I can't help it, I clean closets in June.  Don't be impressed:  In July I'll go back to be being sloppy.  But in June, I get obsessed with organizing and purging my closets within an inch of their atrocious lives.  Maybe I'm inspired by the hearty season of growth I see outdoors.  Maybe I'm inspired by the concussion I received from the glue gun that fell off my daughter's closet shelf onto my skull.

Whatever the reason, I'm a closet-cleaning freak right now.  The biggest one in our house is my daughter's.  Because it's the largest, it's become, as you might expect, a sort of black hole, holding all the stuff for which we don't have another place.  Tackling it has been an enormous job.  I'm not through with it yet, because there's so much in there to see and touch and sort through and remember.

For example, we have my grandfather's stamp collection, which has remained unopened since the last time he worked on it, forty years ago.  I keep thinking we should get it out and catalog it–it was one of my goals for this summer, actually.  I have a lovely mental image going, in which we open it to find that it contains the Holy Grail of stamps, something that would have Sotheby's calling us to set up an auction.  And I would agree, and then I'd hang up the phone, and then I'd turn to find The Stamp in the hands of my four-year-old daughter, just as she licked it and stuck it on the front of her Strawberry Shortcake coloring book.  And so the stamp collection stays on the top shelf:


Here is a basket shaped like the state of Arkansas.  No home should be without one.  I have kept it for 15 years, because you never know when you might have critical need of something like this (grafitti courtesy of a pen-wielding toddler a few years back):


Next stop is a white plastic basket on a middle shelf.  A couple of years ago I got on a pincushion kick.  I made up a little pattern, and they were adorable and easy.  So I sewed a few.  And then I sewed a few more.  And I kept tossing them into a basket in this Black Hole closet, and lo and behold, look what I have:


That's 48 pincushions, my friends.  FORTY-EIGHT.  Every time my husband looks in there he shakes his head and says it's a little bit like that part in Close Encounters where the people went crazy and got obsessed with recreating Devil's Mountain out of mashed potatoes.  I haven't been visiting aliens, of course, but clearly I have been visiting too many craft blogs.

100_4181 Carefully wrapped inside this bag is a bowl my dad bought as a gift for his mother 30 years ago, from a little antique shop in Connecticut.  The shop owner told him it was 700 years old, from Persia; who knows if that was accurate, but certainly it was very old and very beautiful.  After my grandmother died, my dad gave it to me, and I hung it proudly in my house.  But do you know what happens when you hang a 700-year-old Persian plate in a house that contains three little boys under the age of five?  You get this:


No, it can't be glued back together.  It's not like any other plate I've ever seen before (being, you know, a medieval artifact and all), and it won't hold glue like a typical plate.  So it sits in this closet, carefully wrapped up, until the day I can properly locate a Thirteenth-Century-Persian-Plate Fixer.  Know anyone?

Here's the last thing I'll show you (and my apologies for all the randomness; I'm hoping the public shame will prompt me to throw something away, finally):


(Incidentally, if you were a Southern bride between 1990 and 2000 then I suspect you know exactly where that box came from–anyone want to take a stab?)

That box stores what is left of my cassette tape collection from high school.  We don't even own a cassette player anymore; there is no need for me to keep this box.

And yet.

How can I possibly throw away this…



and this…


and (this is getting embarrassing) this…


and this…


(That tape was a very important part of my emotional 1987 experience, helping me to process profound crises such as the Cold War and geometry.)

That's why I'm overwhelmed–every time I sit down to tackle this closet project, I find myself facing hard decisions about valuable Persian artifacts and bad '80's pop music.  It makes me frustrated and exhausted and, strangely, inclined to tease my bangs.

82 thoughts on “Closeted

  1. Judy says:

    This is so funny because I have the same kinds of stuff in my closet….hanging on to things that absolutely have no value to anyone but so priceless that I can’t seem to rid myself of them!
    Heaven help us all!
    I try to tell myself what if we had a house fire and it all burned up I wouldn’t even know most of it was gone! But that sort of reasoning hasn’t seem to work….YET!!
    You are fab to really be cleaning out closets!!

