Yesterday I was struck by one of those random housecleaning impulses, and I decided to shovel out my cedar closet. The house was built in the 1950s, and the lining of the closet hasn’t actually smelled like cedar (or anything else) in a long time, but it’s big, and I’ve developed an unfortunate tendency to throw things in and close the door.
I suppose it was opening that door recently that made me think of the project. I’ve been making an effort to get rid of stuff I don’t need, and the mess on the floor of the cedar closet certainly qualified. I knew my suitcases were in there, and assorted seldom-worn clothing, and my college steamer trunk, which I’ve been dragging around since the late 1960s.
I started with my luggage, an inexpensive three piece set I bought in 2011 because I flatly refused to touch, much less open, any of the near-antique suitcases in the attic. My new luggage was designed to be nested—the tote bag into the small suitcase into the larger one—instant neat.
Then I started pulling out the other bags. Tote after tote. Some of them with logos, subscriber gifts from magazines. Others with zippers and compartments and shoulder straps, the sort of thing Jack brought home regularly. One full-size duffel bag. Two salesmen’s sample cases belonging to Jack (who never sold anything involving samples). Several backpacks left from our years of archeological survey work. One tote, still wrapped in plastic, from Roi Namur in the Marshall Islands, a souvenir from one of Jack’s trips. Two wheeled luggage carriers for all those wheel-less suitcases in the attic.
Also scattered on, under, or between all those tote bags were one bedspread (wrong color), one mattress pad (not needed on my new bed), one reading pillow, a red and green storage container full of Christmas decorations (unopened for several years), and one Army surplus canteen. And, sitting on the steamer trunk, one small TV set.
Once I’d hauled all that out and swept the floor, I attacked the clothes. I’d found one box of forgotten pullover tops on the floor, and hanging on the racks I found several dresses I haven’t worn in ten years; eight shirts that belonged to Jack; seven coats or jackets, only one of which had been out of the closet this winter; two hanging organizers (each half full of sweaters, scarves, hats and gloves, none of which had been out of the closet this winter); and assorted pullovers, sweaters and sweatshirts.
Now I arrived at the shelves, where I found one VHS player/recorder of unknown age and condition. Three handbags I will never use again, and two remarkable ugly clutch purses. One empty Tiffany & Company box—I have no idea what it once contained, or why I saved it. One bonnet style hair dryer, once needed for a hair style I haven’t worn in years. One Christmas wreath (plastic). Six empty magazine storage boxes, migrants from a previous cleaning episode. Hats. Lots of hats, spilling out of a carton. Jack collected hats. One large carton containing Jack’s childhood stamp collection. Two guitars and one small accordion, which Jack never learned to play, despite the rudimentary instruction book with it. And one beekeeper’s veil.
When I finally made it back to the steamer trunk, I found it full of knitting and needlework supplies. And tote bags.
Most of the tote bags are on their way to the trash, although I kept the one from the Marshall Islands. I have more totes in my office than I will ever need, including three from RWA conferences and half a dozen from various charities. Much of the clothing has been packed to donate, although I can’t quite bring myself to get rid of Jack’s shirts (most of which I made for him, from fabric he chose), and I kept more coats and jackets than I need in this climate. I combined the two sweater organizers and threw one out—the other goes as soon as I buy some plastic storage bins.
The closet isn’t empty, but it’s neat. I can see the floor. There’s more to do. The hats I’ll have to sort through—a few have some sentimental value. The needlework supplies in the steamer trunk can sit for a while; the luggage carts are in the garage. I’ll get rid of a lot of what’s left, eventually.
But I’m keeping the canteen. And the beekeeper’s veil. You just never know when you might need such things.