A Look On The Lighter Side: It takes a pandemic to clear out the junk

Judy Epstein

At some point near the start of this pandemic, somebody on television made the observation that “there are two kinds of people in the world: those who get a ton of stuff done like cleaning out closets while they’re stuck at home… and those who want to but don’t.”

But that’s just two possibilities. There are also the people who are LYING about getting a ton of stuff done. Because who’s going to come over and check? “So you say you cleared out your clutter, Judy? Let’s see that bottom dresser drawer… No, pull it all the way out. Now, let’s look under the bed. Mm-hmm, lots of dust kitties. And what’s that at the top of the hall closet? Aha! Clutter!”

Thanks to coronavirus, none of those nosy parkers can come over anymore.

And then there are the people who are lying about wanting to get anything done in the first place.

That would be me.

I had no bigger ambitions at the start of this thing than just surviving. Which seemed unlikely enough. I was sufficiently challenged just getting through each day without running down the street, screaming about the stress and tearing my (increasingly gray) hair out.

But as the days and weeks and months wore on and I was still here, I got…well, bored.

I got so bored, in fact, that I started tidying the place up.

I started small: I sorted out all the keys in the “key cup” on top of a dresser, figuring out which were duplicates, labeling all the ones I could, and putting all the “mystery keys” in another container.

This made no sense at all since I was not going anywhere that would require keys for the indefinite future. It was just something to do.

The next month, I got a bit more ambitious and decided to straighten out the huge welter of store coupons that sat mocking me from a big messy basket next to the hibernating car keys.

I spent an hour or more listening to music while I faced them all the same way. Only then did I realize that they were all from Bed, Bath & Beyond, and that it had been years since the store had upgraded their “$5 off” coupons to “$10 off .” But we’re all sorted out now. If that store and I both survive the pandemic, I’ll be ready for them!

A quest for flashlight batteries led me to the drawer for obsolete camcorder formats…which, needing a bigger home, led me to totally reorganize the gloves and scarves drawer…which in turn forced me to reappraise my need for sunscreen and bug repellent. Those I downsized.

But the big push came when one and then the other son announced plans to visit. I had 14 days, while they were quarantining somewhere else, to get the house ready.

It became my own “Project Warp Speed.”
I pulled boxes out of closets that hadn’t been touched since Noah’s flood. “Why am I keeping “Overdrawn” bank statements from 20 years ago?” I asked my husband.

“I’ve been afraid to ask you that for 20 years.”

“I mean, it’s not like anybody cares, is it? The bank? They went out of business! Am I going to have to pass an audit at the Pearly Gates? Is St. Peter — or, I don’t know, Elijah — going to quiz me, asking ‘Just why did you think you needed a seventh leather purse when you didn’t use the first six?”

“It’s a good question,” was all my life’s partner would say.

“Well, what do you think I should do with them?”

“Toss them!” he said.

And I finally did.

Somehow, being unable to leave the house has forced me to change and flipped some kind of switch in my soul. I’m still very OCD and I still have all the instincts of a hoarder. But I finally realized that I need the extra space inside this house for my family to use more than I need to hold onto obvious junk.

It was the start of a monstrous purge that didn’t end until I pulled the last box off the tippy top shelf of the back room closet.

“Family secrets — Don’t open!” the box label said. It was sealed all around with packing tape.

“Wo ho! What is this?” my husband exclaimed. “The Mummy’s Curse? The Raiders’ Lost Ark? Your wedding dress?”

We opened it up.

It was canceled checks and overdraft bank statements …not 20 years old, but 30!

They are all finally gone.

Turns out it takes a pandemic!

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