  2. edj says:

    I have EXACTLY the same problem in cleaning out closets! Ok, no priceless Persian plates, and I did manage to toss all the cassettes, but I have the same kind of hard decisions to make. And you’d think I’d be okay, since I pared my life down to 10 suitcases and got over all the pack-rat tendencies and got all grown up and all, but I have the same problem when going through boxes of stuff in storage and so I just close up the box and keep it all anyway!

  3. Jackie says:

    Oh my goodness you must throw out the tapes! lol! I just download all that old stuff to my Ipod when I want to hear it. Debbie Gibson – I get lost in your eyes…. anyone? lol!
    I cracked up at the number of pin cushions! If you ever have a bridal or baby shower or something you can give them away as favors… but there must be a better occasion than those two. How about a crafting party, or sewing party?
    Good job tackling the closets!

  4. Julie says:

    Oh, I still have a collection of tapes myself. I just CAN’T toss them. Even if I could get them on CD (I don’t own an Ipod)I don’t think I could toss them. Too many memories attached to those plastic cassettes.

  5. Tracye says:

    I’m going to say it’s a Dillard’s box. I’m a Southern bride from ’97, and I had quite a few of those!
    Um. Okay. Honesty.
    I still have a few.

  6. se7en says:

    Oh this is so true! I am sure this is where the expression: “skeleton’s in the closet” come from! We all have them… the funny part is I am always so busy getting rid of other folks skeletons in the closets of our home that I am seriously avoiding my own!

  7. Tamara says:

    If the plate can’t be repaired, you might consider using it to make a mosaic. You can even create a plate shape on a small patio table and recreate the basic feeling of the plate. It’s very easy (though messy) to create mosaics. Here’s a website with instructions for a flower pot, but you can use anything for a base (a wood cut-out cross, a vase, a box, a table, a frame, etc.).

  8. Milissa says:

    Since you’re creative and crafty and all (said in a very respective tone…I so did not get the creative gene so I’m a little jealous :), maybe you can make something with a little glass mosaic out of the pretty plate?!

  9. Emily @The Pilot's Wife says:

    You could throw an Arkansas themed party, and serve snacks out of your basket! People could wear overalls… drink moonshine…you could giveaway corncob pipes. 🙂
    I can say that since I’m from Mountain Home, AR.

  10. Lisa says:

    I was just going to make the same suggestion as Tamara for the plate. It’s already ruined and will never be the same, but by making a mosaic you could enjoy some of the beauty! Also, I would make a collage of the cassette tape inserts and frame it and hang it in the garage or the back of my closet- somewhere I would see it and smile, but I wouldn’t have to endure the teasing of guests to my home. Your kids could use the basket to make the “best diorama ever” about the history of Arkansas! The pincushions would make a lovely little giveaway anytime. So, 4 out of 5 solved. I think you might have to hang on to grandpa’s stamp collection for a while. (As if I were an expert in clearing out clutter…. ahem….not so much.)

  11. k&c's mom says:

    We all have this closet in our homes. Maybe you should host a bloggy carnival of closet finds. And give the plate/pieces to the winner. Or pincushions to the winners….

  12. sondra says:

    Oh how I feel for you! We have parted with some similar items over the years ( usually during a move. My husband still whines over his record collection he parted with. (Cassette tapes were still relatively new in our day.) It is all I can do to keep his hands off records at junk sales and his drooling over record players. I keep telling him – “They are not coming back!”. Poor man! He does love his CD’s. I think they remind him of little records.

