By the end of the Christmas season, I’m itching to get back to normal. And by get back to normal, I mean put all of the crap away and revel in a few empty horizontal surfaces. You might not suspect this of me, given that I currently own 17 bins of Christmas decorations and put up 7–count ’em, 7–trees in my house. I LOVE decorating for Christmas! And I love putting it all away even more. And after flipping the calendar, it can’t happen soon enough.
My mother always lived by the rule that the Christmas season extends to Epiphany, a full 12 days after Christmas. To be fair, this is an excellent rule for teachers, which she was. They have so little time to prepare for things in the run up to the holidays. The shift of the celebratory block into January and away from the creep toward Thanksgiving makes perfect sense for that population. Mom took full advantage of this loophole for many years and sent Epiphany cards rather than Christmas cards. This bought her until January 7 in time and an easy theme to follow in that her cards, for many years, featured the three wise men. Clever, Sister Janice, clever.
I can’t slog through that long, though. There’s my own holiday excess to blame. Then there’s Jimmy’s
toy model train situation, which involves a span of two rooms and multiple villages. Realistically, our holiday displays reduce our usable living space by about half. So there’s that. Then there’s the fact that the decorations start to look a little off. The train tracks are separating. The ornaments are drooping. The one live tree has more needles on the ground than on. The batteries are expired on 50% of things. There’s glitter in places that it just shouldn’t be. I can make it through the new year, but once those kids are back in school, it’s time to get serious. This, thank you sweet Jesus, happened today. Save for Jimmy’s disassembled trains awaiting storage, it is DONE.
The other exciting thing? Putting away Christmas means it’s also time to Konmari the crap out of the house. What is this weird verb I mention, you ask? Have you heard of this quirky little book that was popular a couple years back, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up? It’s basically a book about how to get rid of stuff and put it away neatly. The book is interesting for a number of reasons. First, it’s like a little virtual homestay with an unmarried young woman living in Japan. There are all sorts of references that so clearly don’t apply to me, but are quite interesting. (e.g., how long good luck charms picked up at Shinto shrines are “good” for).
Second, her approach to tidying is quite useful. In a nutshell, she recommends sorting things by item rather than location–that is, don’t go through your coat closet and clothes closet separately. Instead, make a big pile of all your coats from wherever they reside and deal with them all at once. This forces you to be honest about what you really have (in most of our cases, too much). You think you don’t have too many pens? Pile ’em up on the kitchen table and then get back to me. The other interesting thing about her approach is that she has you decide what to keep rather than what to throw away. This sounds like no big difference, but it works. She wants you accomplish these decisions by holding every object and determining whether it brings you joy. This is corny, so instead I look at every object and decide whether, if it was the only one left in the drawer / shelf / closet I’d still use it. For example, the third string underwear. Does it really need to stay? When I get that deep in the bench, I’m doing laundry ASAP.
Third, she has some ways of folding things that have produced an inordinate amount of pleasure in my life.
Finally, the book has allowed me to reintroduce the word tidy into my daily vocabulary.
I won’t bore you by forcing you to participate in the daily rehashing of my Konmari extravaganza, but trust me when I report that my Konmari plan will be happening big time. The purge produces a thrilling amount of things that leave the house. When I’m on pace, there’s usually at least a bag that leaves per day. This almost balances out the daily deliveries e at our house thanks to Jimmy’s Amazon Prime addiction.
So, stay at school a bit longer, children, and don’t pay attention if I blame the dog when a few “precious” items go missing (decorative but useless erasers, those damn Shopkins, every Valentine you’ve ever received). Mama’s ready to wipe the slate clean. Christmas is put away, and mysterious shelf over the refrigerator? I’m coming for you . . .