Slowly, since Charlotte has been born, I've become the kind of person who cleans things. Actually, it's been since I was pregnant with Charlotte and suddenly realized, like some pregnant people do, that the world is filthy and OMG-I-can't-believe-we-live-like-this. I went from being someone who never cleaned my floor to being someone who was obsessed with cleaning my floor. I went from being vaguely sure that we must have a vacuum cleaner to actually vacuuming things. And while I've always kept the kitchen clean and the bathroom clean (running water is my happy place), I never really cared about keeping the rest of the place clean. Just clean-ish. "A place for everything and everything in its place," just didn't apply. And then, quite suddenly, it did.
Keeping things clean(er) became more of a second nature to me. There are still some things I don't do, or don't do that frequently that would probably give my mother-in-law a heart attack. Or anyone's mother-in-law. Possibly even my own mother, though she is a little more...relaxed...about housework. But I do work hard on keeping things clean. Until very recently, though, I still had a major problem with clutter.
When I went to college, and moved in, I took basically everything I cared about. Because my mom told me if I didn't, she'd go through what I left behind and sort it or chuck it or pack it up as she saw fit. And I had a fear of anyone going through my stuff. (Rightfully so - she did go through the dresser that I left behind and found a drawer full of empty cigarette cartons...Mom was PISSED.) So I brought my crap with me to college. And then to my first summer sub-let. And then to a storage space. And then back to college. And then to another summer sub-let. And then to our first apartment together. It's not like I had less stuff, either. I felt a need to keep all my college books (I spent so much on them!) and all my notebooks and binders (when -if- I went back to school I would need them!) and all our relationship memorabilia.
Fast forward 13 years. To just a few weeks ago, in fact. I was going through a bag of stuff, and I turned and looked at Matt and said, "would you be hurt if I threw some of these out?" It was a pile of greeting cards.
"No," he said thoughtfully. "I mean, if I wrote anything good in one I would be impressed. But at this point, less stuff is probably more important than cards." And so I threw out quite a few of them.
A few days later, I was talking to my sister, and we talked about how we had saved all the greeting cards and notes from when the kids were born and their first birthdays, but....why? "My girls are seriously going to suffer from second-born syndrome," Nicole said. "I'm reading the cards as I open them and just chucking them as I go." And I've started to do the same thing.
Today, in an effort to make our space a little more useable, I started to go through my "craft" cabinet. I want it to be for Charlotte & me, to be able to say to her, "You know where it is," when she asks to do something. I want her to be able to put it away, too. And to turn the bookshelf into a board game & magazine shelf, not a game & craft & papers & broken things & laptop-holder shelf.
Going through the craft cabinet I found a lot of stuff I didn't need to keep - a lot of greeting cards from other people going back to 2007...and a lot of blank greeting cards and note cards I bought but never sent. I think a safe goal for 2013 would be to not buy a single greeting card; I've got almost every occasion covered, and those that I don't, I have a blank notecard I could send instead. I'm also throwing out old craft projects of Charlotte's - I've photographed a lot of them, and some of them really can be lost to the aether.
For some reason, in the craft cabinet I had stashed an old journal - it starts on 9/18/07, the week before Charlotte was born. That was really, really, really hard to read. Five years later, I haven't really forgotten anything, but I have healed a bit. The most heartbreaking thing to me was a timeline - I had documented in my journal 24 hrs worth of feeding/changing Charlotte, and it was mostly a list of how little I was able to nurse Charlotte. "5mL of colustrum from an eyedropper" and "refused to nurse, just screamed" and then a "I'm being sent to ICU, almost the worst thing that could happen for nursing." A note of how the doctor told me "basically you have heart failure" and then the next note is me obsessing about if I could still pump while I was in the ICU. A little sample of how out of my head I was. No wonder we were all a little shell-shocked for a while.
It took me four years to accept that I wasn't able to nurse Charlotte, and that even if I only tried 85%, that was okay. It was an uphill battle against my own body, and I was mad at it enough already for heart failure and inability to have a vaginal delivery. It took me another year after that, until this very summer, to forgive myself for all of it. It sucked, I really did do my best, and that best wasn't that bad. My kid is awesome, and I love her to bits, and it needed to be more about her than me. It isn't always about me - and that means that everything isn't always my fault. Sometimes you just need to let it go - no matter what "it" is.