  13. Sandra says:

    I have the solution. Not because I’m particularily smart or the answer was delivered like the holy grail but because we stumbled upon it; maybe fate?
    Collect a few more kids to clutter up your house and then things are never broken to need repairing. Huh you say? They are broken BEYOND repair, beyond recognition, beyond wanting to ever bring anything into the house again cus you know you are just going to have to dust pan the sucker up in a few short months.
    I would rather collect kids anyway … not just for the obvious reasons but because they come with an automatic clutter function. After twenty years or so, they cull themselves from the house {err, well so I’m told.}
    PS. I have the tape player for you …. and could possibly add some Air Supply or Abba to go with that collection.

  14. RLR says:

    Isn’t that box from Dillard’s? I think we probably still have at least ONE of those in our house! (South Carolina bride, 1998)

  15. Smockity Frocks says:

    How funny that you posted this! We have out of town company coming tomorrow and I have bathrooms that need scrubbing and mounds of clothes that need folding and putting away, but do you know what I did all day today? Cleaned out closets! Whyyyyyyyy do I do this to myself?!

  16. Katherine says:

    I was trying to figure out why the box didn’t look familiar to me (97 bride, Alabama/ Tennessee), then I realized it was because Dillards bought Castner Knott just AFTER we got married. Mystery solved! 🙂
    And I still have a box of cassettes in a closet at my parents house, and I’m pretty sure I have the exact same cassette single in it!

  17. Halala Mama says:

    I too am obsessed with my closets. I, however, lack the motivation to actually handle any of it. I LOATHE cleaning out closets, but every one of them is an accident waiting to happen. I would die if company ever looked in one….

  18. Deidra says:

    Yes, I too have these same kinds of things in my closets. I have no idea why I cannot let go of these things, but I am trying. Slowly, but surely, I am moving stuff and things out of my house in a desperate attempt to reclaim my life from all the clutter. Maybe posting some of it on my blog would spur me on…hmm…I’ll have to think about that…

  19. Melanie says:

    I’ll bet there’s a group of ladies in your church who would love those pin cushions. There has to be some great quilters around somewhere!
    Whitney. Oh, Whitney. That took me down memory lane.

  20. Becky says:

    I enjoyed this post such much…laughing still. Your blog is terrific, and you are such a good writer. You should write a book about your motherhood experiences and be the Erma Bombeck for a new generation…really! Thanks for the humor!
    Maybe the pincushions could be used for a toss game of some kind.

  21. Hillary says:

    Here’s the solution:
    Throw a 80’s themed party. Play all the music, craft some sort of tribute to Whitney out of the plate then have the pin cushions neatly arranged in the Arkansas basket for party favors.
    I think we all have these closets. And I love your idea of public humiliation as a motivator. I might copy that theme for my garage.
    Hilarious that everyone nailed the box. I was a 2001 AL bride and I’m pretty sure my Lenox still came in those suckers.

  22. MemeGRL says:

    Love this post, like all the rest.
    Re: the Persian plate. The university museum near us actually has a collection of middle Eastern artifacts and could at least confirm or deny for you whether the story of the provenance is true and might even be able to help you figure out a way to fix it. Of course I live several states away from you but if you have an archaeology/anthropology museum near you, start there, maybe. Plus it’s a good outing with the kids. If not, email me and I can send you links to the one I’m thinking of.
    Good luck! If they want you to ship it, you can always stuff the box with pincushions…but I like the toss game idea better.

  23. Becky says:

    I am a purger so don’t let me near your stuff! My family and friends get scared when I help them clean closets.

  24. Dana~Are We There Yet? says:

    When it comes to cleaning out closets, I can be brutal. My rule is, if I wouldn’t run back into my burning house to retrieve it, then I don’t need it. Can’t wait for the photos of the freshly-purged Black Hole closet.

  25. Stacy says:

    I too feel the need to purge but can’t do it. I just went through all my old cassette tapes that haven’t been played in years and still have a full box. I just couldn’t get rid of them. What is it about music and your teen years. It’s like your life line and who can through that out.

