The book challenged her, taunted her, commanded her– “Get in there and do it! You can’t read about it and expect it to happen, you have to get in there and do the work! Now go!”
Despite her eagerness to continue with the dejunking of her home, Kaye had forced herself to take off a week to let Jacob relax a bit. He still glanced nervously around the house each evening, trying to see what changes had occurred during his absence, but she couldn’t wait forever. The basement was breeding junk faster than bacteria. Her eyes lit up happily. Sophie’s room. It was the one room of the house that Jacob always said was so packed with stuff that he didn’t know how she could stand it.
Kaye peeked in the baby’s room. Sophie was out. Although she knew she couldn’t work in there with the baby sleeping, there was a good chance she could carry Sophie into their bedroom without her waking completely. It went off without a hitch.
If only the room would be so easy. In the center of the room, Kaye spun in circles, overwhelmed at the sight of the stuff in the room. Oh, the room was spotless– Kaye was a bit OCD about keeping the room looking like a magazine photo–but there was stuff everywhere. A stuffed elephant here (that she vacuumed weekly), a piggy bank there (dusted along with the dozens of other dust catchers in the room), and her pristine toys (never touched by the childish hands who could mar them) sitting primly on shelves as if a testament to her indulgence.
She’d done the same thing with Miles. His room had looked exactly like Sophie’s until Trent was old enough to pull things off shelves while he was supposed to be in his crib sleeping. After the third shredded book and second broken piggy bank, Kaye had given up her dreams of perfect little children’s rooms. Instead, she’d packed up all the collectible toys and memorabilia and stashed it in the basement. She’d installed shelving, bins, and a few buckets for big things. The boys now had a functional room where they could play and keep their toys reasonably well organized.
Foolishly, she’d imagined that a girl would be different. A girl would want a pretty room with nice things, wouldn’t she? The room was fit for a princess. Now as Kaye looked at it, she saw the excess for what it was– clutter. There was so much in there that you couldn’t really see individual things; it was all a blur. No more. What was the point of having a bedroom if her daughter couldn’t enjoy it? She’d received so many compliments on the room, but now that Sophie was able to play…
Resolved, she hurried downstairs and tried to find a few empty boxes. When she couldn’t find any, she grabbed two mangled laundry baskets and dumped boxes of outgrown clothes into them. Once back in Sophie’s room, she eyed everything critically. The beautiful day gown that Sophie had worn in her first portraits would stay hanging from the shelf. It looked sweet and without being surrounded by stuffed animals, it might actually make a nice focal point. The various floral containers from the birth– looking at them hurt. She’d worked hard to turn the cheesy-looking things into nice decor.
“Why? Why spend so much time and money? What was the point” Her voice startled her. “No echo in here. Too much junk.”
The wrapping paper “quilt” framed on the wall now looked ridiculous. Had she seriously thought it necessary to cut out those tiny squares and rectangles to create a poster-sized wall hanging? If she’d have made a scrapbook back then, she could have made a page of it for that– maybe. The poster came down. Part of her resisted. After all, she’d already made it. Why not enjoy it? Then again, it seemed to represent the addiction to clutter.
Once she started, it seemed almost impossible to stop. The hand embroidered bibs made by Jacob’s Aunt Frances were still in the top drawer of the changing table. She hadn’t been able to bring herself to use them. They were too precious. People didn’t take that kind of time to make gifts anymore. In fact, those embroidered bibs had set the theme for Sophie’s room. The room was packed with vintage chenille, “pillowcase border” curtains, hand hooked rugs– the works. Several quilts found at garage sales were stacked in the open armoire. She’d folded them carefully to hide the frayed blocks, rips, and holes.
Her hands fingered the bibs. When they arrived, she’d planned to save them for Sophie’s children– kind of like a family heirloom. Now that seemed ridiculous. Why would she keep something that she never used so her kids could keep them and never use them. When would the madness end? Feeling righteously ruthless, she jerked them from the drawer and dropped them in the box. “May Aunt Francie forgive me for wasting your handiwork.”
She worked counter clockwise, one wall at a time. It had been three weeks since she’d vacuumed the curtains, flowers, quilts,. “Dust catchers. It’s all a bunch of dust catchers!” Swallowing hard to fight back tears, Kaye surveyed the room again. What had the book said? If you don’t love it, if it doesn’t make you happy or need it on a consistent basis, get rid of it. “That’s it. Time to get really serious.”
