by Barb, in Portland, Maine, where it’s hot today. (Hot means 84 degrees in Maine in July.)

My husband and I moved to Portland in the summer of 2017. Though our house is plenty large enough for two people, it doesn’t have a basement or an attic, so the move involved a lot of sorting and dumping. The truth was, the problem went back a ways. In last decade we have helped clean out three houses of my parents’ and two houses of Bill’s mother’s. My dad and both my grandfathers were only children, so a lot of stuff has wended its way in our direction.

We did pretty well with the cleaning, if I do say so myself. But when we hosted Christmas for the extended family in 2018, every box that hadn’t been unpacked by then got shoved into a closet.

I had the best of intentions. I was going to dig into those boxes as soon as we got home from Key West in April 2019. But…I had two books due and three wonderful weddings to travel to, family gatherings in Boothbay Harbor, ME and Stone Harbor, NJ and lots of book stuff–Malice and Bouchercon, Barbara Vey’s conference in Milwaukee and a Kensington Cozy Con.

Somehow the whole year went by. But this year, 2020, I had no excuses. No house guests. No dinner parties. No book contract. If the job was ever going to be done, it was going to be done now.

I’ve set up a folding table in the living room and I’m bringing down the boxes two by two, going through them in the evening as Bill and I watch TV. I’m not being ruthless, though I should be. Do I really need the Malice program from the year Fogged Inn was nominated for an Agatha? I decided to save the cover, the Agatha page, the Wicked ad, and my bio. The rest is gone. Which means it will all need to be gone through again. Unless I make that scrapbook about my writing life I keep threatening.

It’s been a walk down memory lane. That’s for sure.

I stared and stared at these notes trying to figure out what they were about. It’s the numbers of the photos from the photo shoot that resulted in the image on the cover page of this blog. I’m trying to figure out which photos are acceptable to all six Wickeds.
My daughter’s Christmas list from 1987. Little did we know that first item, Phoebe’s brother, would become Derek, the Cabbage Patch doll who traveled to camp and college, France, Italy and Australia. Now he and his extensive wardrobe live at Kate’s house with her two little girls
The case that should have contained my high school diploma but did not. I’m still a little bitter about it.
A collection of my old business cards. I have more somewhere from later in my career.
The recycle bag from this session. Paper maps from past travels, college papers (sadly not as brilliant as I remembered) and about fifty Playbills

Readers: Have you been #quarancleaning? Kondoing your condo? Shoveling your stuff? How do you decide what goes and what stays?

36 Thoughts

  1. I’m mostly concentrating on keeping the unread emails below 20k (now at 14,900) and tackling the ARC mountain. Laundry is up to date, dishes not so much, and other housecleaning falls into ‘it will wait until I get to it someday after the yard work.’

  2. I have not! Even though I should be. I have been keeping up, mostly, with my garden, so that’s my excuse. And with my deadlines.

      1. I was an exchange student in Colombia my senior year in high school. All I needed to graduate was a 4th year of English. But unfortunately, I flunked English there = no diploma.

  3. When this whole quarantine thing began, I planned to quaranclean. I really did. But then I realized I couldn’t take stuff to the thrift shop, so it quickly ground to a stop. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

    But I really need to start going through my drawers of paper “collections” and pitch the bulk of it. None of that will go to any thrift stop.

  4. Besides the regular every day kind of housecleaning, I hadn’t done anything special in regards to additional cleaning. However, when a whole section of bookshelves suddenly came crashing down out of nowhere in my room (shelves I hadn’t added anything to in years), I suddenly found myself cleaning up a lot of books and DVDS.

    This prompted me to make the decision to clear out most of the books that were on those shelves because I finally admitted to myself that I’m never going to re-read them. So instead of them taking up space, I’m separating them out so that whenever my local library starts accepting book donations, they are going to get a lot of stuff.

    1. We did books when we moved. I put a stake in the ground that we had a finite amount of shelf space and that was it. Now I need to do them again because the shelves are overflowing.

  5. I have been doing some cleaning out. I am trying to be ruthless, but it’s hard sometimes to keep sentiments out of it.

  6. Movers on the way and we have spent the last three months making keep/toss decisions. Once we reach Maine, we will be spending our mandatory quarantine time finding out if we really DID need that whatever since we are going from 4k to 2k.

