Sunday, February 8, 2015

In Which I Excavate My Life and Discover the Secret of Time Travel

My quest to clean out my office, which led to a shedding of unread books from my bookshelves, which led to a shedding of pictures I never liked and knick-knacks that serve no point except to gather dust, which led to a giant Goodwill-designated pile on my dining room table...

which led to my decision to get rid of my dining room table-- that quest continues.

Over the past week I have taken three carloads of stuff to Goodwill. Fake plants and no longer used glassware and lamps and end tables and clothes and shoes and more books. Each time I am afraid the Goodwill volunteer is judging me and judging my stuff and one of these trips he's going to say, No more, lady. We're through taking stuff from you. 

If that happens, I will have to find another Goodwill.

I've been wandering around the house, shining a spotlight on things I haven't looked at in years. Instruments the kids no longer play. Candlesticks I don't use. An ugly wall hanging that matched better in an old house and never looked right on the wall in this new house, and yet it's been hanging on the wall anyway for seven years. 

Yesterday, my goal was to clear out my office closet and that morphed into emptying the entire linen closet in the hallway and discovering that we own nine extra pillows and multiple sheet sets for double beds. (For the record, we don't have double beds.) 

I am excavating our lives. 

Opening drawers that I never open and peering into closets. I am finding old pieces of my life and hurtling back into time and sometimes I like going back, and sometimes I want to slam the door and forget what I've found. 

Why do objects hold so much power? 

Why does one glimpse send me into a tailspin of emotion? 

Why did I hold onto these things? 

How can I let them go? 

Yesterday I found a viking ship collecting dust on my closet shelf.

I see the viking ship, and I am like Harry Potter dunking my head into Dumbledore's Pensieve. I fall under the surface of the "viking ship as object" and SEE

my little boy, age 3. Insatiably curious and talkative and brilliant and every day wanting to know everything and asking me a never-ending stream of questions until I think I might lose my mind.

I see a book from the library on Vikings. I see me reading it to my little boy and I see us making the viking ship. He paints the boat and I make the 26 tiny toothpick paddles and fit the whole thing together. 

I see us at the counter in a house we lived in several houses and several states ago. My little boy's sister is sitting on the floor playing with a drawer full of plastic bracelets. While I stick the flag onto the viking ship, she slips the bracelets on her arm and then holds her arm out and admires herself.  

All the while Scooby Doo is on TV or Zooboomafoo or Reading Rainbow. 

I am home alone with these two little kids and we have just moved from out of state and I know no one and I want so much to be a good mother, the kind that reads books to her kids and makes elaborate crafts projects with them and cooks them nutritious meals and answers every single question they have. 

And NOT the kind of mother who feeds her kids hotdog chunks and puts the TV on all day, who craves adult conversation and sometimes hides in the bathroom to have five minutes of quiet away from incessant little voices and plastic beads and Scooby Doo laughing like the idiot dog that he is. 

The viking ship is a stunning achievement of mom and son bonding and enjoyment and love. 

And at the same time, it is a symbol of extreme motherly boredom and stunted blunted creativity that has no outlet except in meticulously crafting 26 oars out of toothpicks like a obsessive compulsive loon. 

When we are finished making it, my son and I, his little sister looking on with wide eyes and draped in plastic bracelets, we place it carefully on a shelf in his bedroom. It moves with us to another house and another house always displayed in my son's bedroom until somewhere along the way, after another move, my son is doing a purge of his own, and says he doesn't want the viking ship anymore. 

He does not remember making it, except in only the vaguest sense. He does not remember being three year old. And his baby sister does not remember draping her arms with plastic bracelets. 

I put the viking ship in my closet on a high shelf because I am cannot bear to part from it, because I cannot bear to let go of the memory of Scooby Doo and hotdog chunks. 

I cannot bear to part with a long ago self and place and life. 


Or maybe ever. 


  1. I've been decluttering myself. It's not just a cleaning process, or else we could do it quickly. It's also a series of emotional reactions and complicated decisions.

    When my stepson was little, I didn't mind Scooby Doo. I did, however, mind that every single kids' show had music consisting of the most relentless earworms, and characters who seemed to shout all the time!

    1. You are so right, Jenn. It's probably why de-cluttering is so exhausting and overwhelming and we tend to put it off and end up with so much stuff! What's spurring me on now is thinking about someone else (my kids?) having to go through this junk in the future and probably cursing me for leaving it to them! PS: what's with the shouting on kids TV? A disrespect for the child audience-- assuming you have to yell for them to listen?

  2. Have you read, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up? It's just what you are saying.

    1. No, but thanks so much for sharing that. I will look into it!