Cleaning Out the Closet

-A journey of discovery and growth through lessons learned from the past.

Never let it be said that cleaning is always a dull task. This was the lesson I learned yesterday when I decided that it was time to clean and organize my parent’s closet. To say this chore was daunting is a grave understatement. The closet had been packed so full to the brim that even closing the door was a job.

To be honest, my motives were not completely selfless. I started the task with the simple intentions of only clearing out enough space to reach the printer that had been stored on the back shelf. I’ll admit, I had no idea if the thing even worked anymore, but I was determined to find out.

So with my goal in mind, I tried to move one of the boxes from my path only to realize that it was much too heavy to move. I quickly realized that if I were going to obtain my prize, I would first have to sort through the contents of this box in order to move it.

From that point, I told myself that if I were going to sort through the biggest box in the closet, then I may as well dig into the rest of the mess too since that box contained the majority of the junk. I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the box to find that it was full of old photographs, awards and keepsakes which had been thought lost to the cruel hands of time.

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Combing through these forgotten treasures, I instantly forgot that I was supposed to be cleaning. The task of organizing the closet was now my secondary goal, as my primary focus shifted to a sense of wonder. What other prizes lay buried in the rubble awaiting to be found?

As I sorted through the aged photographs I was treated to a trip through the past. I watched myself and brother mature before my eyes. There were pictures dating from the day we were born up through elementary school and then into the teenage years.

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I was reunited with pleasant memories of lost loved ones. I found pictures of my granny looking younger and more alive than I can remember. Images of her smiling face and youthful zest, her carefree spirit and nurturing grace, captured; frozen in time as epitaphs to a time long gone.

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I found pictures of my grandfathers too. Both my mother’s biological and adoptive fathers were present. It was nice to see each of them and even more joyful to try to remember them as they were in the images laid out before me.

There were an abundance of stills featuring my earliest memories of my aunts and uncles, cousins and long lost friends. It’s funny how time changes people. Friendships wane, relationships cease or become stronger, and people age.

Many photos featured budding couples in the blissful throws of young love, but over time those same couples drifted apart for one reason or another. There are a few exceptions to that rule, which are extraordinary examples of true undying love. My uncle Rick and aunt Carol have been together since they were teenagers and the years have only seen them grow closer and more in love with one another.

As I turned the pages of my old family album, and journeyed into the farthest reaches of my memories, I recovered many memories of events and celebrations about which I had completely forgotten. It was in a Christmas photo that I found the origins of my love for video games, Specifically Mario and Nintendo. My first glimpse into the world of gaming came at the hands of Super Mario 3 and I am proud to state that I have since played almost every Mario title to date.

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It wasn’t all pictures inside the box either. Underneath the withered and torn remnants of the large photo album were smaller boxes filled with awards that I had won as a child. There were certificates of achievements and trophies I had earned during my brief dabbling in the world of sports. Granted, most of those were participation awards because I was… what’s a nice way to say terrible?

My crowning achievements were the trophies I had earned during my years on the academic team. There were numerous trophies and medals earned not only at regional competitions, but also the award I earned when I made it to the state level in language arts.

After two hours of plundering through the gigantic box, I had finally reached the bottom. I then began perusing the contents of the numerous smaller boxes, after all, I was no longer cleaning. I was exploring.

Admittedly most of the rest of the boxes were just filled with useless junk and broken electronics. However, beneath a mound of my sister-in-law’s creepy porcelain dolls I discovered a treasure trove of important documents.

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Among the best discoveries were my dad’s high school diploma, my parents’ marriage certificate and license, and my ACT score results. My graduation gown was also stored with these documents, unfortunately the hat seems to have been lost in time.

As the excitement of discovery began to dwindle in proportion to the number of remaining boxes; I was forced to renew my focus on cleaning. Once most of the boxes had been removed it became evident that something had burrowed a hole through the floor from under the house. Evidence of this mysterious creature was displayed all around me. Inside a box of my deceased aunt’s book collection were gnawed and torn pages, feces and acorns. Damn squirrels.

Upon removing the last of the boxes, I came across a fairly well preserved comforter from my childhood. Unfortunately for me, the cover seemed to have an occupant. Obscured by a fold in the blanket, a mass of fur lay in a motionless clump of matted grey and white hair.

I had endured several hardships throughout this task. I was covered in dust, had been exposed to hundreds of tiny poops and had even been accosted by shards of shattered glass from old picture frames. Through all of this I persevered, but I was absolutely not about to participate in a Pokemon battle. So, I did the bravest thing I could think to do and called for my daddy.

My father came to my aid, taking his time and using absolutely no haste or speed. When he did finally arrive to my rescue, I wasted no time in pointing out the source of my anxieties. After a moments inspection, dad began to laugh hysterically. He walked into the closet and began to stomp down repeatedly onto the creature. After he felt satisfied that he had accomplished his goals of completely mortifying me and making me assume that he had massacred a defenseless animal in its sleep; my dad decided to reveal that he had not only vanquished but laid utter waste to a gigantic, furry pillow…

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This was a nice bonding moment for the two of us. My fathered having rescued me from the deadly décor, and me crying tears of laughter and losing my breath over the hilarious revelation. The bonds between two people only grow stronger after a harrowing adventure like that.

Finally, the closet was completely empty, except for the printer that started this whole event. I claimed my prize with a much greater sense of accomplishment than would have been present had I stuck with my original intentions.

The celebration was short lived, because even though the prize had been claimed, the task I had initiated was not quite completed. The closet had been emptied, but now everything that hadn’t been thrown away needed to be put back. I picked up the massive box that I had emptied during the beginning of my task and used it for a safe place to store the creepy community of dolls. After covering them with a blanket to keep away dust and also so that I wouldn’t have to look at them again; I began to carefully load a small tote with the important documents, keepsakes and books.

After hours of cleaning and organizing, I was able to reduce the amount of items stored in closet down to these two boxes. Upon coming into this knowledge, I was then able to put away all of my parents’ clothes and free up space in their bedroom where the dresser and clothes hamper once resided.

My task had finally been completed. I ran the vacuum cleaner over the floor one last time to rid the floor of any debris that had fallen during my tirade. As I listened to the hum of the suction, I began to reflect on the events of the day. An enormous sense of pride and accomplishment swept over me. Not only had I worked really hard, but I felt as though I had just done a tremendous good deed for my parents as well.

I pondered about what I had achieved and realized that I had learned something during my journey into the catacombs of the past. It dawned on me that even though a task may seem daunting and challenging, with the proper amount of determination you can overcome. The emotions that are triggered after completing a complex task are much more rewarding than those that come from doing something easy.

If you find yourself faced with a big complicated and time consuming task, there are ways to make the workload seem less like work. For me, breaking the ultimate goal up into multiple smaller goals worked wonders. Not only did time seem to fly by, but it seemed to help speed up the process.

If at all possible, find a way to make the hard or mundane errands more enjoyable. In this instance, instead of focusing on the fact that I was cleaning, I turned my attention to specific items I was unearthing while I was cleaning. In doing so, I was able to not only almost entirely forget that I was doing a chore, but also able to turn it into an exciting adventure into events of the distant reaches of times long since passed.

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It truly is amazing that something as run of the mill as cleaning out the contents of a closet can teach you such valuable life lessons. Appreciate the past, hold on to the present and work hard for the future. Your life is only as rich as the people with which you surround yourself. Through friendship and love, we experience all of the beauty that the world has to offer. Cherish those special moments spent with loved ones, as one day all that you will have left are aged photographs and vague memories.