The great closet purge of 2012

Late on Monday afternoon, I was grading papers while the boys had Quiet Time in their respective rooms.  (I’ve only been at school for two weeks so far, but grading-wise, it feels like I never left.)  As the boys came out to the living room every five minutes to ask how much longer they had to stay in and read relaxed on their beds with their books, I thought about how going back to teaching makes life infinitely more crazed than it was during the summer.   Stress, that old companion, started to cozy up to me once again.

And the grading was not my only problem.

When Quiet Time was over and my sons were liberated from their rooms, Matthew had some news for me.  “Mommy,” he said, “that pole in your room fell down.”

I looked up from my essays.  “Pole? What pole?”

“The one in your closet.”

I went to investigate, and found that Matthew was absolutely correct. The clothes bar was lying on the floor of the closet, with about a zillion garments and an equal number of hangers all helter-skelter underneath it.

Here I should add that I really should have seen this coming.  We live in a small  postwar house, apparently built when people walked around naked: the bedroom closets are beyond tiny.  While I don’t like to brag, I think it’s a testament to the strength of my relationship with Scott that we have been able to share this closet for the last six months and remain married.  (Prior to that, Scott kept his clothes in the closet in Luke’s room.)   For weeks the bar had been groaning under the combined weight of our clothes, all crammed in there together, and that weight had actually irreparably bent the placket that held the bar in place on the wall.  To borrow a line from W.B. Yeats: Things fall apart,  the center cannot hold, and I had an avalanche of apparel on my hands.

So I spent the next forty-five minutes picking up clothes and piling them on the bed and wooden chest and feeling, I must admit, profoundly sorry for myself.  (I know, it’s not as bad as being in the path of Hurricane Isaac or anything, but I was not exactly in a Big Picture frame of mind.)

But here’s the silver lining: I finally got so sick of moving clothes around and stacking them and wondering where the heck to put them that I actually — pause for emphasis — cleaned out my closet.  I have done this in a minor way on occasion, but, packrat that I am, I never get rid of much.  But on Monday, I — much like the clothes bar — had reached my breaking point.

I filled two whole garbage bags of clothes to take to Goodwill.  Even things that I haven’t worn in ten years but which I still kept for sentimental reasons — a dress I bought in Paris in 1994, a fancy top that I wore at our rehearsal dinner in 2002 — those went into the bags, too. I realized that there are people out there in the world who will actually wear them, and who actually have room for them.  I think this whole closet collapse was the kick in the pants that I needed to finally realize that I have pictures of myself in those special outfits, and I have memories of those special occasions.  Those remain, and they take up no closet space at all.

It felt very, very good to lighten the load.

All in all, then, the closet catastrophe was actually a blessing in disguise.   That’s true of lots of things in life, in fact, isn’t it?  — something has to break down for us to be jolted out of our old habits and into a new, and more balanced, way of being.

I don’t always see it that way at first.  But I guess it’s where I get to in the end that matters.

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