Just in case you haven’t heard, the newest fad is decluttering your life. If you’re curious, check out the following website, but beware of certain unintended complications that might occur if you choose to go this route. http://tidyingup.com/
The de-cluttering guru, Marie Kondo, says you will get joy from decluttering your life. I’ve also heard from a couple of friends who have followed Marie Kondo’s rules, that decluttering gives you a ‘high.’ As a bonus, Kondo implies something like ‘you’ll never have to clean again if you follow my instructions.’ Sounds great, right?
I jumped on the bandwagon! And by jumping on the bandwagon, I mean I sat in my living room and looked around for something to declutter. I’m a total neat freak and I am definitely not a knick-knack type person. There was no clutter anywhere in the living room—not a forgotten magazine, a stray newspaper, a misplaced book or a pair of shoes. Bummer! I want some of that decluttering joy! I want some high!
Next, I checked out dining room. Nope. No clutter. However…I contemplated the china cabinet. There was a full set of china in there (minus a few casualties from moving 14 times in 28 years). But it wasn’t exactly clutter. I’m certain she didn’t mean I should split up the china!
I wasn’t going to get a high from the dining room, or my bedroom, or the guest rooms. BUT…the answer was right in front of me! Well, actually, the answer was under my feet—literally. We have a basement full of cluttery-type stuff.
So, I chased that high right into the mouth of the beast. I spent the next four and half days bingeing and purging—not brownies and ice cream, but boxes, plastic containers, and Rubbermaid bins full of items we had not used (and in some cases had not even seen) in years.
I was stunned with how much stuff we’d accumulated over the years. For example, I found a bin with an assortment of candle holders—candle holders! Votives, hurricanes, pillars, plates, and trays of every shape, color, and style. I had candle holders to go with every holiday and every décor I’d ever had over the last three decades. I will admit right here that I almost closed the bin and stacked it back on the shelf. But, then it occurred to me. I DON’T EVEN USE CANDLES ANYMORE. I hadn’t used candles around the house for years. I’d started using the wax melts and never looked back. Why did I keep all these? I asked myself. Then, like most slightly neurotic people, I answered myself. Because they are perfectly good, really pretty candle holders, of course. And then, like all seriously neurotic people, I argued with myself. Nope! I refuse to fall prey to the ‘I may need these someday’ philosophy. Annnd…just like that, the box was in the donate pile.
After the first kill…the culling of the herd became much easier. I quickly got rid of several boxes of the ‘I may need this someday’ variety.
Four days later, I had taken four carloads of donations to three different charities in this area. And damn if that Kondo woman wasn’t right. It was like lifting a huge weight off my shoulders.
I won’t lie to you though. Some of the decisions were difficult because on the same shelves with the ‘I may need this someday’ items, I found bins of sentimental things. On the last day, I opened Pandora’s Box labeled ‘Baby Clothes.’
Just the sight of these sweet garments brought tears to my eyes. I held up each little pair of jeans, fuzzy feet-pajamas, tiny t-shirts, a pullover with a little white pom-pom for a tail on the sweetest fleece bunny, a cardigan with appliqued yellow ducks circling the collar, itty-bitty sandals worn on trips to the zoo and the beach, and impossibly tiny crocheted booties. Most of clothing was usable, practical, really cute baby clothes. Right before I replaced the lid to put it back on the shelf, I asked myself: how would I have felt if after I had my first baby, my mother-in-law handed me a bin full of my husband’s baby clothes. One or two special things would have been cool, but an entire bin full of used baby clothes? Not so much. Just like most young mothers, I wanted to dress my babies in outfits that I’d picked out, or new clothes that had been given to me at baby showers by people that I loved. Putting myself in my future daughter-in-law’s shoes made me come to reason.
After a big sigh, I began to make two piles. I folded all the regular everyday clothes to give to charity. The other pile had sweet and sentimental memories woven right in the fabric. I saved each of my sons’ baptismal outfits, and two embroidered special-occasion bibs (even if Greg’s had a yellowish stain of some sort. He was my throw-up baby—we all have one, right?). I also saved a striped hand-knitted sweater given to me by my sister-in-law which both boys wore. I saved their dressy first Christmas and Easter church-outfits and one favorite playsuit for each of them. I held back tears putting the other items in a bag to be given away, but as soon as I handed that bag to the volunteer at the donation site, something told me I had done the right thing. Some other child would be wearing those adorable outfits…perhaps some child who really needs them. Kondo was right again. That act of decluttering gave me joy.
I used the same process for the bins of the boy’s favorite toys. Almost everything was donated except their most ‘precious’ items. I also kept the Brio trainset and the Playschool knights and castle for future grandchildren. There were a few things I wasn’t sure whether the kids (now 23 and 26) would want to donate, so I put these in a bin and labeled it “Temporary Storage.” The next time they visit, they can either take whatever they want or donate the item. Their choice. But, I refuse for my house to be their personal storage unit because if I allowed that…they’d simply say they wanted to save everything. I know this because I did it to my parents. Then they had deal with all my stuff in their attic when they moved to Florida.
