Thursday, February 4, 2016

Rummaging Through the Tough Stuff

by Patricia Cates

What makes rummaging through drawers tough? I'll tell you. It's the memories found therein.

Bittersweet they are.

This past week I was sort of compelled (forced) to rummage through my home's kitchen junk drawers. Normally I can find misplaced items here. When that didn't do the trick, I continued to dig through every dresser in the house. I overturned every stray corner and pile possible, down to my cookbook shelf. I emptied out every pretty little storage box and basket. Twice!

You see...I desperately needed to find a thin soft-backed book that my grandmother had put together back in 1979. It holds all of the family pictures, critical dates and personal stories of my father's family history. I refer to it often. My 15 year old daughter is doing a large project to earn her medallion and it's vital she have this resource.

I soon became frustrated with myself as I have never let this book leave the house. I was also irritated at how disorganized I've apparently become. I was angry at the thought that someone might have cleaned up and put the book somewhere without my knowledge. Although that would be a rarity. Mostly I was (am) freaked out that it has gotten lost in a pile of paper somewhere and been recycled!!!

Our "office" is my library, but it also serves as a homework area. We have a long solid surface countertop laid over the top of four miniature filing cabinets. That means three workstations and plenty of computer space. Over the years the space hasn't been used much; as kids like to do homework in the kitchen, living room, family room, or in their own room, and PC's are somewhat obsolete. So the office has really just become an extra room in the basement that no one goes in, or so I thought.

When I decided to search the office for the book, I opened some of those filing cabinet drawers and I became even more annoyed. Household members had obviously been storing (shoving) all sorts of things in there for years. There were random bags of old crayons and coloring books mixed with scrapbooking paper, glue, tools, folders and receipts. I found lost eyeglasses and keys and hundreds of pictures my 21 year old daughter had taken in junior high. In the bottom of one drawer a portion of my pristinely kept Ensigns were laid bent into a shoebox too small to hold them, along with my best (lost) travel magazines. I also found a whole cabinet my husband took over when he moved in. It was riddled with unopened mail, stuff his kids made for him in grade school, and tidbits from his former life, which I totally respect. Sadly the cupboard above holds the photos and albums of my family members long passed away, as well as my former marriage. The kids can have some of them when they are older. I don't dare open one now. Knowing what's inside the pages bring about emotions I cannot face while trying to clean. Totally counterproductive.

There were too many things found in these drawers to mention here. But I will say that I fully understand why I have been avoiding them. I am reminded of my children not being little anymore. Reminded of wonderful family vacations and a failed marriage. Reminded my wonderful husband was once married to his high school sweetheart. Reminded that my kids are messy and that I hate paperwork. Maybe subconsciously I wanted to hold on to more than coloring books. I have a tough time facing the past without falling apart and I know that. Thinking of it all makes me want to cry in utter defeat, not only for the mess at hand, but for the lost hope and the former me. The former me was ultra organized and totally unbeatable. I miss her.

So this precious book may be lost for now, but it will resurface. In the mean time I am cleaning it all out. Once I got going it wasn't so bad. We (me and the former me) are about half way through now. I recycled about 15 pounds of paper from my husbands desk. His was easy. It was all unemotional business stuff he was holding onto for taxes, prior to 2008, and held no connection for me. He is grateful I did that for him, as it needed to be done. I also very neatly put his mementos safely away in a box, as I know it would be equally upsetting for him to be reminded of how sweet his ex was before she upped and left. They were really cute in high school. I cry for him too.

I have chosen to let my kids decide what to do with the coloring books. Some of them hold their best work inside the pages. The Barbie Princess one especially. I can't let it go. Hopefully they can catch a glimpse of their own sort of nostalgia and learn about families and pitching in along the way.


  1. I know I sound like some kind of crazy person shouting from the rooftops, but KONMARI! "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo was such a game-changer for me with regards to this kind of thing. I used to spend so much time hunting for things, but in the past 6 months I have been through and organized every last inch of my home (almost- still have some craft stuff to go through) and I now know where everything is.

    In the KonMari method you begin with clothes, because it's pretty easy to tell which pieces "spark joy" and which do not. Then you go from there. The things you're describing fall under sentimental, which Kondo recommends you save for last. And I know why- you need to be really familiar with what that "spark joy" feeling is before you can deal with the emotions that sentimental items bring. But once you know that feeling, and once the rest of your home sparks joy for you, it becomes much easier to hold an item in your hand that might have defeated you before and to just let it go without regrets, knowing that you're taking care of yourself and your family by doing so.

    Sorry for preaching my KonMari madness again! But it seriously has helped me so much, and from the KonMari pages on Facebook with people in similar situations to yours (dealing with past lives) I know it has helped them immensely as well.

    Good luck to you!

    1. Really!!! I had no idea. When I had skimmed over something you had written re that method I didn't realize it was that "deep." I figured it was just a "how to" guide and quite reading. So sorry for that now. I'm totally in need of this book it seems. I understand what's blocking me but cannot help thank you, thank you. I already feel a spark of hope just reading this comment.

    2. It is surprisingly deep! She talks about how basically you're in a relationship with the things you own, and if they're not helping you or bringing you joy by their presence, then you need to release them.

      And it's interesting how many people have used the KonMari method in their relationships as well...hmm... ;-)

  2. Kasey, if I got rid of all the clothes which didn't "spark joy" in me, I'd be walking around nekkid. Which also sparks the opposite of joy in me (and everyone else around me, I'm sure). LOL so how do I "KonMari"?? :)

    In my house, the way I get rid of sentimental, important things, is put them up and tell my kids not to touch them, and then inevitably, they break them, color on them, or just randomly throw them away. And then I get over it. Mostly. My kids are so helpful. :)

    1. Yes, Leann, your comment about clothes is something I see all the time in the KM facebook groups. I guess that's an issue I can't help you with! But I think the very act of recognizing that is a big step in the right direction, because the next time you go clothes shopping you'll be a lot pickier.

      And yes, my kids are also "helpful" in that way. :-/

  3. It's already feeling good...organizing my closet right now. Unfortunately the office isn't completely finished yet. steps.

  4. My sister gave me a good guideline for de-junking. Ask yourself, does this bring me real happiness? If it doesn't, toss it. I love to get rid of clutter! My husband, on the other hand, loves to hang on to everything. We're currently living in a small, old pioneer home and there is not nearly enough room for all his "stuff".



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