    It’s been the papers that have been the hardest. A quick glance at your pink on pink daisy cover made me gasp and hope you hadn’t thrown that out! Do diplomas have an expiration date? My folder was blank as well.

    Hang in there, Barbara, even if you though nothing out, the trip down memory lane is priceless.

    1. It’s a process, both before and after the move, that’s for sure. The daisy cover is still in the recycle. Shall I pull it out?

  7. I had no choice but to do this in April and May. I could bring only about 10-15% of my life with me. From a 1200 SF first floor (3 family house) to whatever would fit in a 7x7x7 foot POD (think of dorm-room size) and my Kia Soul. That car was packed! (Thanks to my nephew who did that for me.) I still don’t know what made it and what didn’t as the POD is in storage while we finish clearing out my oldest sister’s belongings from the suite in this house where I’m now living with another sister, Kathleen. Little by little, I unearth one more box from the car and find a place for my things. When thrift shops are open to accepting donations again, we have boxes of shoes (my sister had so many!) and vintage clothing (she kept everything in pristine condition) to donate. What still bothers me is how many thousands of dollars of furniture and other items got “tossed” because I couldn’t take them with me and couldn’t donate or sell them. Ironically, I have run across more than item where I asked, “Now why did I bring that?”

    1. That is a huge move, Claire. The “after” is as much of a process as the “before.” This lack of access to second hand stores and donation sites is a theme here. I am wondering what will happen when they reopen.

  8. We were in a very similar situation. We had inherited everything from my uncle and grandparents through my parents when they also passed. Having the space meant it all just got put in a closet, space over the garage or in the shed. When we found ourselves retired with no longer any needs to stay where we were, we moved to our dream destination a little over 3 years ago. We greatly downsized determined that this forever home would fit our needs with no thought to resell value. The rooms are large, but we only have one bedroom and no extra closet space. So, we went through everything with different eyes and things that had no real meaning to us but just belonged to someone we loved went one way or the other. If there wasn’t a space for it or going to be used it also went.

    Now three years later and with lots of time on our hands with no place to go, we found that either the gremlins had been in adding things to our “stuff” or we didn’t de-clutter near as much as we thought we had. On top of that we sold our trike meaning we could reorganize our second smaller garage space. So yes, we have been gradually going through once again and clearing out. After the first time when we moved and finding out how liberating it was to get rid of stuff, it was really easy to do. It’s just a matter to making time and doing it. Now we have the time and you can only do so much baking, so………….
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  9. We have not really done any quarancleaning – except the back closet of the den, when we moved out the love seat that was there. I found my high school diploma!

    What we (and by “we” I mean “The Hubby”) have done are all those little projects that have idled for years. Things like putting a coat of poly on the little bookcase he built out of scrap lumber when we put on the sun room. He replaced the third door in our hallway, so now you can close off the den, the living room, and the kitchen. But he thinks he might have erred with that one. Each door has 15 little panes of glass. There are three doors. So that’s 90 little panes of window that he has to clean now!

  10. I bought a copy of “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning” by Margareta Magnusson about a year ago and have been working at trying to make sure that when I die, the kids won’t have to go through a bunch of junk nobody wants. Have been picking away at it–like who would want my old set of World Book encyclopedias? Duh. Tossed ’em.. Gave some nice items that belonged to grands, great grands, even great-great grands to appreciative young family members. I have tons of paper stuff too, Barb. Hard to part with but trying to keep it down to scrapbook size. Best of all, my daughter in law has developed an interest in ancestry, so I can pass all those wonderful old photos, letters, and research on to her this Christmas! She will love it and I will know it’s preserved at least for another generation.

  11. I did a few drawers early on which is how I found my Blockbuster card–one never knows when that will come in handy. But then I guess I decided reading is more fun. My office could use a good corona cleaning.

    1. I did the drawers and cabinets in our bathroom–throwing the expired stuff and the stuff that was still wrapped from our move three years ago.

