My house was a sad sight a few weeks ago.
Hoodies, T-shirts and sweatpants — the ideal pandemic outfit — were strewn about.
A dirty glass and a plate with crumbs from a peanut butter sandwich I ate the night before sat next to the couch.
A copy of the latest book I’m reading (“Beartown” by Fredrik Backman), old editions of the Record-Eagle, notebooks and just about anything else made of paper were scattered on the floor.
A laundry basket filled with two loads worth of unfolded bath towels sat inches away from my recliner.
Unwashed dishes were stacked in the sink.
Basically I was living like Oscar the Grouch — and my mood that day was not far removed from the cantankerous puppet who resides on “Sesame Street.”
The last thing I wanted to do was clean. The first thing I wanted to do was take a nap.
Well, I decided to decline the invitation from Mr. Sandman and instead got to work turning my disgusting habitat into something more suitable for a pseudo-adult such as myself.
When all was clean and I wrapped the final length of cord around the holder on the side of the vacuum, I wasn’t satisfied. There was more work to do … and it was work I had been putting off since the day I moved in back in late February.
The time had come for me to finally go through all of those unpacked boxes, toss out the trash and donate the rest to Goodwill.
When I set out to de-clutter, I told myself to have a cold heart and throw away the birthday cards I’ve held onto for years or the horrifyingly embarrassing and cringe-inducing essays and poems I wrote in high school.
But the more I went through each box, I found little treasures that brought back some great memories and stories that had been pushed to the back by the ever-growing present.
I found my vast collection of baseball cards and thought, “Oh, I bet I could get a little bit of money if I sold these.” But as I flipped though the pages and looked at just some of the thousands of baseball cards I have, I was reminded of how I got them.
I’d save up all of the allowance I didn’t spend at Greco Nut & Candy in Tinley Park, Illinois, and stick it in my “Michigan fund,” which I used to buy things — especially baseball cards — when I went on summer vacation to Pentwater.
The memory reel began spinning in my head.
I would hop on my Huffy, pedal as fast as I could to the baseball card store, drop my bike at the entrance (I mean, who was going to steal a bike in Pentwater?), walk through the door and eventually walk out with a Frank Thomas or Bo Jackson plaque, packs of cards with that nasty rock-hard and flavorless gum and a proud grin on my face.
If I wasn’t spending my fund on baseball cards, it was going directly into the hands of a Dari Creme employee for a double scoop of Superman ice cream. Other wrinkled-up dollar bills and coins were pulled out of the damp pockets of my swim trunks as I stood with my bare feet covered in sand in line at the Charles Mears State Park candy shop.
I kept digging through the boxes and found a “Beethoven: The Movie” T-shirt I won in a bowling tournament with my dad when I was in second grade. That shirt is in complete tatters because I wore it almost every day and because my little Shetland sheepdog, Sabrina, had ripped it in several places as she chased me around the backyard … and because it was 25 years old.
Soon after that, I found a family photo circa 1987 and another of me rocking an orange winter hat and a “Masters of the Universe” sweatshirt as I stretched my mouth with my fingers and stuck out my tongue.
Memories kept flowing back.
Before I knew it, the clock was just about to hit midnight and I was still finding little treasures — smiling as I thought back on what has been a pretty good life spent with a pretty loving family.
I eventually collected enough to donate more than four moving boxes full of clothes and other items to Goodwill. I also tossed about seven bags of garbage and recycled even more.
I held onto the photos and trinkets that will remind me of those memories again as I get older.
I’m looking forward to my next trip back down memory lane when I de-clutter again.
I’m sure it will warm my cold heart.