I sweated and hefted a box overhead, balancing it dangerously in the air for a beat. Then I tipped the edge to meet the shelf, and shoved it into place. I thought of how some people have spring cleaning. I, apparently, have fall cleaning.
It was getting hard to walk through the garage. My husband and I agreed that we should condense the piles, sort them, and bring things into the house as we could.
But there was a problem. Though we live comfortably in our home, it doesn’t afford much storage space. It’s an older house, before built-in cabinetry became standard. What cabinets we did have were shallow and small. It was as if wives of the 1940’s didn’t have anything more to store than a few fry pans and quilting scraps. The fry pans I own: along with the Ninja blender, the Kitchenaid stand mixer, and extra rolls of wrapping paper from last Christmas. The quilting scraps I do not.
I made it my project, one week, to tackle the job while my husband was at work, the kids at school, and baby napped for an hour or two. Surely it wouldn’t take that much time to tidy things up.
I was half right.
It didn’t take much time to re-shelve beach toys and lawn chairs that had been taken down and not put back.
But I found it took a monumental amount of time to find a new place for something in the house. It had to be somewhere where I would find it again, and thus, USE it. But that meant going through the house cabinets and clearing out space for the garage things. The surprise was seeing what the heck we DID have in there. I found more mason jars squirreled away than I could count. Much of what I found I had forgotten about. Which is silly, because again: these are tiny cabinets, in my own house. I realized that I zoomed around the same familiar circles of my home in my daily chores, leaving much of the corners and cabinets un-examined.
Opening their doors, I stepped into another dimension. I went back to an earlier time: a younger time of intention, of anxiety and sleepless nights with infants. I went through a process of seeing and touching each item, assessing whether I have ever used it, or would ever use it again. I suddenly realized I was taking stock of my past and future: my values and direction. A sense of freedom washed over me as I ordered the things in our house to serve us as we currently are. Well-meaning intentions of a younger time fell away. I could feel myself owning who I am now, with who my husband is now, and who our children are now.
It was marvelous: now in our late 30’s, we have never been this old before, with this much perspective. My husband and I have found our place with each other, and are carving a place for the kids to grow. Though it takes far more time than we budget, finding a place is foundational work. Even after 12 years of marriage. Even after 7 years of living in this house.
It is the same with finding a place for roast pans and the knitting box.
Hi. I’m Steph Lenox. And I’m growing up.
I asked my mother-in-law on her birthday what she liked about reaching her age. “Becoming comfortable in my own skin,” she replied. Then she went on to describe how with each decade of her life she relaxed a little more into herself.
I want this too.
So I will find a place for the things we have.
I will clear room for the the things we want.
I will stretch out my arms and legs and take up more space in my own life, surprised to find a place for myself within my own skin.