  12. Oh yes, having lived in this house in Maine since 1986 and raising 4 daughters here, my attic is full of their stuff as well as mine. Plus my Dad passed in 2013 so I have all his stuff we didn’t toss out. My cleaning has consisted of packing up boxes of my daughters stuff (they are all in their 40’s and have homes of their own) and dropping the boxes off in their garages. THEY have been having a ball looking at their old school papers, their college mementos and pictures. How girls love to take pictures of themselves and their friends. Now my 9 grand kids have been having a ball looking at their mother’s stuff and laughing their A*** off at the clothing styles, the hairstyles and the makeup looks. I always wondered why I saved all that stuff, now I know. It was therapeutic for everyone to clean out and make room for new stuff, and relive the past and remember how much we have to be thankful for even with a pandemic going on.

    1. I still have a closet full of my kids’ stuff. I’ve been parceling it out as the grands have arrived. My kids aren’t quite as settled as yours, but I can see us getting there.

  13. I haven’t done any cleaning. I think about it sometimes, then decide it’s too much work. I love finding old notes though. Those are the best.

    1. I have loved the old notes. Thank you notes from my nephew when he was a kid. A long explanation from my daughter about why she is sleeping in her brother’s room and not in her own room. Christmas lists. To-do lists. So many artifacts of day-to-day life.

  14. I haven’t been cleaning in the sense you are talking about. But I have been doing the cleaning I normally don’t do on a regular basis. Don’t tell my pastor or my brother (who is also a pastor, but not here in town), but I am cleaning while I am “at church.” My bathrooms look fabulous, and my mirrors and windows have even been cleaned.

  15. I’m a regular going through and getting rid of stuff person. It feels wonderful. Years ago our daughter asked us to please not leave her a house full of stuff to go through and dump. I’m much better at this than hubby who is a bit of a pack rat, but he’s improving, if very slowly. It’s the papers for him, too. I read once that when looking at collections of things, I ask do I really need three of something when one will trigger the pleasant memory. That’s been a big help. Like Jay, I finally admitted I was unlikely to reread any books when there are so many new ones to explore. The library loves me. I can honestly say I’ve never missed anything I’ve gotten rid of. Now there are still those file drawers to attack…..

    1. I have missed a few things over the years, but it’s far more satisfying for everything to have a place than it is a problem to miss something a little bit.

  16. I started out like gangbusters when we first had the stay at home orders and did extremely well for a while. Unfortunately since I still don’t have other people (even family) coming inside my house (and most family/friends feel the same way about their homes) the same 2 boxes of memorabilia have been sitting on a table in my living room for way longer than I will admit. My great niece was over last night for the first time since this all started and we wore masks and sat in the backyard several feet away from one another. I’m determined not to just put the boxes back in the basement but I don’t hold out a lot of hope. Even though I know no one else would care about any of it (except family photos) I still can’t just chuck it all. If I’m not in the mood- and I’m not – I just move it from one place to another.

  17. I can only go through things when I’m in a ruthless mood, otherwise it’s a trip down memory lane and I keep everything instead of 3/4 of it! My kids stress because they’ll inherit all of my stuff (accumulated from both sides of the family) and my husband’s massive classical music collection!!!

  18. My parents kept everything. Somehow my sister got some of the stuff after they died. It turns our she was throwing some stuff out. I told her not to as I wanted it all. I would pay for shipping to me. She kind of made me mad as she said you would never know if I didn’t tell you, so that told me she has thrown much out. Now I love history and I love genealogy and I love paper ephemera, etc. What treasures she has finally sent me some of the items. I am finding out so many things about my parents I did not know. I have high school and college things of theirs. Newspaper clippings, etc. Since I have been doing ancestry.com, I am being able to build a timeline from there and now fill in many blanks. But I am trying to make albums of all of these things–one for mother before daddy and one for daddy before mother; one for their lives together including letters from WWII, etc. My father’s military records and his work from being an usher at a theatre in 1930 to leaving as a district manager of 4 theatres in 1962 to become the Postmaster in our hometown. I was born in 1948 and it is so interesting. It is hard for me to get rid of things as they mean too much to me. I even found one of my Christmas lists in my handwriting of course and on the back, my father had folded the paper up to pocket size, he listed what he was able to find for me. I have no children, but, I do have a niece and nephew who someday might like to know their heritage. Probably not. So sad. But I am enjoying the treasure trove.

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