As I sit here decluttering a corner of my house, I’ve had some important Saturday realizations. First off, I don’t know about you, but over the past two years, I’ve done more sitting than a Las Vegas poker player constipated from the hotel buffet.
And while I have not acquired the booty of a winning poker player, I’ve acquired the booty of a winning poker player.
So here I am with one of those cushions that supports your tailbone because my ass hurts. All. The. Time. According to my doctor, this is a thing now and lots of people are dealing with it. So there’s at least a small comfort in knowing a collective tushie ache is afoot.
But I can’t help but have flashbacks to when I was a kid visiting neighbor Ramona and she had that weird seat cushion that squished and looked a little too lived in. She even traveled with it when she would go to events. I’d always look at that worn, brown velour pillow with a bit of sadness. It made me think she didn’t have friends and her cat, Simon Le Bon, was her only confidante.
And at this moment, I’m legitimately wondering, is that me now? Also, was buying The Clapper a bad idea?
Looking around at my place I’ve begun wondering what other things have I grown too attached to. I’ve never been a ‘gotta have lots of stuff’, type of person, but somehow I’ve managed to accumulate my share of crap that, while I think it has a purpose, is in fact, deeply unnecessary.
So I’ve decided to slowly chip away at decluttering my home. My goal is to get it looking like the Fluegel Van Hauser section of IKEA: playful but clean, fun, but clinical. One lamp, one see-through koala bear full of brightly colored Italian candies, one sleek coffee table made out of bird feathers, and a shiny rocking chair for my guests to uncomfortably sit in.
So far I’ve got a pine kitchen table I found next to the dumpster, a silver lamp I bought off a very polite prostitute moving out of state who had an ‘everything must go’ sale (including her), a piano I accidentally spilled green nail polish on, and an apartment full of brick-a-brack that means both everything and nothing.
I’m not sure if people are as judgemental about my place as I am with myself, but the fact that I have a piece of art taped to my wall concerns me. The fact I have one, solitary, rubber jelly, Jewish star stuck squarely to the middle of my living room window not only announces to the world, “A Jew lives here!” But also that I’ve decorated my house like a shabby kindergarten room.
I’m not sure the musical instruments are doing me any favors either. Half of them I don’t even know how to play, and my dusting skills are a bit lax, so it looks more like a place where obscure instruments go to die.
“Oh look!” House guest number 1 exclaims, “She’s got a mandolin!” Then upon closer inspection, she notices it’s missing 3 of its 6 strings and is held together by industrial-strength twine.
“Oh, is that a dulcimer?” Another excited guest asks me. “Can you play something?”
“Erm, no.” I embarrassingly admit. “But when we eat our frozen pizza we can use it as a makeshift TV table.”
“Oh you play the violin!” A prospective sex guest asks.
“I like to call that the Please-Don’t-Play-Me Box. I’m quite terrible at it, it makes my neck hurt. And I promise you, the last thing you’ll want to do after hearing me, is have sex.”
That said, working on de-cluttering my house has been an eye-opening experience.
I am reminded of when my grandma passed away and how as we went tenderly thorugh her belongings, we quickly discovered it was all incredibly organized. She had nothing remotely slovenly, scandalous, or even mildly upsetting. Her files were in actual file cabinets, labeled by year, subject matter, and relevance to the item next to them.
Her affairs were in order, her clothes were clean, and her cupboards only contained food that hadn’t expired.
There were no stacks of shoe boxes filled with old electric bills, letters from exes, and broken knobs to ambiguous devices.
As I look around me I see shelves full of comic books, finger paints, robot body parts, Bed Bath and Beyond coupons I swear I’m going to use one day, nerf arrows, Chinese finger traps, cables that surely charge something, pinwheels, wooden flowers, miniature polaroid pictures, and wayward fortunes from cookies eaten long ago.
The funny thing is, I hate clutter. I love memories and even enjoy cleaning, but somehow, I’ve managed to accumulate enough crap to tentatively be considered a soft-core hoarder. Again, I cannot emphasize enough how much I loathe clutter. So much so that after a recent date, when I went to a guy’s house and saw his floor-to-ceiling clutter, I proceeded to quietly vomit in my mouth, promptly excuse myself to leave due to fictional gastric reasons, and then immediately come home and hire my first cleaning service.
Of course, I was too embarrassed for them to see my house in the condition it was in, so I spent two days cleaning my house until it appeared to be what I believe to have been acceptably ‘dirty- clean’.
