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Getting rid of

I was halfway through emptying out the front hall closet when my mother-in-law called.

“What are you up to?”

“I’m going on a cleaning binge! Right now, I’m cleaning out the front closet. I actually don’t think I’ve cleaned it out since we moved here.” (That was going on 14 years ago.)

“Oh, I love getting rid of. When I moved to Florida, I got rid of almost everything, even things I still liked.”

Getting rid of. It’s not something I’m good at. I look at every plastic bag, every piece of string, every cardboard box as something I might need… someday. But inspired by my MinL (as she calls herself), I brought three garbage bags full of stuff to the Goodwill truck today.

I wasn’t alone.

Apparently spring cleaning is a thing of the past. We just got back from staying with cousins up in Tahoe, and she said that she’s looking forward to her winter cleaning.

“I never do spring cleaning,” she said. “I like going through things in the winter when it’s cold.”

It was cold up there, and gorgeous. Beautiful, powdery snow, the stuff that skiers all over come for. The first day, my daughter was dismissive. “This snow is too dry to make good snowballs with,” she said.

Then she got her ski lesson. Good thing we’re not the types to even think about having a place in Tahoe, going up every weekend in winter to ski. If we were, we would’ve been calling the realtor.

Instead, back down the mountain we came. As a transplanted Midwesterner, I’m charmed by California’s version of snow: Powdery, dry stuff that you can brush off your clothes and boots; sunshine during the day that heats you up so much you don’t have to wear a scarf; snow that you can drive to in a day. I grew up with the mucky, icy, freezing cold stuff that started in November and, if we were lucky, left at the end of March. As a teenager I ran every day on icy sidewalks, in slushy gutters, a scarf wrapped around but not touching my face. Within minutes, the scarf would freeze to a perfectly molded face mask that I’d breathe into so the sub-zero air wouldn’t go straight into my lungs and freeze them.

California’s winter, as I said, is much more charming. It’s the sort of winter you can drive out of (with thousands of your newest friends) and be home in time to unload closets, load up the minivan, and drive to the nearest Goodwill truck. They could have made money renting out parking spaces. By the time the Goodwill guy had given me my receipt, four other cars had pulled up into make-your-own parking spaces.

Now perhaps I need to have MinL give my daughter a lesson in getting rid of next time she comes. Before I started on the closet, I announced that I, and only I, would get to make decisions about what gets kept and what gets thrown. Immediately, she grabbed her fort-making kit (that’s staying, she said), her fold-out tent (definitely staying, she said), and a miniature version of a Radio Flyer wagon that we got filled with blocks.

Her eyes lit up, and she immediately did the thing that sent that darn little metal deathtrap into the closet in the first place: she put on foot in it and started to roll.

“Stop!” I commanded. “That thing is Dangerous and it’s Going Away. Don’t even Try to ask for That One!”

She paused, considered the tent, the fort she’d already built, and the singing Happy Birthday bear I’d made her put in her room.

“OK,” she said. “But when we start on my closet, we’re Not Throwing Anything Away.”

Like I said, MinL is going to have to come and talk some sense into her.

Until then, my son’s closet is fair game as long as I do it when he’s not home.

Posted in Parenting.


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  1. Getting rid of…part 2 – Avant Parenting linked to this post on January 6, 2010

    […] week I wrote about cleaning out my closets, and I suggested that perhaps spring cleaning has moved to winter. Then I noticed that at least as […]



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