Closet and dishes

Spring Cleaning Hits Different in the 20-Year House

I did the unthinkable last weekend: I pulled every item out of our linen closet. I kept only what had a purpose and place in this house — where we currently live — without a care for the next house.

I’m almost embarrassed to tell you how much stuff we didn’t need, but kept despite purging before every move, “just in case” we needed it at a future residence. Because this is a safe space, and you get the struggle, I will share that I got rid of more than HALF the stuff in that closet.

I found pillowcases and sheets that no longer fit anything we own, curtain panels from my daughter’s “little kid” room that made her eyes roll so hard, I swear, it was audible. I found little 2-by-3-foot entry rugs that haven’t matched our home décor since 2010.

I discovered a large number of sleeping bags for people who do not camp. And, of course, the staple of every military home: several air mattresses to rival the sleeping bags. I also found a Christmas tree skirt that made me regret not doing this in the fall, but because I purchased a new one before Christmas 2023, that one went in the give-away pile too.

We are no strangers to a hefty purge every two to three years, but this time it was different. This time we’re almost — I say almost because I’m not brand new — guaranteed not to move again on military orders. Retirement is in the headlights and, if we get our way, we are staying put until our children graduate from high school.

While it seemed logical to carry around the just-in-case rugs and patched air mattresses (which, honestly, still leak) for the next move, it suddenly seems absurd to hang on to things I know for sure will not see the light of day for a decade.

As we slowly adjust to this concept of not moving again shortly, I’ve found that I have this uncontrollable urge to settle for the first time in a long time — to really unpack boxes and critically organize their contents, not just pull out the items and shove them in a closet to deal with later.

Now, it is later. I’m no longer interested in keeping something just for the sake of having it. I think — I say think because I’m not brand new — I have a pretty good idea of what our next 10 years will look like. That makes it so much easier to look at something we own and decide if it has a place in our present or our future.

My wrath has not been contained to the upstairs linen closet. I’ve been making my way around the house and downsizing in every room:

  • Linens: Bedding, curtains, shower curtains, rugs, bathmats, towels and fabric scraps from my sewing era — gone.
  • Clothing: If it no longer fits (in size, style or lifestyle) or is worn out, it’s out of here. This applies to all closets and dressers in the house. When the kids were younger, I was more inclined to save a sentimental outfit or two from the toss pile, but as they age, I have less and less attachment to the weird things they choose to wear. (Things that admittedly look a lot like what I wore in middle school — a reminder that styles will come around again if you ever feel the need to repurchase something.)
  • Dishes and Kitchen Items: Why do we still have four place settings in wedding china that we never used or felt the need to buy more of? I checked. It’s not even made anymore, and it drips of early 2000s style, which begs the question: What was I thinking? That freed up a shelf. I tossed out random spoons and dishes we acquired at potlucks, duplicate items and the kids’ plastic dishes. (Teens and tweens, I suspect, can handle real dishes). I also tossed the coffee cups that came with our dishes. I am comfortable enough in my skin to know that they will never hold the amount of coffee I require to be a functioning adult, and we had 12 of those little things.
  • Toys: This one has been the toughest. I’ve raised packrats. Despite having a teen and a tween, there are more stuffies than humans in this house. As much as I don’t want to rush them out of childhood, I know we just don’t need tons of blocks, trains, Legos, games, puzzles, water guns and balls. (Why did we have six soccer balls?) The kids are mostly busy with school and extracurriculars, and when they do have free time, it’s dedicated to reading or screen time. The toys were taking up space and collecting dust, so we drastically thinned the herd.
  • Seasonal décor: If an item doesn’t find a place during the first year, it’s out of here unless there is a sentimental reason to keep it.
  • Furniture: This category won’t happen overnight, but we are getting rid of pieces that don’t fit the floorplan we’re in. When necessary, we’re upgrading the furniture that’s weathered a few moves. We’re purchasing solid pieces that will complete each room in our house. I’m okay with this taking longer than it typically would because we aren’t just grabbing some cheap, build-it-yourself furniture to fit a need for a couple of years. We want things that will last; we don’t want to worry about a voyage across the Pacific doing its worst to more expensive furniture.

Unexpectedly, this purge is helping me settle into not only our home, but into the idea that it will be home for a while. I was nervous — still am, honestly — about what I’ll do with myself when I don’t have to move every three years. This exercise in organizing has helped reality sink in. However long we stay in this house, I know it will be full of the people I love, the things that spark joy and have a purpose, and, for once, that’s all I have to worry about.

Kristi Stolzenberg
Written By Kristi Stolzenberg
Marine Spouse

Kristi started writing for Blog Brigade as a new Milspouse in 2008, and all of a sudden, she’s a seasoned (but not overly salty) Marine spouse.

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