I’ve been working for over a week on cleaning out my pantry. It’s a small room off the kitchen that I managed to stuff with stuff for years. I kept thinking I should tackle it, but kept dropping the ball. Finally, before Christmas I bought a cedar wardrobe (on Craigslist) to replace the one in the pantry that was falling apart, and knew I’d have to get serious about mucking out before it arrived.
A corner of the room has been inaccessible because of a file cabinet and boxes, so the process was like an archeological dig. I found a German cherry pitter and a green-bean frencher that hooks up to a power drill. I found a corn cutter, a big commercial bread pan (for a 6-lb. loaf), and parts for at least three vacuum cleaners I no longer own. I found Legos my children played with when they were not in their 30’s and 40’s. And I found (and threw out) an embarrassing number of dusty boxes of pasta that had fallen to the floor.
When we set out to do a major clean-out or reorganization, at some point we invariably make a bigger mess than we started out with. At least that's how it always works with me. Every day this week I’ve had stuff all over my kitchen, dining table, and beyond. Even now, a pile of umbrellas (who knew I had so many?) and hangers (ditto!) sits on my sofa. Some of what I pulled out of the pantry will go back in, but much has already gone to the trash or to Salvation Army.
"Energy comes from knowing what to do," I've often quoted, and the one category that's pulling the plug on my energy is paper. I've always had two filing cabinets in the pantry, but they took up too much room, and I got rid of the one that had been filled with accordion files holding "things to save," as I wrote on some of them. Most are letters: from my parents, from Jill, from my son, from me to my son, from me to Jill, from me to my dear friend Lisa. There are other things in the files, too: clips from my newspaper column, clips of articles I wrote and photos I took when I was a reporter, issues of Woman's World, Yankee, and literary magazines with my stories and poems in them, letters from my Russian penpals, letters from Norman Cousins, singleton letters from various other people I wrote to over the years, printouts of countless journal entries, and more. Paper. Paper.
An article I read on decluttering recently stated that we keep unnecessary things because of two reasons: fear of the future, and wanting to hold onto the past. I admit I want to hold onto the past. I have wanted to hold onto the past my whole life, ever since my mother died when I was nine. I absolutely do appreciate my present, but I'm unwilling to abandon my past. I understand this, but I won't try to change it. If the result is an armload or two of fat files I'm not sure what to do with, so be it.
Meanwhile, tonight my daughter and son-in-law arrived in their uber-pickup bearing the new (old) cedar closet. They carried it inside and set it in place. It needs a little leveling (actually, it's my old house that needs the leveling), but it fits perfectly and looks great. And Peachy, who hopes that the new, cleaner space will attract some interesting residents with tails and whiskers (and I don't mean cats), thinks so too.