One afternoon last week I opened the doors to the bottom half of this pie safe and pulled out a bunch of stuff.
I sorted the stuff into two broad categories:
Sewing Crap I’ve Had for Years and Have Never Used But Keep Because Surely Someday I Will Need It
The sewing stuff I left alone. It will probably stay in that category.
"Other" was memorabilia that I sorted by year. Some of the bits and pieces – birthday cards, random papers from school (preschool? Daycare? Not sure) I made a best guess at.
That pile of stuff has followed me for at least three moves. It’s one of those nagging chores, one of those shoulds that I keep “meaning to do.” What a drag on my energy and outlook. No matter what the rest of the house looked like, I knew I still had that pile of junk to go through, to “do something with.”
I sat down on the floor and began sorting. I threw away a garbage bag full of the stuff. I had fun looking through the pile. I remembered little things and big things that I hadn’t thought about in a while. I found a bag full of everything from The Child’s 4th birthday party – cards from presents, candles from cake, wrapping paper scraps, party napkins, invitation – that I’d been saving to put in a special scrapbook. I patted the sack and thought, “Good for me. That was a good idea but I’m not going to do it now.” I put the bag in the 2005 stack and went on.
I came across odds and ends for several years – the tote bag from the hospital where The Child was born, a sheet they sent home with me about nursing, the Valentine’s card I mailed out when he was three months old,
Which I have to show you. Look at the sweetness! I just want to eat him up. Nom nom nom
There are the stupid elaborate birth announcements that took so long for me to do I decided it was “too late” and don’t think I ever mailed them, odds and ends, the undated photos. (Always write a date on the back of your photos! Even if you’re certain you’ll always remember when it was! That’s what my mother always told me. Sure wish I’d done that more.)
There’s that quote by Voltaire, about perfect being the enemy of the good. That’s what I thought about that afternoon as I sat in the floor sorting.
When I stacked the things in those bins, no order other than the year they were from, my heart lifted. I was so happy. The thing was done! Maybe not all perfect and persnickety that way I would have preferred before but it was done. What mattered to me was having the mementos from a certain time period together. And now they were.
Someday I may, just may pull them out and put them in scrapbooks. I probably won’t, but I just might. Somehow knowing that they’re in boxes, all grouped together, is so freeing that the thought of going through it all and putting it in a scrapbook doesn’t feel nearly as overwhelming as it would have a week ago.
Photos and mementos from more recent times have their own homes. I’ll either get them into a photo album or they’ll each get their very own labeled bin. Either way, I’m good.
I could picture those bins and labels and the bins filled with stuff before I started. It felt great even before I did it.
I cannot tell you how good this feels.
Why I hadn’t done this before? The problem was I was too ambitious. I hadn't done this before because chunking it into a box (even one with a cute label) wouldn't have been good enough. I needed to put all the little mementos and papers in chronological order, with corresponding photos, in a scrapbook. It makes my shoulders scrunch up just thinking of it. For years, YEARS I've been toting around all that stuff and worse and heavier, the accompanying guilt, anxiety and guilt from the procrastination and why?
I’m going to keep on the sunny side and not go into why didn’t I have this epiphany years ago, why have I packed up and moved this crap four times, why didn’t you do this, why on earth did you keep that, why were you so lazy, why did you keep procrastinating. No, no, and no.
Then again. I’m not done. I still have this closet.
The difference is that I wasn’t dreading it. I didn’t feel that familiar combination of anxiety, dread, and guilt. I kind of looked forward to it, of pulling all those boxes down, ruthlessly culling and lavishly keeping other mementos. No rules, no conditions, it just needed to fit in one of those bins.
I worked on that closet for an hour or two Saturday afternoon. I went through two big cardboard boxes that have been in there since moving day. The sorting was a bit more problematic than the pie safe. I ended up with a pile called: Stuff I Want But Have No Idea Where To Put and another one that was Things That Go Just Somewhere Else.
There was the Scrapbook Stuff pile, which included these calendars.
They go back years and I keep them because some of the artwork is so funny or happy and I could do something with it. I don’t know what, but something.
I lost steam and stopped by late afternoon. When my mother came by a little while later, I said, “I have to show you this,” and opened the closet door.