Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Why is Cleaning Such a Dirty Business?

Recently, I was cleaning my house and trying to put things away. What I discovered was my options were limited for two reasons. First of all, my closets were stuffed full. Overly full, really, to the point where it was almost dangerous to open the doors. So finding room to put anything else was out of the question.

Which led me to the second reason. We have too much crap. Okay, so clearly we didn't think it was crap when we bought it and stuffed it in a closet, but come on. When we don't want to open the closet door because of the things that are bound to fall on us; when we're walking around our house with items in our hand that we want to put into a closet but can't find one with enough room, we have a clutter problem.

I did it. I bit the bullet and opened the closet. Now, I'm no idiot. I chose the smallest closet first. Cleaning this closet would take the least amount of time and yield a big "look at what I did" return...I don't know about you, but I thrive on instant gratification...so I picked the linen closet.

We call it the linen closet because that's where most people keep their linen. It's where we kept everything we didn't know what to do with, in addition to our linens. Games, cards, family videos, medicine, band aids, even the odd Christmas ornaments were precariously balanced on top of stacks and stacks of odds and ends. It was a daunting task but I was pretty sure I could manage.

Knowing myself the way I do, I didn't look at anything. I removed everything from the closet and stacked it all on my bed. The bed is higher than average so it gave me a large open space to view everything without having to bend over to pick it all up off of the floor a couple of thousand times.

It took forever to empty the closet...okay, so it took twenty minutes, but it felt like forever. What did I do when the closet was empty? I refilled my coffee and took a picture, of course! Wouldn't you? In reality, I probably took twenty pictures of the linen closet once it was emptied but I won't bore you with them. Part of me kept taking pictures because I knew that was the cleanest it would ever be and part of me kept taking pictures as a way to avoid dealing with the stuff I'd tossed on my bed. True story.

Time to bite the bullet. The first thing I did was corrall all the card games. My husband's family is comprised of avid card players, focusing mostly on a card game called Rook. My mother-in-law comes from a large family and for years, family reunions consisted of several card tables set up in any available space with brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles playing round after round after round of Rook. We also play various styles of Rummy, Uno and many other card games. The cards need to be easily accessible but they also need to be protected. I put the decks without boxes into zip bags to avoid losing cards and I put all the decks into a plastic bin.

Next, I sorted the board games. First I sorted them by age. Once that was complete, I stacked them in order of size and slid them back into the closet. It means the older kids can reach their own games while all the games are kept out of reach of the younger kids. It's organized so no one minds getting a game for the younger kids. The board of each game is visible from the closet so it makes it easy for everyone to find exactly what they want. No longer do we heave a huge sigh while contemplating the safest way to locate the requested game while eager hands attempt to pull out anything they can reach. Doesn't that look pretty? I was tempted to just pitch everything else in the trash and leave the rest of the closet empty but that means we'd have no clean sheets...I thought better of that and kept going.
Next came the linens. First of all, I have to be honest and tell you they are no longer stored the way they're pictured and I'll tell you why. I can't fold a fitted sheet into a nice, tidy, little square to save my life. No joke, if Martha Steward held a gun to my head and gave me step by step by step instructions, my fitted sheet would still look like a wadded up mess. And you know what? I'm okay with that.

I read somewhere that the best way to store sheets is to fold them all up and store them inside one pillow case that goes to that same set of sheets. Sounds good...in my mind, it looks like a sloppy mess. I did try it but I ended up trying to mold the sheets into a reasonable looking squares. The look wasn't  particularly good in my mind and it didn't function well, either. The reason it didn't function well for me is because I had to keep molding the contents of the pillow case which only served to dislodge the sheets more and more. Finally I got irritated and pulled them out, folded the fitted sheet to the best of my ability, and put the folded flat sheet and pillow cases on top of the sheets, just as I'd done for years. For those of you have mastered the art of turning a fitted sheet into a tidy little square, my hat is off to you and really, I'm afraid of you. Now, back to my closet. Area rugs and table clothes are on the floor because they're rarely used. Twin size sheet sets are on the right and our king size sheets are on the left. On top of the king size sheets, are extra pillow cases used when our grandkids come stay the night. We put a clean pillow case on one of the excess of pillows we have on the beds and our grandkids grab the sleeping bag of their choice and are all set for a slumber party at Grandma's house. Is it me, or do those sheets look lumpy??

Christmas ornaments were reunited with the remaining holiday inventory  in the storage closet downstairs. Board games with missing pieces or obviously torn up and beyond any use, were thrown away. Medical supplies were sorted and redistributed, and old stuff was discarded. The things that were still good were put with the rest of the medical supplies. The stuff we had shoved in the closet but  no longer used were hauled to Goodwill and donated. It took more than one trip, I'm sorry to tell you but all the excess items that do not now, and probably never did belong in the closet, are gone. Now some other unsuspecting family can have crap they don't use in their closets, too.


  1. You inspired me. I'm buried under a sea of junk (even if it wasn't always junk) and I need to do something about it. I'll start with the linen closet as you suggest--mine is also a repository for anything that needs a home. I think a trip to Goodwill is next on the list--I'm sure someone can use this stuff.
    Thanks for posting!

    1. Getting unburied is a freeing experience. I hope you enjoy your new liberation!

  2. This is great! I feel compelled to clean out my linen closet! I'm glad I'm not the only one who has difficulty with fitted sheets. I usually tuck it (and the pillowcases) into my flat sheet. . .after I fold it to the best of my ability.

    1. Thanks Shauna! Cleaning is a good thing, although I have a personal distaste for folding fitted sheets...I end up folding/stuffing/wrapping into a semi-square shape and hide it under the flat sheet! :)


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