Next month marks the 32nd anniversary of my move to Cumberland and the purchase of my home. I can still remember as clear as day walking around my new domain and marveling at how much room there was. With closets in every single room, including the bathroom, and two in the living room, plus a full basement and an attached garage, I knew I could never possibly fill all that space.
Fast forward to yesterday afternoon.
As part of a major renovation project, the last of the original 66-year-old windows, the one over the kitchen sink, had just been replaced. In preparation for the work at hand, earlier that morning I had cleared everything from the immediate area. Smaller items like the garlic jar, the salt pig (an open-faced ceramic container full of kosher salt with its own small spoon), the super fancy loaf pan that hadn’t found a storage space yet, two chunky jars (one containing homemade candied orange peel from two years ago, the other labelled “Penzy spice” of some sort or another). There was a squeeze bottle of olive oil, a pump bottle of hand soap, a bowl filled with stuff like a Brillo pad, green scouring pad, etc., a roll of paper towels in a stand-up holder, and a large ceramic crock packed solid with an assortment of kitchen gadgets. The bigger stuff not in the immediate way got shoved as far to either side of the sink as I could push them, leaving the work area nice and clear.
I should probably mention here that I have a very small kitchen with almost no counter space, so when I walked into the kitchen after the window was in and stood facing the sink, the sight of all that empty space came as a shock. I thought to myself, “Wow, I should just leave it like that. That would be wonderful!” Then I turned around and came face to face with the jumble of stuff I had previously piled on every surface behind me. (And before you ask, yes, with the exception of the loaf pan and the two jars, I really do need all of that stuff in my kitchen.)
That was what I called “reality.” The moment when the mantra I often repeat to myself. “A place for everything and everything in its place,” comes face to face with the fact that there seems to be more “everything” than “places.”
Truth be told, it wasn’t the first time I’d had that epiphany. It was a major fact that has been rearing its ugly head repeatedly of late, and I’m thinking that perhaps push has finally come to shove, especially when it comes to clothing.
My new stash of pandemic sweatpants are stacked on top of the hamper in my room because there’s no room for them in the armoire, because the pants shelf in there is already stacked high with old jeans and other pants I haven’t worn in years.
Ditto the T-shirts. At last count I had over five dozen of them, at least half of which haven’t seen the light of day since somewhere around the turn of the century, mostly because, silly as it sounds, I have a sentimental attachment to many of them. There’s the one I bought at the duty-free shop coming home from a genealogical reunion in Canada in the 1990s, another from a trip to Disney World, or Michigan, or N.Y. Trying to thin the herd is almost as soul-searching and emotionally uncomfortable an endeavor as is trying to purge my ever-growing collection of mugs.
And then there’s the dozens of turtlenecks, wrinkled beyond wearing because they’re so jammed in on their shelf, and as with their sister T-shirts one shelf down, most not even worn in years.
I need to just bite the bullet, empty the big armoire and ruthlessly winnow out and donate everything I don’t use and then start fresh again.
Same thing with the overflow of blankets, afghans, and quilts.
Last week, when I needed to clear an area for another window replacement in the living room, I was able to get to the cedar chest that lives behind the couch, thinking I could use it for storage. I knew there were things in there that I would no longer want, but it was like opening a time capsule. Clothing I hadn’t seen in years, some of which I didn’t even recognize, outdated doodads that had once adorned the walls, a brand new pair of curtains for a window I no longer had, and a wealth of other odds and ends I couldn’t believe I was dumb enough to have stored in there in the first place.
I hauled out two big bags of junk, but all was not trash. Also found in there, carefully wrapped in an old sheet, were three old handmade family quilts I had forgotten about. One very old one made by my great-aunt Yvonne on my mother’s side, another I think had been made by my father’s godmother, and one made by me several years ago that I had forgotten all about. Now I just need to decide which to put out on display and which to store.
And that brings us to today. The windows are all done and with nothing but time on my hands, it’s time to start spiffing things up. Out with the old, in with the new, and “places” to be cleared out to make room for all the superfluous “everythings” that still need somewhere to go.
Rhea Bouchard Powers is a writer from Cumberland.