Common Ground: It’s not always easy to declutter

Spring cleaning is probably one of my least anticipated activities this month.

It’s a mega-size chore that can take weeks, even months. And because I’m a pack rat, at least according to my husband and my mother, there are many layers of stuff that need to be excavated.

I have humbly invited my mother to help us reorganize and declutter our home of too many clothes and knickknacks.

She has agreed, but with one stipulation: “If you’re not wearing it or using it, you can’t hold onto it. Toss it or give it away.”

Growing up was not always easy during the spring-cleaning season. My mother hates clutter, loves organization and would do everything in her power to keep it that way. That often included visiting my room and giving away toys or clothes stuffed at the back of my closet.

I hated having my room decluttered. It felt like an invasion.

To this day, I still do not enjoy getting rid of my things, but with three children and a husband, I’m compelled to declutter out of necessity.

Admittedly, I still have plastic bins filled with my high school journals and diaries, old newspapers, dolls, stuffed animals, magazines from the ’80s and even my first Atari home computer — things my mother never got her hands on. My husband has stored those must-keep items in the attic.

Having my mother involved with this year’s early spring cleaning is a plus. I am thankful, but maybe a little embarrassed. I originally thought I could handle it on my own. I would start on the task, but often after a day or two, get off track and throw in the towel.

My husband is elated. My children are not because they know it means waking up early on Saturdays to work.

My daughters share a room, and their grandmother has already begun helping them do what she so often used to help me do. My 11-year-old daughter likes to keep old school papers and gift bags and other miscellaneous stuff, stashed in one of several junk drawers in her room.

Last weekend, her grandmother asked her to pull everything out of the drawer, sort it and begin throwing things away. “But, granny,” I heard her say. “No,” her grandmother told her, “it’s time to get rid of some of this stuff.”

I chuckled to myself. It felt like old times again.

Until she’d finished with my daughters’ room and headed into the kitchen to see how my project was coming along.

“You have to pull everything out of the cabinets and drawers to see what you need and don’t need,” she reminded me.

I sighed, feeling sort of like her much younger child again.

“Suck it up,” I told myself. “She’s here to help.”

Chante Dionne Warren is a freelance writer. She can be reached at