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March 29, 2009

Coats...it must be in my DNA

So, for those who’ve been curious and who’ve been asking – the decluttering, mass exodus of items from the Romano household is continuing.

After about a week’s reprieve so that I could focus on the Whitley County EXPOsed and other goings-on, we’re back at it here. Today we tackled the coat closet and the unfortunate overflow of coats, mittens, hats and scarves to various other regions around the house. What a mess!  I just know this coat collecting is a genetic thing. It’s from Grandma Main. When she lived at the old house on Camden Drive in Fort Wayne, she had a hall closet probably three times larger than mine – filled with coats. Fantastic coats. Nearby, there was a full length mirror to look at yourself wearing the coats and it was always fun to get in that closet and try them on. She’s always been a very glamorous, fashionable lady – so marveling at her coat collection was among my favorite things to do on a rainy day at her house. I can still smell the scent of soup on the stove, hear the great sound of rain on her roof and imagine myself flinging open the doors of the massive coat closet and rummaging around inside there. Even the closet had a great smell – a mixture of her perfume and wool, I think. There were wool coats, rain coats, lightweight jackets, 3/4 length jackets, jackets with 3/4 length sleeves, fur coats, fur-trims, plaid, bright colors, you name it and it was in there.

My favorite coat of all time in that closet was this mist blue leather coat with big buttons. It was trimmed in grey fur with white tips and probably dated from sometime in the 1960s. It was beautiful. I think my sister may have it now. It’s not necessarily the kind of coat I can imagine anyone wearing – except maybe a movie star with blonde, perfectly coifed hair.

Some of the coats I decided to donate today were among those hanging in the closet back in the days when I enjoyed digging around in there. I’ve enjoyed having them, but I haven’t really worn them. One green rain slicker, when I put it on today, elicited screwed up eyebrows from the males in my house – and an assurance that I should not wear that jacket or anything like that jacket ever. So, I put it in the bin. I lovely grey wool coat, which I just loved when I was in high school, also went into the bin. Several jackets I remember wearing on rainy adventures in Scotland also went into the bin. A lot of memories tied to jackets, I guess. But, like I said, the coat obsession came from my grandma.

I decided that it would probably be easier to part with these coats while she’s still alive. I have sentimental attachments to certain things and I’ve realized the hard way that it’s easier to get rid of things you associate with people you love while they’re still alive rather than after they’re gone. I have quite a few things that make me think of my mom, articles of her clothing, and getting rid of those just isn’t very easy to do. She didn’t really have sentimental attachments to things herself, so it helps me to think of her when I’ve been forcing myself to part with things I don’t really need to have around anymore. She’d probably laugh at me and say, “Jen, just get rid of it!”

I’m also finding things that I know other people will appreciate. In the coat closet today, I came across the little black leather jacket Jamee wore as a little guy. It sure will look cute on my twin nephews in a couple of years. I also found the brown and pink polka dotted corduroy jacket and matching beret we bought for Mahri when she was about age two. She was adorable in that jacket and I just know my niece, Eleanor, will be as well.

Speaking of my genetic pre-disposition to certain things...did I mention shoes? Yes, I see that hurdle up on the horizon. It is time to cut the shoe collection in half...at least. No, friends, I will not be parting with the lime green, fuzzy wedge sandals with the rhinestones! Not a chance!

I think we’re going to make a serious dent in the cleanup process around here over the next three days while everyone is on spring break. Keep asking me how it’s going and wish me luck! This is a surprisingly life-changing, liberating process.

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March 15, 2009

30-gallons a day...I think I can do this.

Ok. The point of critical mass happens to coincide with spring cleaning – and so with today’s sunshine, the Romano family began a series of projects. Some worked outside; my job was an indoor one.

After reading about de-cluttering, watching Oprah’s “Clean Up Your Messy House Tour” and knowing of our need to downsize before we get the house on the market to sell, I realized this afternoon that I just needed to get started on some of the worse areas of the place. So, after a brief internet coaching session…”I think I can, I think I can” …I got started.

I read something that stuck with me – pick up an item, look at it and make a split second decision to get it out of your hand. Keep it or give it away. Period. Don’t bargain with yourself, don’t invent a purpose for it, just decide.