Her previous idea of ruthlessness seemed foolish in retrospect. Figurines disappeared from shelves. The collection of Waldorf-styled fairies went into a “maybe” pile. The silk rose vines from the tops of the windows went straight into the garbage. “What a waste,” she murmured.
Once done, she had a pile in the middle of the room that didn’t fit in the small boxes. A glance at her watch told her she had time to get more boxes before the boys got home. On a mission, she was in her car, the garage door rising, before she remembered sleeping Sophie. Suddenly, Jacob’s concern over her new “obsession” made a little more sense– maybe more than a little. Trash bags from the kitchen would have to work for now.
After shifting things a bit, most breakables were in the boxes and the few other things were wrapped in bibs or excess blankets. “What ever made me think I should have so much breakable stuff in a baby’s room?” she whispered to herself.
The room was an odd paradox. It looked exactly as it had before, but it was clean and looked better than ever. It was all new and fresh looking and yet the same. The dressers needed the same kind of purging from the inside, but Kaye wasn’t sure she could do it. All Sophie’s clothes–from the outfit she wore home from the hospital to the Sunday dress she grew out of last week– were in those dressers. Oh, and the closet. How she wished she didn’t even have to open the closet.
Trash bags. She needed more. Taking a deep breath, she opened the closet. It was like the living room closet all over again. The baby swing was in there. It needed to go. A pang struck her heart. They’d decided on no more children, but she’d had a hard time accepting it. It had always felt as if keeping them meant there was a chance– even if a small one– that maybe they’d change their minds. It was a sore spot with Jacob. Every time he saw the swing, the bassinet– her heart sank. That needed to go from the corner too. One more thing that she’d left cluttering the room. Was the rest of the house like this? Would she go back through the cabinets and find more things she needed to part with? Probably. The idea made her nauseous.
From the closet she pulled the bouncy chair, the bumbo, the bathtub, infant car seat… the list seemed endless. Sophie’s shoe collection was even more embarrassing than her purses. Really, did an eighteen month old baby need a purse at all? It was ridiculous! That word seemed to be the single best descriptor for everything related to the poor tot’s room. The little felt shoes her mother had made were too sweet to part with. For now, she hung them over the little wooden hanger that held the day gown. She needed another cup hook.
Once every inch of the room had been preliminarily decluttered, Kaye surveyed her work. The bookcase under the window was empty. It could hold toys– maybe the box of blocks and little doll Sophie loved so much. The stacking toy wouldn’t look pretty, but didn’t it make sense? She shook her head. No, it didn’t make sense. Moving toys from where Sophie played with them to empty bookshelves just because they were empty was stupid. How on earth would she ever learn? Every time Kaye thought she’d made new strides, she discovered that she still made the same ridiculous decisions.
As she stepped outside Sophie’s room, she realized the boys were home. From the family room, a quiet series of beeps, dings, growls, and similar noises told her they were playing video games. Bags and boxes cluttered the hallway. She’d put off the inevitable. With a bag in each hand, she hurried toward the basement, shaking one at the boys as she passed. “Why didn’t you tell me you were home?”
“We did. You didn’t hear.” The accusation in Miles’ voice pricked her heart.
“Well, we didn’t say it very loudly. Miles said if we were quiet you wouldn’t hear and we could play video games– and it worked!” Trent’s happy grin nearly sent her into a fit of giggles.
“Next time just ask.”
“You would say we have to do homework first, and I need help,” Miles protested. “When you’re getting rid of stuff, you don’t have time to help.”
“Well, I’m done now, so finish your game and we’ll work on it. Math or spelling?”
“Spelling.” The misery in Miles’ voice told her he hadn’t gotten a perfect score on his pretest.
Feeling quite silly, but too giddy not to do it, Kaye led Jacob into Sophie’s room after dinner. The boys had giggled and nudged one another until she thought she’d scream. She led him to the middle of the room and then turned on the light. “Ok, now!”
Of all reactions, laughter was the last one she expected. “What?”
“I wondered how long you could resist. At least this time you didn’t go crazy. The room looks great.”
Kaye followed her husband from the room, snapping off the light behind him. Didn’t go crazy… if he only knew.