I’m not one for making resolutions at the start of a new year, but I do like to embark on self-improvement.
How else to explain my copies of “The Flat-Belly Diet!” and my Prevention magazine subscription and various forays into spinning classes and Weight Watchers?
But I’m not resolving anything – that’s just setting yourself up for failure. I see self-improvement as a journey, one that will never end until I do, which I hope is far, far in the future.
Some of you know I’m a FlyLady devotee. Not a very accomplished one, since I alternate between worshipping her and cursing her, between frantically reading her e-mail reminders and canceling them. Right now I’m kind of in-between – not reading the e-mails but knowing her mantra to tackle the big jobs with baby steps.
So this year I set my sights on my closet. Baby steps, I told myself. But I’d been telling myself that for years. And that meant that once every few months I pulled out a Santa Cruz sweater from 1985 that I’d been saving in the hopes that I’d somehow someday weigh what my driver’s license says I do, gave it a once-over and delivered it to the Goodwill.
Meanwhile, my walk-in closet was not walkable in the least. Old gift sacks and hangers littered the floor, along with big rolling tumbleweeds of cat hair and some old curtains.
I entered that cesspool every day and just ignored it. And then in early December, as I folded my sixth basket of laundry one afternoon, I started watching that A&E show “Hoarders.”
I looked into the abyss, and the abyss looked back. Yikes.
So on Sunday, I just waded in, trash bag in hand. My bedroom was full of unfolded laundry and a ginormous basket of my own folded clothes that I had not put away because, well, I would have had to enter the closet.
And somewhere between the dried piece of cat poop and the box of my husband’s baby clothes (?) I discovered something about myself, something that could be improved: I like to keep stuff.
For that reason, I will never, ever have to purchase another gift sack. Never. Ever. Because I found about 232 on the floor of my closet (they’re now ensconced in a green rubber tub in my closet.)
• I have 15 pairs of black shoes. Those are just the black ones. I also have tennis shoes and brown shoes and a pair of navy blue pumps from the office days.
Now, before you call me “Imelda” or think I’m Goth, I gotta tell you: they’re not Manolo Blahniks. They’re from Target, mostly. And they’re not emo, either. They’re mules and clogs and loafers and one pair of Doc Martens that always were too heavy for my narrow feet. And the sad thing is, I rarely wear any of them anymore, since I haven’t worked in an office in 10 years.
• There were at least 19 purses in my closet. Again, they’re not Dooneys or Coach bags or anything cool or hip. They’re mostly knock-off Vera Bradleys that I bought at Dollar General for $8 a pop.
• Four stuffed animals from my childhood were hiding in a corner. They were covered with dust and cat hair.
There’s so much more. I found my kindergarten diploma, my high school band letter, envelopes of vacation photos I’d intended to put in scrapbooks, pictures from my 21st birthday, a box of addressed Christmas cards from 2002 and a potato peeler.
It took me hours to go through it all. No baby steps – these were gigantic big-girl steps. Out of the closet came four bags of trash and a bunch of stuff that can be donated. There’s still more in there that I can get rid of, and I will.
But some things I couldn’t part with yet, and maybe ever. I found a list of potential baby names that Matt and I had compiled after we first married. I found a box of my own babies’ clothes, tiny little Mary Janes and jeans and bonnets. I found handkerchiefs from my grandmothers.
That’s OK. It’s not in me to live a sparse, barren life. I need things around me that remind me of where I come from, those I love.
So I boxed those things up and stuck them in my closet for another day. And then I threw out the trash.
And that’s my self-improvement theme for 2011: Lose the trash, keep the good stuff.