On the last day of this chore, I found a gray Rubbermaid marked Toys. I rolled my eyes. Seriously! What was I thinking saving all the kids’ crap? By then, I was sweaty, tired, and just plain annoyed. The sheer amount of their childhood things overshadowed any sentimentality I had when I began. I opened the bin.
It was toys. My toys. My favorite toys.
The decluttering master, Kondo, says is you should not go down Memory Lane in the middle of a purge. She claims it will only hold you back from the eradication of clutter and it will vastly increase the time needed for the task at hand. You must NEVER sit down and reminisce. NEVER!
So, I sat down and willfully (and rebelliously) fell down the rabbit-hole of childhood memories.
One of things I’d found in this bin was a Little People Parking Garage/Gas Station. I think my parents bought it at a yard sale. I remember it was practically brand-new. Apparently, some kid out there just didn’t appreciate the sheer excitement this toy could bring! I loved it! (Note: I imagine the new idea pitch meeting at Fischer-Price went something like this: “Yes, Boss, I have a terrific idea for a new toy. Sure. Uh…yeah…it’s…well…uh…I think we…” *Glances out window trying to come up with something. Anything!* “…how about…a parking garage! Yeah, that’s it. A car park/gas station combo!”)
Anyway, in my possession, this toy was never a gas station or parking garage. It was a mansion so big that the people who lived there needed to use an elevator. They also had a five-car garage on the roof right next to the helicopter pad. If it wasn’t a mansion, it was a castle where talking animals ruled the land, or a haunted house where a dragon was kept as a pet….it was anything I imagined—but it was never a parking garage that I can remember.
Against Marie Kondo’s wise advice of not handling the item unnecessarily, I immediately cranked the elevator. It worked! The bell rang on every floor exactly like I remembered! That sound brought back so many memories. It was weird.
Next, I opened the cardboard box underneath ‘the mansion.’ Inside was my Barbie carrying case/wardrobe box. Seeing the design on the front of that plastic case made nostalgia hit my stomach and take my breath away. For a second I was eight years old.
I opened the Barbie carrying case. In a flash, I remembered each and every outfit inside. The ‘mink’ mini-coat, the shorts, the midriff top, the halter-top dresses, tube tops, miniskirts, and the shiny lamé bell-bottom hip-hugger pants with the matching velvet-trimmed top. At that moment, I quickly wondered if my Barbies were really pole-dancers. And poor Ken! He was butt-naked, wearing one combat boot and one flipper. I’m sure there was a story there. I just don’t remember what it was.
Inside a man’s Timex wrist-watch box, I found several of Barbies’ tiny shoes and a white pair and a red pair of plastic go-go boots. I laughed because I had forgotten how OCD I was about not losing any of their shoes. It was a thing with me.
Beneath the wardrobe box I found my beloved Barbies.
At this time, my husband came home from work and found me sitting on a child’s piano bench with tiny hooker clothes on my lap—completely lost somewhere in 1974.
“Oh there you are,” he said. “I called you. I guess you didn’t hear me.”
“I’m so glad your home! Look what I found!” I held my Barbies out as though they were a sacred treasure that I’d found buried in the basement. (They kinda were.)
He smiled, but knitted his brow in confusion over my enthusiasm. “Oh, good. Are you donating those, too?”
My heart dropped. How could he even contemplate such a travesty! I almost sent him packing for insulting my dear old friends like that. These girls (and Ken) were were important influencers in my young life for heavensakes! Thanks to their obsession with consumerism, I turned into a clotheshorse with an incessant desire to live in a mansion. And I never, ever lose my shoes. Luckily, however, I never acquired their taste in fashion. I don’t own anything as flashy as lamé bell bottom hip-huggers, but still…
“No, I’m not donating them! Absolutely not. I love these gals.”
He blinked, not sure if I were joking—or had lost my mind due to the asbestos and/or lead paint that I had surely been breathing for the last four days. “Really? The gals?”
“Yes.” I pulled one from the bunch and whispered, “She was my favorite.”
He half-grinned and whispered back, “And…the others don’t know?”
“No, of course they don’t. And judging by their attire, they obviously already have some self-esteem issues so don’t tell them.”
“But, didn’t you pick out their clothes?”
“Yes, but in my defense The Sonny and Cher show was really big back then and I thought she was glamorous. And then there was Tony Orlando and Dawn. I liked shiny things.”
“Okay. That explains it somewhat.”
“Anyway, her name is Malibu Barbie, this other one is Mod Barbie and this one is Suntan Barbie and—”
“You mean they don’t have names like Candy or Bambi…or Chastity?”
I suddenly realized I’d neglected that area of their lives. No wonder they have low self-esteem. All my baby dolls had names, but these four young women did not have names as far as I remember anyway. One was Malibu Barbie, the other was Mod Barbie and then there was Suntan Barbie. The other one was just The Other One! Poor thing.
