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  • Felice Cohen

Purging the past to make way for the future

Been home at my parents’ on Cape Cod for less than a week and have already organized six closets, tweaked the garage, and reorganized another four closets at my sister’s house. Why? While it may sound like a busman’s holiday, I get a real satisfaction creating order out of chaos.

One routine I do every visit home, is sift through the handful of boxes filled with my “stuff” that’s stored in one of the two walk-in closets in my old bedroom. (Note: both closets put together are not much smaller than my NYC apartment). I don’t use the second closet as it has become storage for family luggage, my sister’s wedding dress, and electronic wires my father swears he will one day need.

This routine consists of sifting through the boxes of my past, and finding items to get rid of. It’s a never-ending game. Why does it take a professional organizer several times to do this? Because emotions are involved. Mine. I’ve worked with clients to clean out their parents’ homes after they’d died and they’d stop every so often to share a story triggered by some trinket they’d uncovered. While objects can be a touching reminder, they can also clog up your space. Whether a sweater knit by your grandmother, a pair of loafers you wore in high school, photos of an ex-lover, or even the said ex-lover, letting go of the past can be painful no matter what it is. But like the saying goes, “No pain, no gain.”

Sometimes there’s an item I’m not yet ready to part with and back in the box it goes, only to find itself on the chopping block six months or a year later, where I find myself wondering why I ever held on to it in the first place. Then, with an audible “Buh Bye,” out it goes.

After each of these purging expeditions – which is like a journey back to my younger self – I find joy. Not because I’ve tossed stuff, but because I’m making room in my present life for new experiences. My father jokes that sooner or later I’m going to be left with only one item and eventually even that will go. And he’s right. Until then, I’ll continue to whittle away my past, piece by piece, as my future slowly fills the new space.

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