Tackling the attic (aka, a minefield of mementos)

The other day Dillon asked me when I was going to finish working on his bedroom. He was polite about it and said something like, "Hey Mom, when are you going to finish my room?" but I heard, "What's taking you so long, woman?' and the question made me feel cranky and stressed. 

I've been "working on" his room since last summer (I think, I've lost track) so at this point, it was totally reasonable to check in. The walls are painted, the new furniture is in place, the non-babylike sheets and duvet are on the bed. The only big thing left to do is hang stuff on the walls. So what's the holdup? 

I want to display some of his school art and certificates. But the artwork and certificates are in the attic, and the attic is where I stuff everything that I don't want to deal with: furniture, toys, clothes, dishes, holiday decorations, and boxes and boxes of mementos.  

I had a strong sense that what's been keeping me from tackling the job (cleaning out the attic and completing my son's room) are all those boxes of memories. Those boxes are taking up the most space, and the most mental and emotional energy. 

In The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, professional home organizer Marie Kondo says, "If you just stow these things away in a drawer or cardboard box, before you realize it, your past will become a weight that holds you back and keeps you from living in the here and now. To put your things in order means to put your past in order, too. It’s like resetting your life and settling your accounts so that you can take the next step forward."

Well, damn. That sounds exhausting. And it also sounds like a blog post for another day. But I know that Kondo is right about this. I also knew that my immediate goal wasn't to put my entire past in order, the goal was to finish my 11-year-old son's bedroom before he graduates from high school. 

Not long after he got all pushy about it (kidding), luckily, I found myself with one free day. In the house, by myself. I'm not going to sugarcoat the importance of this. Some jobs require the whole day with no interruptions or little people digging through all of that hidden "treasure" while you're sorting, discarding, and deciding what's worthy of being saved. The opportunity presented itself so I seized it. 

Once my family had gone for the day, I took every single box out of the attic (it's a walk-in attic, actually an unfinished room above the garage). I hauled it all downstairs to the family room, where I had plenty of floor space.

Sidenote: My calves were so sore after walking up and down the stairs a zillion times, I had trouble walking for the next few days.

Then I took a moment to get the big picture view of what I was dealing with. I tried not to hyperventilate. I found a few boxes with things like this:

Old demo reels on VHS tapes (!) from my husband's and my TV news days. A part of me wanted to go ahead and toss it. Another part of me wasn't ready to do that. And, the very focused part of me remembered that I was only going through the kids' mementos, not mine. So I took those boxes and set them aside.

Once I identified all of the boxes filled with the kids' papers, I pulled everything out, one by one, and started making piles: artwork, photos, certificates, report cards, and schoolwork that felt super special (like stories they'd written).

I took another piece of Kondo's advice on decluttering: If it doesn't spark joy, toss it. So, I also had a big pile of things to go to the trash/recycling.

Note about kid art: I separated the holiday art from the rest of the art, because I love to hang those as decorations during the appropriate seasons. 

Suddenly I had a lot less boxes, and neat-ish piles of mementos that I intended to save. I took the trash to the garage to deal with later (see how I do?) and then I took everything else back up to the attic. That may seem counterproductive, but here's what's significant about that: I can now move around in the attic, and I have a better sense of what's what.

After I cleaned up the mess and looked around again, I realized the attic project didn't seem so overwhelming anymore. A very large job had transformed into smaller, more manageable jobs that can be tackled in shorter bursts of time (which is much more realistic for daily life).

So it looks like I'll finish my son's room after all. I'll keep you updated on this ongoing story, because making a house a home is an ongoing process. 


ps - have you seen this trailer for the Gilmore Girls reunion show? There's a delightful part about a minute in where Emily Gilmore is assessing her belongings: "They don't bring me joy." 

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Girl's (and guy's) guide to spring cleaning your closet

About a month ago, my friend Holly Fisher and I met downtown for coffee. "Why do I always feel the need to snap a picture of my latte?" I asked, as I stood over the wooden table admiring the foam heart.

"Uh, I already took a pic of mine when you were in the restroom," Holly replied. 

We laughed as I captured the pretty table and the pretty coffee. 