This little piece of wisdom served me well as I began tackle a closet literally vomiting at the doorway with clothes. Seriously, door open, clothes were pouring out of it. Some years ago, one of my sorority sisters showed me her closet and I’d never seen anything like it – clothes were above our shoulders piled up in there. I never thought I’d see a closet like that again – but in the past year, that closet has materialized in my home. I hate it. It’s embarrassing and I’m over it. Mine is not technically as bad as hers was, but it is bad enough that I’d die if Oprah showed up at my door and wanted to see it.

I’m a very social person and I’ve come to the conclusion that my whole house’s level of clutter (not just my closet) is keeping me from being the hostess, the entertainer, the mom who has everyone’s kids over and the carefree individual I tend to be in every other area of my life. I rarely entertain in my home because the idea of exposing anyone to the clutter is absolutely horrifying to me.

My sister pinned me well a year ago when she gave me a little badge reading “packrat.” I have a rational purpose in my mind for keeping things, and usually it has something to do with the thought I might need it later. Today, I decided this: if I needed it later, I’ll go buy a new one. I can do that.

I get so overwhelmed when deciding to tackle the mound of clothes that I didn’t even want to get started before today, but when I decided to use the advice about quick decisions AND another piece of advice, it was enough incentive to get started. The second piece of wisdom was this: give yourself 15-30 minutes and then stop. Go do something else for awhile.

I plugged away at the closet for a little over a half an hour, heaving a giant mound of clothes in a 30-gallon can. I marveled at all those clothes representing what seems like an entirely different life than I live today – suits, dresses, you name it. I tossed and I flung them all away. It was actually kind of liberating to toss the stuff I had to have when I worked a job that insisted I have that sort of clothing. It was all so not me – and so it didn’t even pain me to get rid of it.

A little while ago I came up with a goal – and I hope my friends who read this will help coach me to keep it going: I’m going to fill that 30-gallon can each day and donate the contents to one of the two local small businesses who accept it: Mary Ellen’s Closet and Julie’s New Sensation. They are both owned by local people (Gary Grepke and Julie Weigold, respectively) and support our local economy. I like that and I’m choosing to support them. As much as I love a good garage sale, I can’t do one – I have no time for all the work that goes into executing one. Plus, I think the added time keeping things in my possession would not help with the purging that needs done.

I think I’ll give my cousin, Jeanne, a call. She’s amazing. She has the most impressive ability to tackle even the worst of messes and reign in the disaster. She’s also good at directing me on where to go and what to do next with regards to de-cluttering. I have told her before that she needs to start her own business doing this for people because she’s seriously good at it. I hope I can convince her to help me out.

On some level, I guess I hope that “airing my laundry” – in this case flinging open the door to my hideous closet so that all of you can understand just how bad it is will help me tackle it. Ask me about it. Bug me about it. Don’t let me forget that I need to get it and the 47,000 other random, unneeded items out of my home.

The end result of all this cleaning, donating and de-cluttering is this: I hope that in a few weeks, my house will be ready to sell.

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March 06, 2009

Black water reveals a bleak white truth

The amazingly good weather brought some time to do something I had not expected to do for at least another two months – we went boating tonight.

No, we didn’t take the Thunder Bay out for the year’s maiden voyage on Loon Lake, but we took the old Starcraft out that belongs to my dad. As a youth, he and his two younger brothers earned the money to buy the boat by delivering newspapers for what seemed to them like an eternity. Dad brought the boat over to live at our house last year, figuring it would make for some fun times on our pond. He was right! Tonight we pushed it over, climbed in and took a spin around our heart-shaped pond.

As we pushed off, however, my attention was diverted to something big and white in the water. A closer look and the prodding of the oar revealed something disgusting – a really big dead fish. At that moment, Tony and I looked at each other and realized there were lots of white things in the water. Big white things, small and medium-sized white things. Dead fish everywhere.

As we rowed around the pond, the carnage was shocking. Our pond was once the proud home of some seriously large fish – the kind that would have been trophies if caught…but now relegated to big white lumps. All appeared to have been dead several weeks, maybe longer considering the temperature of the water.

We have a theory that this winter that was so brutal above water, was maybe more brutal below water. Was it the temperature? Did the ice freeze to deeply? Was it a lack of oxygen? So many unanswered questions.

As the boat skimmed across the black water, I felt a sense of dread and loneliness that there maybe not a thing yet alive in the depths of our pond – save the algae.

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