Saturday, 2 May 2015

Spring Cleaning

Over the past several weeks, The Husband and I have embarked upon a massive and long-overdue spring cleaning exercise. As we rapidly approach our thirtieth (yes...that's 3-0!) wedding anniversary this June and are now most definitely full-time empty-nesters, it seemed like a good time to sort through the years of accumulated "stuff" that has managed, true to everything George Carlin ever prophesied, to expand to the size of our house.

We decided from the outset that we would downsize the bits and pieces and dispose of the odds and ends. We needed to accept and embrace the idea of binging and purging, as painful as it might be. We needed to adopt a ruthlessness that would go hand in hand with the inherent sentimentality of wanting to save every scrap of paper, weep over every photograph, fawn over every elementary school art project, and relive all of the "good old days."

Some of it has been easy and straightforward. Finally ridding ourselves of over twenty years of paper receipts and tax information was extraordinarily cathartic. As we shlepped close to two hundred pounds of outdated scraps and forms to a local shredding company, it felt as though we were flipping off Revenue Canada, and there was tremendous pleasure in it.

And did I really need to save the ugly seder plate given to us as a wedding gift from a relative whom I couldn't stand then and has been out of my life ever since? Dropping that into the Goodwill pile was a no-brainer.

There is no sentimentality in keeping broken and damaged luggage no matter how wonderful the trips associated with it might have been. And the Halloween costumes that I poorly constructed for the boys (I am not a craft person, nor can I sew) went out with the trash.

But, some of it has been extremely difficult and painful. As I sorted through the certificates, awards, and assorted framed documents that my children earned over the years, I was awash with nostalgia and immediately transported back to school gyms where I watched with immense parental pride as Older Son kicked ass during speech competitions and Younger Son swept up the yearly scholastic prizes. I remembered music concerts and karate tournaments, and I recalled family events, picnics, car rallies, vacations, and I found myself weeping for people who had shared much of this with me and who are now gone and sorely missed. There is an acute self-awareness that goes along with this job that transcends the simple disposal of junk. There is a need to accept that which is firmly rooted in the past, and to move decisively forward through the present into the next phase.

I have noticed that while we have methodically, yet schizophrenically, advanced this project, I have felt moments of deep spiritual cleansing. Could it be that while de-cluttering our physical space, I have de-cluttered my inner space as well? Is it possible that I have finally been able to compartmentalize instances of anger, pain, love, family, illness, and loss? Have I finally been able to shed chunks of emotional baggage that have been weighing me down? I think so.

This is surely an ongoing exercise, both the physical and the spiritual. While I continue to pack up junk, outdated technology, (assorted VHS tapes to anyone who wants them) and memorabilia, I am  finding new comfort and joy in reminiscing and catharsis in the copious tears. And....saving a few special and well-chosen mementos helps the process along nicely.

 Shabbat Candlesticks from both Older Son (left) and Younger Son (right) (Kindergarten projects)

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