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Boxing the Gremlin

I love spring cleaning. No, not the spring cleaning that involves washing windows, scrubbing the crisper in the refrigerator or raking the lawn. I like cleaning out closets and reorganizing stuff.

One of my favorite places to shop is the Container Store. I could walk up and down the aisles for hours, browsing and drooling over the multitude of storage options. I'll confess that more than one indulgent summer afternoon has been spent swinging in the hammock, flipping through a Pottery Barn magazine, imagining what I would put in the wicker baskets and canvas boxes or thinking about what note I might write on the chalkboard kitchen storage organizer. Oh, how much lovelier my belongings would be if only they were nicely and neatly organized in color coordinated, easy to tote but sturdy enough to be furniture, storage containers.

If I'm having a stressful day I find that at the root of the problem is an area of the house that needs to be organized. While daunting at first, there is no amount of stuff that I can't pull from the depths of a closet, throw onto the floor, separate into piles, toss, re purpose, clean, refold and place into a box, plastic tote or bin on wheels for easy future access. Then, I smile because I am free. Free from clutter, disorganization and the nightmare of stuff crawling out of closets at night and suffocating me.

A big part of the cleaning process for me is the toss. Like most women, I enjoy shopping and adding items to my collection but what I like much more is to get rid of whatever it is I'm no longer wearing or using. I'm not a shopping bulimic because I don't binge shop. I'm too cheap to buy more than one item at a time. But, oh how I like the purge. My smile is just as wide when I fill the car up with several large boxes to be donated to the local shelter. I find inner peace when the lady at the counter stamps the tax-deductible donation list. I have single-handedly wrangled my way out of the chains of materialism.

Unfortunately, my old ball and chain ties me back down. For every pair of shoes, jeans, bag or knick-knack that I let go of, Andy acquires a dress shirt, baseball memorabilia piece, postcard, poster, knick-knack, inkless pen or 9/11 collectible. Andy's stuff is like Gizmo the mogwai- sweet, innocent and harmless until exposed to water and fed after midnight. My house is full of Gremlins. Evil, multiplying, mohawk-sporting, reckless, menacing ugly things trying to take over my life and maybe even kill me.

I have tried over and over to remove the creatures from my home. I've hidden them, deep at the bottom of a box or stuffed under heavy objects in a trash bag. They have made it to the garage where they usually find their new home, permanently "displayed" on a shelf next to the rakes and gardening supplies. Sometimes, after a year or two collecting garage dust, the stuff creeps back into the house and finds its way under our bed or shoved behind the door of one of our many closed door, non-toteable storage pieces. I'd like to say that I believe in "out of sight, out of mind" but just knowing that a big pile of crap lurks behind these doors eats away at my inner peace.

I have tried to tame the beasts, to keep the gremlins in cages, far away from water and in bed before midnight. I carefully selected tasteful and easy to use storage containers, with thoughtful labels like "unopened mail", "bills to pay" and "for Andy's review". When I've placed them in their appropriate, easy-to-reach yet out-of-the-way locale, they look at me like fuzzy, sweet creatures and while their existence is still upsetting to me, I am able to find a fraction of happiness in this compromise. I have no choice but to run and hide when days or just hours later those beautiful buckets are found on the fireplace mantle or on the dining room table, tipped over and mixed with electronic cords, nails and little slips of paper with cryptic numbers written on them. I can do nothing but cry when a Wheaties box ends up on display next to a family photo or heirloom on the dining room buffet.

We all have skeletons in our closet. We all have little creatures that haunt us in our nightmares. Mine just come in the form of every day household items you normally find on the racks of a second-hand store that no amount of cute storage containers can tame.

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