  26. Joanna says:

    There is no way you can get rid of the Jets or Whitney. NO WAY! They were a very important part of my teenage years too – I swear, I know every word to every song, still, on that Whitney CD lol!! And I remember entering a lip synching comp doing a Jets song! Oh those were the days…

  27. Daiquiri says:

    You need 5 very large boxes labeled simply “Memorabilia”…then you stuff it in the closet under the stairs or in the basement….then you pile all of your luggage in front of it. And cases of beans and tomatoes and mushrooms from Costco. And the food processor and vacuum sealing thing. And the sleeping bags.
    Then you forget it’s there until you move to your next house.
    Then you find another deep dark closet and pile it in there again.
    I jut can’t part with the stuff either – I’m SURE my kids will love the plaster mold of my mouth pre-braces.

  28. Sandra says:

    I loved this post. I’ve been on a purging spree, too. Maybe I should take some pictures to post, also. Funny about the cassettes. Those are practically antiques, so you might want to keep them! 😉 I had albums from my high school days. I used to hang the covers on my bedroom walls. I finally parted with MOST of them, but I just HAD to keep a few of the ones of my most favorite band back in the 80’s, Duran Duran.

  29. CousinJ says:

    I especially love the cassette tapes. I’m sure I’ve got some of the same ones buried in a box somewhere (hey, at least they’re organized:)! I have a question–do you even attempt to clean out your boys’ closets? I clean out mine and it takes all of 24 hours to be right back to square one.

  30. Alyson says:

    I love posts like this because it makes me just itch to go clean something out. Too bad today is Father’s Day – but tomorrow I’m going to hit something hard :).
    I like the mosaic idea with the plate. Definitely do a giveaway for the pin cushions – it’ll be worth the postage to get rid of them. Or maybe offer them to a place that has sewing lessons, they could give one away free with a sign up. Toss the tapes. I did several years ago. It hurt to put them in the trash, and I almost took them back out before trash day… but once they were gone I honestly never wished I had them again. I did just find a cassette tape walkman in the junk drawer the other day, I’ll fish it out of the trash and mail it to you if you can’t bear to part with yours :). Oh, and the basket – that baby needs to go. Sorry!

  31. Lisa Q says:

    I think you should have a blog giveaway…for all those pincushions! he he! people would be commenting like crazy! In all honesty we all have stuff like that lurking in our closets…you’re just brave enough to show us! Thanks!

  32. Maria says:

    This 1996 Arkansas bride knows it is a Dillard’s box — mine still have my crystal packed in them in a closet at my parent’s house — how’s that for memories stacked in a closet…….lol

  33. Kathy says:

    I hate to say this but you can download your cassettes to mp3 files to play on your computer…if you really want to!Just google it, you’ll find the directions….

  34. Suzanne B. (Crunchy Green Mom) says:

    You CRACK me up…. totally.
    I agree… closets can be daunting. I am moving in 40 days… Yes.. I’ve started a count down… 40 days and I am purging like it’s a flood and i can only carry what my vehicle can hold. With six kids.. it’s not a ton. 🙂
    I am throwing away things I have been keeping for years and now realize I will never use.
    Tackle your closets like you are moving… it seems to work for me every spring 🙂

  35. Katy says:

    Along the same lines as the pincushions – I’m not willing to admit how many knit dishcloths are in a box under the bed for exactly the same reason…

  36. Terri says:

    How nice of you to make me feel a whole lot better about the 8 track tapes in my closet from the 70’s!!! I have kept my very first stereo (in another closet) just to plays these on in case I ever want to hear them 🙂
    * Note: Every one of the albums are available on CDs. Some things are just hard to let go of.

