Cleaning out a junk drawer

Recently, I’ve been struck by a deep need to get rid of things. I’ve been going through drawers and boxes, trying to toss the useless ephemera and clutter that constantly plagues me. I’ve been trying to do it in small bites, so that I don’t overwhelm myself and give up on the project entirely.

I went home for lunch on Wednesday, and decided that I’d use fifteen of the forty-five minutes I’d have in the apartment to clean out something. I chose the drawer under the television in the bedroom (a TV that hardly ever gets watched and should really be given away. I can’t quite bear to part with it, as my parents got it for me for Christmas my freshman year of college). I keep the television and accompanying VCR under a piece of pink fabric, to keep the dust away and also so that I don’t always have the blank screen staring at me. That fabric hangs down over the front of the drawer, keeping it hidden from sight and barely used. However, despite the concealment, it was full of junk. Mostly belonging to my grandmother.

After 6 and a half years, you’d think that I’d have gotten rid of all the bits and pieces that my grandparents left behind. Well, if that was your assumption, you’d be wrong. Each time I’ve have this need to clean out, I’ve focus on different areas of the apartment. There have been times when the inspiration has struck in the kitchen (which is nearly entirely mine by this point) or in the hall closet (which still contains much of their stuff, although I did finally get rid of the last of my grandmother’s clothes last January). I don’t know exactly how to explain it other than during each wave of cleaning, I reach a point where emotional exhaustion sets in and I just can’t get rid of another thing. On some level, each item I discard feels one less bit of connection to a woman I loved dearly and so I’ve always reached a point of emotional saturation, where I just can’t let go any more. Well, either that or I just get distracted and eventually forget to return to the task at hand. Whatever the reason, I find that there is still much of grandparents’ life detritus living in Apartment 2024 with Scott and me.

Going through that drawer, I found an old eyebrow pencil, three mercury thermometers, several teeny, tiny foreign language dictionaries and my grandmother’s last driver’s license (which I ended up returning to the pile from which it came) among many other things. When I was growing up, going through her stuff was one of my favorite things to do when we’d visit. I loved sifting through her jewelry box and rummaging through the carton of wallets that lived on the floor in the closet. I think some of resistance to finally getting rid of the last of her things is that it means that that particular childhood pleasure will be gone from me forever.

It’s a bittersweet thing, this growing up.

3 thoughts on “Cleaning out a junk drawer

  1. Melody

    Thing about throwing away grandparents things is that it just feels wrong.. My grandparents had an entires chest of drawers stuffed with photos of their parents and grandparents, their children and even of me and my brother. All of the photos are completely jumbled up but thats what makes it so fun. On the other hand, my grandfather is a hoarder who left my mother with five boxes of broken toasters lol. He went nuts when he found out she took them to the refuse station.

    maybe you need storage containers for all that stuff you want to keep but wont really look at much while your in your apartment. Cos eventually you might want to buy a house and if you had room but chucked most of it, you’d be kicking yourself forever.


  2. Fran

    Um, what did you do with the mercury thermometers? You should take them to a hazardous waste disposal site if possible. We can’t have mercury thermometers or barometers in schools anymore, and cleaning mercury up when it spills is a very annoying chore that isn’t so easy to take care of at home.
    I know what it’s like to have those cleaning spurts. A couple of weeks ago I did several places in our house that nobody ever sees (instead of taking care of cluttered, more “public” spaces). A shelving unit in the basement and the coat closet. I’m hoping that with summer coming up I can also take care of the rest of the house on a more thorough basis, too!

  3. kasey

    This entry really struck a chord with me. I read a book once that talked about the death of a parent (or grandparent) is like losing our history because there are things that they remember that we do not either about ourselves or others.


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