Confessions of a Closet Packrat

Thoughts on Spring Cleaning

By Debbie Farmer

Let's face it, there's something special about spring that makes people want to turn their lives around. Frankly, I'm not sure what it is. But every year around this time, I wake up with a sudden, inexplicable urge to turn the mattress. And shampoo the carpet. And even wash the windows.

And to think that just two weeks before I was content to lie on the sofa in my slippers, watching the cobwebs in the ceiling corners sway in the breeze. But, I tell you, no more. Once springtime hits, a person can never be too organized.

Oh, don't bother asking me why this happens. It could be that the sudden freedom after being cooped up in the house makes me giddy. Or maybe all of the new flowers and baby birds give the illusion of a fresh start. Or perhaps I'm possessed. But my theory is that, by spring, all of the good oxygen has been used up in the house, which causes me to hallucinate.

Whatever the reason, I decided to kick off this spring season by getting rid of all of the clothes in my closet that a) haven't been worn in over five years, b) were bought sometime before 1982 or c) won't fit on my body without the assistance of a power vise or a bone corset.

Now, on the surface, cleaning out your closet may seem like an easy process. But, after all, so does wood carving. And figure skating. The problem is, you see, that for some people dealing with clothes can be a very emotional experience. Much like getting on the scale or shopping at two-for-one sales.

Nevertheless, if all these years as a woman have taught me anything at all, it's that the first rule about dealing with clothing is that you need to remain detached and objective. Therefore, you need to create a system. So I planned to sort my clothes into two piles: keep and discard.

Now I bet you're thinking this sounds like a practical plan. And, well, it was. That is, until I pulled out the first article of clothing: a red knit sweater with a yarn Scottie dog on the front. I must admit, even though I hadn't worn it in five years, it didn't quite belong in the discard pile because, by golly, it still fit. And any fool knows that no woman in her right mind would give away any article of clothing that fits. So I did the only thing I could think of: I made a separate pile for "B-list clothing that buttons". Next I found a pair of dress slacks and trendy jeans that were only two sizes smaller than my size now. I considered them a moment, then carefully put them in the "has designer label" pile. But wait, there's more.

Shortly after that, I started another stack made up solely of fifteen-year-old knit shirts and designated it "faded, but doesn't need ironing" pile. Then I put a pair of black leather pants (size five) in my "proof I once had a life before children" pile. And I'm not even going to mention the bell-bottomed macrame pantsuit that qualified for multiple piles.

Then my husband wandered in.

"What happened?" he said, "Has there been some kind of explosion?"

"Very funny," I said. "I'm cleaning out my closet."

I could tell by the look on his face that he wasn't convinced.

"There's the discard pile," I pointed to a knitted purple scarf lying by itself on the floor. "See?"

"That's it?" He said. "You're kidding, right?"

His survival instinct must've warned him that the only truly wise thing to do at this moment was to back slowly out of the room and leave me alone. And, much to his credit, he did.

Needless to say, I waited until he was gone to relocate the scarf to the "too practical to throw away" pile.

After all, it's spring - and, hey, you just can never be too organized.

Debbie Farmer lives in a clean house with her husband, two children, and at least one knitted purple scarf.

Originally published in AlbemarleFamily Living March 2007. For more great stories be sure to visit More Great Reading online or pick up the newest issue of our magazine at a nearby newsstand.

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