I know it could be a lot worse and more or less my place is ‘fine” as long as you don’t look too closely on top of my fridge where you might find my stack of shopping bags, face masks, a spaghetti squash I swear I’m going to cook once I figure out how to cut it, and a tub of instant oatmeal that seems like it ups my street cred.
I imagine, yet another imaginary house guest standing in my kitchen and thinking, “Holey balls, she’s got a lot of crap stacked on top of her fridge! Oh wait, I see a Costco tub of oatmeal, she’s alright.”
But I spent the better part of today steam cleaning my floors and kitchen tile (because I just gave myself the domestic gift of a handheld steam cleaner and the idea of being able to ‘steam-away’ stains sounds like the stuff dreams and late-night infomercials are made of) and lemme tell you, it was transcendent.
I think part of the reason I’ve held on to the so many obscure knick nacks, is that there’s so much joy in the memories of the tchotchkes. Aw, I remember that pen! It sat in my grandmother’s kitchen and it had those bouncy pink lips and that little feather boa around the top that made me think the pen was a hooker in another life. Whenever I used it I felt special and it reminded me of how cool and fancy my grandmother was even when it came to the pens she used. Logic would argue it made me think my grandmother was also a hooker, but if she was, she was most definitely the fanciest kind.
So do I still have that pen sitting in a drawer, 20 years past the ink’s last use? You bet your ass. And from time to time when I hoist open that jacked-up junk drawer, looking for scotch tape or dental floss, I come across Hot-Lips-Hula-Pen, and it makes me smile. Then I shove it aside, past the bandaids, rubber bands, take out menus from restaurants gone bust, and the graveyard of dead flip phones that I swear will someday have relevance again, and I inevitably jimmy the drawer shut only to forget why I opened it in the first place.
This brings me to my next thought: I think there should be a rating system for the different kinds of slobs in the world. This would at least make me feel less sub-conscious, wait, I mean, self-conscious of the way my house looks.
So for instance you have your, Don’t Care What Is Where Food On Floor types. These probably rank as the worst of the worst slob-olas. These are the kind you see youtube videos of, where they have full glasses of milk stored under their bed for safe keeping, and their cat litter box is next to their microwave. They may store all their clothes in their shower and often use a pizza box as formal dinnerware. They may also use said pizza box as a napkin or throw pillow. Their toenails are regularly seen on the coffee table but eventually end up in the aforementioned pizza box.
Then you have your, I Know My House Is Trash, But I’m Too Smart To Worry About It people. These are like Mister First-Date guy, who had his floor lined with old playboy magazines, dishes stacked on top of his couch, and his toilet room functioning as the foyer to the home. It’s the kind of place you have to shimmy sideways to get through the doorway and you try not to touch any surfaces for fear of catching Hepatitis B. That reminds me, I gotta go get my vaccination.
Then you have your Workaholic Doesn’t Make Time To Clean folks. They have nice stuff, but it’s covered in all their not-so-nice stuff. Fancy furniture is cluttered with dirty clothes, unwashed dishes sit in the sink while a two thousand dollar dishwasher remains bone dry and empty, just like their overly ambitious spirit. They hire a cleaning person from time to time and even get their clothes dry cleaned, which eventually end up in a pile on top of their unused treadmill.
THEN you have people like me. Recovering From Chronic Illness Memory Hoarders who only have a small wick to begin with and when given the opportunity to clean, tend to focus on the germiest parts of the house. My recent motto: keep them dishes and counters clean and make sure your bathroom doesn’t give anyone Rabies. Then when you have bouts of feeling well enough, you will vacuum your couch cushions till they squeak, or maybe you’ll mop those dark corners of your bedroom till your mop begs for clemency.
From time to time you’ll see images of houses with minimalist furniture and design and get inspired to go toss out all your belongings to make your home look like the Flugen Furer section of IKEA. But then ten minutes into your purging you come across the box of Christmas ornaments your friend’s uncle made and even though you don’t celebrate Christmas or ever have a Christmas tree, they have immense value to you. They remind you that someone was thinking of you and that for a moment around the holidays, you weren’t just the sickly neighbor but a person who mattered. And so you gingerly put them back on top of your bookshelf, next to your robot body parts and Denver Broncos harlequin mask and that box of Buzz Lightyear Cereal from 2002, and remind yourself, that you might not be the tidiest person in the world but you’re not the grossest either.