  37. shelly says:

    find someone with no emotional attachment and trust them to purge your things…you will be so glad you did…have them put everything in a box and hide it…if you don’t need any of the stuff within 2 months…toss it

  38. reba says:

    first thing, hey a nice little pincushion bloggy giveaway woould be great i personally would love one.
    second far more shameful thing, i have that SHERIFF song ON MY IPOD right now and routinely play it in the car and sing it to my hubby (much to his dismay)

  39. Sarah says:

    send everything you are done with to
    Joann Cayce Charities (this is tax-deductible), 403 South Second Street, Thornton Arkansas 71766
    The town is so poor that they actually request used socks and used underwear! They would probably love those cassette tapes and pin cushions!! I send them everything that comes out of my closets!

  40. Jean says:

    June is an odd time of the year to clean out closets, but you gotta strike while the iron is hot (or when you have the time & the motivation…). I had some of those same 80s cassette tapes, but have slowly purged over the years, and most of them went to Goodwill (can’t bring myself to have a garage sale).
    My ‘purging project’ is on my back porch (enclosed); everything went back there when I moved 18 months ago, and there’s STILL boxes out there! I figure if I haven’t used it in 18 months, it doesn’t need to stay in the house. Now I just have to go through the boxes & decide what can be donated & what can be thrown away. I told myself I couldn’t get new patio furniture until I had that room cleaned out, so maybe it will be done by the time the clearance sales roll around!
    I have an idea for the plate: what about breaking it up into pieces & making a mosaic? You could put a border on a picture frame or mirror. Just a thought…

  41. genny says:

    The basket had me cracking up!
    I’m a clean-out nut and there’s something oddly refreshing about cleaning closets. So, of course, I loved this. 🙂

  42. kate says:

    Great post!
    Oh my, I’m in a closet cleaning and organizing mission as well! Head *straight* to and check out 4 tips to make it really easy.
    Follow the steps, add a little chardonnay and ta-da! You’ll be done before you know it!

  43. Emily Barlean says:

    This was just hilarious! I am the same way. I just save and save and save because you “never know!” when you will need something! (Usually you will need it about a week after you have finally thrown it out)

  44. Jenny says:

    I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this, but sell those pincushions on Etsy. 🙂 A new home for them, a little cashola for you.

  45. Marie in Ontario says:

    Love Lisa’s idea of a collage for the cassette inserts! I may just do that if we ever get rid of the cassette player component of our stereo…

  46. Diana says:

    I am an avid stamp collector so those two massive boxes simply made me sigh – I know, I’m a bit sad.
    If you do go through them I would suggest getting rid of any multiples of the same stamps by re-using them in craft projects (like decoupage & scrapbooking). If you get them sorted out a local dealer should be able to tell you if any are worth considerable money.
    The other alternative would just be to gift them on to a young enthusiast in your area – or perhaps in exchange for their work at sorting them you could let them have all the multiples?

  47. Superchikk says:

    I know EXACTLY where the cassette box came from. I still have a few floating around in closets of my own, holding priceless junk-like things I can’t bring myself to throw away.

  48. Anita Ovolina says:

    It’s funny I had some of the same items even though I grew up in Rome Italy! And I still have some of those things despite our horrendous military moves!

  49. rachel says:

    2002 Texas bride and i’d recognize that box anywhere! became familiar with them when i graduated high school in ’97. i have the back to the future soundtrack on cassette, too. but i have no idea where the case is. i didn’t know any other state made weird things in the state’s shape other than Texas!

  50. Angie says:

    We are doing the exact same thing with our closets, AND our bedrooms! Since our son is now 2-1/2, we decided it was high time we move his crib from our bedroom to his big brother’s bedroom. THEY can share now. Big Brother can be awakened at 5:30 in the morning by little whines.
    I’m loving Freecycle, because I can feel good about giving my things away to people who really “need” them, right?

  51. Tami says:

    Two words for you Shannon: Antiques Roadshow. Intact Persian plate…$20,000 Broken Persian plate…$20 NEXT! ;>
    I think I still have a Dillard’s box in my attic. (1993 Oklahoma bride)
    Great post!!

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