We’re cleaning out a closet in the back room, the one that’s become a storage unit. The one you joke about, saying you need to put a helmet on before opening the closet door – except it’s not really a joke. One of the shelves holds bags and stacks of gift boxes, wrapping paper, and greeting cards, and anytime I reach for anything, most of the rest usually comes flying down with it.

The closet also holds Christmas decorations, photos and frames, and miscellaneous mementos. So it’s going to be an emotional and guilt-filled project for me, which is one of the reasons I’ve been avoiding it for so long. But we finally started, and that, as they say, is half the battle.

The first thing to go was the large, white box that held my pressed and preserved wedding dress. My husband was surprised I was able to let go of that so easily. But after 44 years of marriage, the sentimentality has worn off, and it’s definitely time to put that closet space to better use.

We looked up the names of places that take donated wedding dresses. Some of them want dresses that are no more than four or five years old, and others want photos and full descriptions of the dress before deciding whether they’ll accept it. So we still have some work to do on that.

Next on the list was going through all the gift bags, boxes, and accessories. By the time I was done throwing out everything that was ripped or crumpled, and sorting the rest by size and occasion, which came down to “Christmas,” “Birthday,” and “Everything Else,” I was able to put it all back on the shelf – neat, well-organized, and taking up less than half the space as before. And with no need to wear a helmet the next time I have a gift to wrap.

It’s going to take longer to go through the photos, most of which are from when our kids were little, and some going back as far as my parents’ wedding. So we’ll go through those a few piles at a time, reminiscing as we do, and sorting the photos into stacks labeled “Keep,” “Toss,” and “Will probably toss eventually, but can’t bear to do it just yet.”

Christmas decorations make up another category I’m going to have a difficult time with, for sentimental reasons. My son made it a little easier by suggesting we bring some ornaments with us the next time we visit them, so his kids can pick out a few they’d like to have. The thought of our grandchildren having some Christmas items “that used to be Grandma’s and Grandpa’s” warms my heart, and will make it a little less painful to donate the rest.

I’m sure I’ll survive the experience. And I’m hoping the sight of the cleaned-out and well-organized closet will make up for any sentimental tears I shed along the way.

January 30, 2023
©Betty Liedtke, 2023

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