I'll also mention that I was wearing jeans, a v-neck tee, and booties, which is like my uniform. Sometimes, I wear Chucks, or sandals, or flip flops, depending on the weather. This is important because Holly was interviewing me for an article in Lowcountry Parent magazine about how to create a closet of clothing you love.

Holly and I discussed how, in one year, I curated (that feels like such a fancy word, curate) a minimal yet functional closet that works for my style, my budget, and my lifestyle. And yet, there's nothing particularly fancy, or expensive, about the clothes I wear. But it works for me, and that's a radical difference from where I was this exact time last year, and honestly, where I was for about a decade (aka, the entire time I've been a mom).

Last spring, I wrote a blog series about the same topic. As you know, I typically write about matters of the heart. Feelings. I'm not the fashion police by any stretch of the imagination. But, I was so surprised by how many of you loved that series. Turns out, I wasn't the only one who felt like they had nothing to wear, even though you look inside your closet and clearly there are clothes. 

You may recall that I got help from style coach Megan Brandle, which I'll admit, sounds out of reach until you consider how much it costs to go to the hair salon. Here's the difference: I need my hair stylist all year round and always. I've tried to cut and color my own hair and the results aren't pretty. But, after shopping with Megan twice last year, I finally have a DIY attitude about my closet. The process taught me so much and will save me a ton of money, time, and energy in the long run. And now, when I need to be seen in public I no longer have the urge to hide out in my workout clothes. I just get dressed and go. 

But, to be clear, I still wear my workout clothes, a lot.

If you live in the Charleston area, the April issue of Lowcountry Parent magazine is out now. You can also read the article here. 

Part one of the blog series I wrote last spring is here. Part two is here. 

Also, the kind people at Tommy John sent over a quick guide to cleaning out your closet:

Guys need underwear, so Tommy John is offering 20% off your spring purchase! Use code TJ20Spring. Tommy John is also donating 5% of sales of their limited edition boxer briefs to help fund testicular cancer research during the month of April.

So tell me, are you spring cleaning your closet? Your house? The thousands of pictures trapped on your phone? What are you feeling the need to purge/clean out/organize/revive this spring? 

Uncommonly good things

*This post is sponsored by Uncommon Goods. The thoughts expressed and attempts at humor are 100% my own.*

My daughter loves to play hopscotch. And, I love to watch her play hopscotch. The thing I don't love? Drawing the hopscotch. It's my own fault. I insist on using every last grain of chalk as it whittles away on the sidewalk and I'm one millimeter away from scraping the skin off my fingers. 

That's why this rug caught my eye:

It's designed to be a decorative solution to a rainy day and perhaps, not the solution to my own laziness. Hopscotch all the time! 

This is one of the many reasons I decided to partner with Uncommon Goods; in addition to supporting a community of artisans, designers, and creative thinkers, their online shop is full of unique finds. Check this out:

Wait for it: It's a personalized mixtape welcome mat. *Swoon. And then cue that scene from Say Anything*

If the song In Your Eyes is stuck in your head now, you're welcome.

Uncommon Goods also offers practical things for the home. (What? A mixtape welcome mat isn't practical?)


This wood laptop stand is perfect for my mid-century modern home office. I adore my Macbook Air but I'm constantly battling headaches because of the weird thing I do to my neck when I'm typing on it. 

And, I'm not sure if this f-bomb paperweight goes with the decor, but raise your hand if you want it:

(Me! Me!)

Uncommon Goods offers plenty of great gifts for weddings, graduations, and anniversaries. My 17th wedding anniversary is coming up, and, as I typed that, I had to do the math. Is 17 years when you start losing count? So this card game would be nice to have around: 

It helps you recall big and small memories and access the lifetime of stories you carry around with you. 

Another way to remember the important things: Letters To My Future Self. My sister-in-law got my son this exact same gift for his birthday, and it's a great way to create personal time capsules:

Uncommon Goods believes there's a story behind every product, and the company gives you a chance to learn more about the people who made them. When you're surrounded by all that inspiration, I understand when those who work there say, "We have a feeling the future will be uncommonly good."  🖤

Related reading: What I'm watching and loving (my latest post for Skirt! Charleston.)

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