They say that it is easier to clean out someone else's closet than it is to clean out your own, because you aren't as attached to the stuff, or because you can see things objectively, or because just being there exerts some kind of shame that makes the purge more effective. Or something?
This may be true, although in the past week as I have finally gotten up the nerve to start disposing of my ex-husband's cast off things, I am wishing that I were delving through my own closet with my grandmother, even though the shame meter would read EXTREME during the review of certain boxes of love letters and drawers filled with unmentionables. I'm an expert at shame, I believe. At least, I'm no stranger. But the experience of combing through the last nine years of my life from the perspective of my husband's clothes and books and... let's just say, “memorabilia,” is a new feeling.
I imagine that there are women out there shoveling through closets of things without a lick of grief. The torn yoga pants and homemade karate belt tossed happily into a garbage bag by arms flapping with glee at the riddance. These women are the kinds who say, “why don't you just get rid of that?” and, “you'll never use that again.” These are the women who easily invite space into their lives, who ride into the sunset without even a consideration of looking back.
I am not one of these women.
Certainly there is a sadness in me. An emptiness in my heart that mirrors the slowly expanding space in his closet, and this is the grief that The Others have warned me about. That no matter how the relationship changes, The Sadness will come and nip at your heels, just when you think you've escaped the worst. And that's ok, because I can listen to the Anne Lamott book as she talks about grief and forgiveness while I lovingly fold and sort for the last time. Even though she's talking about drug addiction and other things I've never experienced, I relate.
My difficulty is amplified by the tiny predisposition I have to hoarding (or as I like to call it memorializing). This is what happens when you have either my genetics or my upbringing, but certainly both is a recipe for disaster. The Things in my closet are mostly old and largely useless, but they are well categorized and labeled, should anyone need to sift through my belongings one day. There is a box labeled “outdated electronics” and one marked “gift wrap” and for reasons I'm not fully aware of, one marked “Valentine's Day,” which contains all sorts of ingredients to make Valentine's Day cards, an exercise I haven't participated in since 2002.
This particular experience is exacerbated by the fact that my previous boyfriend met an untimely end, which means he died early and unexpectedly. My co-morbidities of extreme self-importance and inability to release the vice-grip on anything made me feel solely responsible for memorializing him, even though our relationship ended a few years before he died. Layered nicely on top of that, the memory of raiding his father's closets after his untimely death.
And all of this shortly after I stopped making hand-made Valentines.
So the sadness at the ending of my marriage, coupled with the guilt of Memorializing, amplified by the very real experience of wrapping up the stuff of life has left me here, weeping into a pot of chai. I tried bathing in chocolate, but quickly found that it tasted dry and hollow in my mouth. If I were less aware of my shoestring budget, I might saunter down the hill and drown myself in a few memorial martinis. And if I were a real writer, I'd probably down some quaaludes or something. But I'm cheap and boring, plus I have to walk my neighbor's dog in an hour, and I'm the kind of friend who keeps my word.
Except about the marriage thing, apparently.
I've realized this is not one of those “weekend warrior” projects. Wrapping up after a clean divorce is still a painful process that can only be done one box at a time. Some boxes are too painful to open right now, and others too painful to close.
Maybe that's why he left these things.
Because it is easier to clean out someone else's closet than your own.