As a wannabe minimalist, my seasonal cleaning routine typically goes something like this: Fantasize about clean drawers, empty countertops, and open rooms. Realize we have way too much stuff. Lose my shit. Bark orders at my family to just fucking get rid of some stuff Realize it’s all pointless. Accept that my house will look like the clearance aisle at a Toys”R”Us or sports store exploded for the next 15 years. Mutter FTS and give up.
By now, I can predict the timing of these “Everything must go” rants. There’s the pre-holiday, “We’re about to get an influx of shit we don’t need” purge and the corresponding “Where the hell are we going to put all this shit?” freak-out after the holidays. There’s the spring “Everybody else is doing it” reluctant attempts to rid my house of clutter and junk. There’s the “I just binge-watched HGTV and hate my house” despair, and there are the occasional (okay, frequent) hormonally induced “Why the fuck am I the only one who does anything around here?” shitstorms.
The occasion or the rationale doesn’t matter; it’s all the same. I usually start with good intentions and ambitious goals. I’ll clap my hands and tell everyone in a cheery, high-pitched voice that sounds something like Mary Poppins as the captain of the cheerleading team, “Ohhh-KAY, everyone! Here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna clean! And we’re gonna toss! And we’re going to give shit away! Ready, set…goooooo team!”
My family stares at me like deer in the headlights for a few seconds before they quickly start with the “But Mo-oooom, do we have to?” whines.
Yes, dear hoarding spawn of mine, you have to.
Trash bags are pulled from the cabinets. Boxes are brought up from the basement. We spend a few hours (okay, a few minutes, but it sure feels like hours) filing bags of trash and boxes of stuff to take to Goodwill. Books are put on shelves, and clothes are folded in drawers.
But it isn’t long before the remnants of poor choices and bad decisions come out to taunt and mock me. The broken hockey set. Fifteen million baseball cards. The motherfucking Cozmo robot. Why the hell did I buy that thing at a premium in my pre-holiday anxiety? WHY?!
Before long, sweat is dripping down my back, rooms look messier than before because everything has been brought out for sorting purposes, and we’re all irritated AF. Clearly the only solution is to move.
While my kids are distracted playing with Magna-Tiles they found at the bottom of their closet and haven’t touched in years, I begin to have an existential crisis. How the fuck did we manage to accumulate all this stuff?! There are kids in the world without a single toy to play with, and we have no less than 19 different X-Wing fighters and about 743 Pokémon cards. Why can’t I throw away the makeup I wore when I got married — 13 years ago? When am I ever going to re-read Cervantes? And when did I ever fit into those low-rise Seven7 jeans? WHO AM I, AND WHY DO I HAVE THESE THINGS?
Enough! I decide to go full-blown KonMari minimalist. I will scale back so much our family could move into a tiny house. We don’t need all the shit — it’s just “stuff” after all. It clearly is not bringing us joy. I’ll adopt the Buddhist philosophy of non-attachment. That’s the answer. Clearly.
But — wait! — I can’t give all this stuff away! What happens if I need turquoise eyeliner sometime? What if my son notices that I threw away his rare Charizard card? And those X-Wing fighters could be collectibles someday, right? We could be rich. That’s what my husband tells me anyway.
Maybe I just need to try a new tactic. Except I’ve tried all the organizational techniques. I’ve bought the storage containers, bookshelves, and pretty toy bins. Hell, I even bought a fancy label maker to mark all that shit I was organizing.
Here’s the thing: Good intentions aren’t magic, and I’m kind of lazy. I hate cleaning, and despite my Container Store aspirations, before long, I’m buried under a mountain of broken Happy Meal toys, baseball cards, and decapitated action figures.
By the end of it all, the only thing I’ve accomplished is developing an absolute disdain for my house. Not only will it never look like something on “Rafterhouse,” unless chipped paint and crooked photos are considered shabby chic, but the truth is, my family is fucking gross as hell. Because with each box of junk gathered, it becomes harder to ignore all the dirt, grime, and general nastiness hidden under all that junk. Clean windows draw attention to the clipped paint on the sills. Sweeping under the stove and fridge reminds me that my family is, indeed, a group of swine who would gladly roll around in their own filth, and looking inside the light fixtures reveals that our home has taken on a second job as insect graveyard. Believe me, there are some things we are better off not knowing.
Forget moving. I want to burn the damn house down, and start over.
But that’s not realistic. So, FTS, I give up. I should just shove it all in a closet, pour myself a glass of wine, and drink it outside away from the clutter of these sloppy heathens.
Mission accomplished. Task complete.