few left over favors and some unopened return to sender invitations, all of which I threw in as a type of perverse time capsule experiment. What were you doing at the end of wedding week? (collapsing from exhaustion I now remember and wishing I had given some forethought to book tickets to a beach) How much did the caterers really cost? (I still don’t want to think about it) Those sure were sweet thank you notes from our Houston relatives!
With round one completed I had a neat and very paired down pile of boxes, all plastic (no more cardboard, you can’t see anything!), labeled with contents and dated accordingly. I was feeling pretty energized and ready for the next phase of my mission.
Tip Number Two: Tidy by category, starting with clothes and ending with mementos.
Trundling along my merry path of redemption by organization I realized I hadn’t tackled the boxes in the storage facility we own. Yes. I know it may sound crazy, or surreal, but we, the Washburne family, own STORE MORE. A series of un-air conditioned cinderblock buildings built in 1962 … in a flood plain. When it comes to storing stuff we are the kings and queens of our realm, the lords of the castle. And really tight with good friends who have outgrown their garages and backyard sheds. STORE MORE has made it possible for us to look at things we own and instead of deciding to get rid of them, choose to “keep them for a little while longer”.
But something has taken hold of me this year. I am not sure if it is the fact that I turned sixty and am ready to, for once and for all, get my life in order, a rather laughable but laudable idea. I live between two houses and have five grandchildren.
On a sunny warm day, of which there have been many over the winter, armed with Marie Kondo’s words of organizing wisdom, I began to tackle each unit.
By myself. A very important part of my streamlining effort. If anyone else was along for the ride, STORE MORE would have continued to live up to its name.
I took to heart the idea that clothes were much easier to pitch than mementos. And found that a few of my clothes HAD become mementos. I didn’t really expect that, and got tripped up a bit. The beautiful Carmen Marc Valvo beaded sheath dress I had worn to many black tie events in another life still held sway, and miraculously still fit. So, it was granted a reprieve and will be waiting for the engraved invitation that will arrive in our mailbox ‘some day’.
Tip Number Three: Keep only the things that give you joy
Then it hit me, tidying up is really an act of change, and change happens to us whether we like it or not. The beautiful china that fit my city life so perfectly hasn’t translated to my country life, and resides in perfectly packed storage bins. Waiting to go live with my children, who have always loved it. And those heavy winter coats that served me so well during our ten year stint in Kansas City haven’t seen the light of day since our return to Texas. They will be offered to whoever wants them, any left overs will make their way to St. Vincent’s Thrift Store.
In keeping with Marie’s wise suggestions, I have gone through each box thoroughly, holding every treasure, or what used to be treasure, making sure I really love what is in my hand. It hasn’t been easy. And the one shot ideal didn’t take. I have had to stretch my tidying up over several weeks. My admission to the vast amount of stuff that made it’s way to STORE MORE and our garage.
But, even though my eldest grand daughter calls me an old fogey, I really do enjoy change. It keeps life lively and interesting. All the things I have accumulated over the years may or may not be part of my orbit come summer. Which brings a breath of new air into my life. To walk into a room, or open a closet, and see only what I use and love is truly liberating. Simplicity is just that, simplicity. Never burdensome or cumbersome. Just fresh and quiet and real.
P.S. One of the few people I will allow, on occasion, to help with a mystery box or an unusual piece of furniture, when deciding whether it stays or goes, is my son-in-law. His words of courage … “Be brave Leslie, be brave.”