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.
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 (this is getting embarrassing) 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.