I recently cleaned out all of our drawers, de-cluttered shelves and cleaned out cabinets. You might wonder how someone who lives in 282 square feet could collect extra stuff and the answer is: just like anyone else. The Christmas present that never got put away, the new magazine that appears every week and before long creates a stack on the shelf above the bed, the random sock that I am convinced will one day find its mate. Stuff happens to all of us and the day I began this cleaning I needed it to happen a little less to me.
I don’t know if my need to purge had to do with the faux spring that was lurking outside my door or if my ability to clean and organize hit overdrive because of the small space we call home. But I was ready to get rid of some stuff. I warned everyone in my family to look out. My grandmother used to say about my grandfather when he was doing laundry, “If you don’t want it washed, you better keep it on.” My grandfather would go through the house and collect any article of clothing that happened to be on the floor and wash it because why else would it be on the floor unless it was dirty? I’ve always understood his reasoning, his need to clear a path through his grandchildren’s things in a house that was always quite tidy. I was feeling precisely the same thing a few weeks ago except it wasn’t about laundry and I didn’t stop at the floor. No surface was safe.
“If it’s special to you, you better say so,” I told my family. They just looked at me with fear in their eyes. Lucille huddled with her stuffed animals in a corner; Eliza clutched an armload of journals. Seth knew enough to just get out of my way.
I also must admit that this entire episode was informed by a tiny Japanese woman who wrote a book on clutter. Who reads a book on clutter? Honestly, who writes a book on clutter? I picked up this book because someone had suggested it as part of the idea of living small. As I read through the first chapter I was convinced that the author needed therapy. By chapter two I was convinced she was certifiable, truly. Then I happened upon a story about how she had tried every storage method possible and I thought, I’ve done that. Then I read the story about how she reorganized her siblings’ rooms as a middle-schooler and I thought, done that too! Pretty soon I wasn’t that convinced that she was crazy or maybe I was more convinced that I was. I’m still not entirely sure where I land on either of those points but with her clever ideas of how to de-clutter, a looming spring outside my door and my grandfather’s voice echoing in my ear, I set out find more space in a house where there is so little of it.
By the end of the day, I had cut deep. I even got rid of books. And shoes. Deep, I told you. But I could breathe. I could see space in between the books I’d kept, I could fit all of my clothes in my drawers, I could fit the laundry basket in my closet because my shoes were not in the way. Mostly, I could let my shoulders relax a bit. Living small can be simple but with too many things crowding the space it can be more than complicated. That day, like most days, I, like most of us, needed it simple.