…or the Great Pre-Holiday Clear-out of 2013

christmas, decorationsSo, have you started your holiday preparations yet?

There’s a fine line between having too much time and not enough, when it comes to getting ready for company, especially when it involves an obsessive like myself. Throw in a holiday and the stress-o-meter starts at def con three. If it’s a holiday for which one will be playing host or hostess to one’s mother and her husband in one’s tiny one-bedroom apartment, all bets are off.

It’s not even Thanksgiving and I’ve already got a tree sitting in my apartment. Granted, it’s fake, since we don’t want to burn the place down before December 25th, but I had to put it up so that I could feng shui my living room and make sure that I had it in the right space.

Here’s a “before” pic:

Is that the saddest tree  you’ve ever seen in your life? Not even the “Charlie Brown” trees my mother brought home when I was kid looked that bad. I’m hoping if I wrap Linus’ blanket around the base it’ll be okay…or maybe I’ll just load it up with ornaments and lights.

And I do mean load. That poor tree won’t know what hit it.

When I separated from my husband, (who I refer to as the “King of Christmas”), I got custody of half of the holiday decorations we’d accumulated together.  “Half”amounted to more than eight gigantic Rubbermaid containers full of enough lights and ornaments and frou-frou to decorate all of Whoville. If The Grinch hadn’t returned it all, I’ve got their “pantinkas and wazzles…tinsel and trappings…packages, boxes and bags” covered. I’ve got enough ribbon and wrapping paper to tie up Mt. Crumpet.

Since my mother informed me, sometime in the middle of October, that she’d be coming north for Christmas, my brain has been whirring with plans, making lists and graphing time-lines. I’ve already replaced my dishes and nearly all of my bakeware. I’ve painted radiators, bought new sheets and crafted the centerpiece for my sideboard. Again, it’s only the middle of November. So what’s next?

It’s time for another clear-out, that’s what! It’s become my new hobby, the taking of things out of drawers and closets and making big piles to be given away to friends or to Goodwill. It’s so cathartic! I’m by no means a hoarder, at least not on the scale of any pathological spectrum (I don’t think), but I do manage to accumulate a lot of “stuff” without even trying.

This brings me back to those damn containers, which are my own personal albatross (albatrosses?). For the last seven years I’ve been living with and around those containers. I haven’t wanted to deal with them or what’s inside of them.  I’ve stacked them up in any available space, disguised them with tablecloths and framed photos. They’re piled high in the top of a closet, the mere fact that I’ve gotten them in there, an architectural marvel. I’ve tried selling them on Craigslist. A few nibbles, no takers.  So there they’ve sat…mocking me and my efforts to at least appear organized and in control.

Last year, I finally decided that enough was enough.

I filled bags with entire collections of still-in-the package “action figures” of the cast of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. I got rid of a couple of containers by giving away the toys, beanie babies and stuffed animals that a grown man thought an adult woman needed. I got rid of another by filling it with Christmas, Easter, Halloween and Valentine’s Day ornaments and treasures for a  work friend who’s the single father of a young daughter.  All of that and I still had five more! I swear it seemed as if everything I was getting rid of was spontaneously regenerating.

This weekend I tackled two of the big ones at the top of the closet. No easy feat, I assure you. If I told you what was involved you’d be horrified. Picture that Jean-Claude Van Damme commercial, but instead of two trucks, it’s me balancing between the ladder and a shelf. It could have been ugly. Anyway, I managed to whittle down the contents of two containers into one and then get that one stuffed back up top, which meant I could rearrange everything up there and move some more stuff up to fill in the empty space and then I could rearrange the bottom and move this container over there and then take everything out of that closet and fit that stuff over here and…my very own game of Tetris.

These are the after pics and I realize they probably don’t mean as much to you (since you didn’t see the “before”), but I can’t tell you how good it feels to be able to put my vacuum cleaner away, not to mention have room to hang up the coat of a guest without stuffing it inside and quickly shutting the door, listening to it groan like Fibber McGee.

Now I’ve got the itch. The “urge to purge”. I could go really minimalist and just chuck it all. “…the only thing I need is {this ashtray}. I don’t need this or this. Just this ashtray… And this paddle game. – The ashtray and the paddle game and that’s all I need… And this remote control. – The ashtray, the paddle game, and the remote control, and that’s all I need… And these matches. – The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control, and the paddle ball… And this lamp….”  I’ve still got six weeks before Mom gets here. There’s no telling what I’ll get up to.

How about you? Are you in holiday planning mode yet? Does this time of year spark any need for an overhaul or reassessment of your surroundings? Can you decipher these instructions for this Ikea computer desk?