“She has a name. It’s Malibu, okay?”
“Yikes. I’m glad you didn’t name our kids Abilene and Sacramento.”
“Not funny. I loved them—despite my negligence!”
He snickered. “The boys or the dolls?”
I narrowed my eyes. “They aren’t dolls. They’re Barbies. There’s a difference.” I smiled. “I remember being so proud of Malibu. She was the coolest…and I had a Barbie Corvette.” I pulled the yellow car from the bin and showed him. “See? Can’t get much cooler than Malibu Barbie in a bad-ass Corvette. She rode down Rodeo Drive in her halter, mini skirt, and go-go boots waving to all the fakers and posers on the sidewalk. Yep. She was the envy of Hollywood. Trust me.”
“Umm, she drove that in Hollywood?”
I folded Barbie into the Corvette. I put one of her arms up in a regal wave. “Look at her! Her hair is still shiny. She has the perfect pre-sunscreen and fear-of-melanoma tan. Check out her cool 1970’s makeup. She’d be all the rage right now—in a retro-cool kind of way. She was the Taylor Swift of her—”
“I have news for you…and her.”
“That’s not a Corvette.”
“Sure it is. I asked for a Barbie Corvette and they got me one.”
“Well, they got you something, but not a Corvette.
Now he was making me (and Malibu) mad. “Of course it is. It looks just like one to me.”
“Umm…why is there a hitch on your ‘Corvette’ anyway?”
“Ohh! Is that what’s confusing you? I understand now. Let me show you what that’s for.” I pulled a collapsible tent/camper from the bin and attached it to her awesome Corvette.
“What’s so funny?” I shrugged. “They liked to camp. To be honest, I think I invented glamping way back in the 70’s.”
“Yeah, it’s glamorous camping. Think 4-star hotel with concierge service, but in a cabin in the woods.”
“Ohhh kay…but back to what I was telling you. Kristine, that’s not a Corvette.”
A chill ran down my spine. “Quit saying that. It’s a Cor—”
He flipped the car over; Barbie fell out onto her flaxen noggin. “I think it’s a dune buggy!”
My dreamlike childhood memories seized up—complete with the sound of a needle being yanked up from a 1970’s record player. ZZZZZZZZZZZWWWWWPPPP
“What did you say?”
“I said Malibu Barbie has been doing the Homecoming-Queen wave…from a dune buggy.”
I seriously thought he was making stuff up to mess with me. “Dune buggy? What the hell is a dune buggy?”
“Come on. Remember? They were popular in the 60’s, I think. They had big wheels and wide tires. Sat low to the ground.” He turned the car right side up and plopped poor Malibu back into her driver’s seat. “I think they were also called beach buggies. They had one on Scooby Do.” He smirked. “Your Barbie has been thinking she’s all that while she’s cruising the Hollywood Hills in a recreational vehicle designed to drive on sand dunes. Look at it. See? It even has an open chassis.”
“B-but…it’s a convertible Corvette.” I wondered how it could be possible that after all these years, I was embarrassed for something as stupid as thinking I had the coolest combination of Barbie and car any girl could ask for. Instantaneously, I had the ridiculous thought of who else knew this wasn’t a Corvette?
The truth could no longer be ignored. My precious Malibu wasn’t a 1970’s beauty queen cruising around Hollywood’s Golden Triangle in a sports car, but a dork driving around in a freakin’ go-cart. A GO-CART! Probably not even street legal!
He hugged me. “Aww, don’t look so sad. If you say it’s a Corvette, it’s a Corvette.”
I suddenly felt a little cheated—and a whole lot mislead! “But, my parents let me carry-on believing that I had the car every little girl dreams about. What kind of parent does that?”
“The kind that let Stephen think Disney had decorated the Cinderella Castle like a cake– not for their 25th anniversary, but for his seventh birthday.
Or the kind of parent that let Greg believe those seeds he’d planted grew overnight into the watermelons we put out there after he went to bed…you mean that kind of parent?”
He’s right. Exactly like that.
I have a feeling that the whole incident—of which I shall now refer to as “The Dune Buggy Ruse” was unintentional. I was probably so excited when I opened up my present that I screamed, “A CORVETTE! Just what I always wanted!” I bet I went into some sort of melodramatic performance of sheer glee. (I admit I was a theatrical kid). There was probably no way they could break the news to me that Barbie was not a cool girl wearing designer clothes in an awesome sports car, but a Wannabe tooling around in go-cart wearing stripper garb. I guess if I were my parents, I would not have burst the glamorous-Barbie-life-fantasy bubble either. They probably figured I’d find out someday.
But, I’m sure they didn’t think it would be when I was almost fifty-two. And they wouldn’t have dreamed that I had to BE TOLD it wasn’t a corvette.
Edited to add: OMG! He’s right!