On Sunday I cleaned my room. It was so overdue that a simple cleaning wasn’t enough so I rearranged my furniture and got rid of a lot of stuff in addition to the sweeping and the mopping and the scrubbing of the walls, the magnanimity of the task making up for its tardiness. I had an Ikea bag on the floor for things to be given away, and next to it the trash can, for trash. Most of the clothes went in the trash. A stained tank, trash. A silk shirt I loved but that had been through the drier with something inky and blue was a total loss. Or at least it was after I tried to extend the neckline and the scoop back to cover the stain. Why throw away a shirt when you can first hack it up? Into the trash went the $50 dress that pilled terribly when I wore it once. I’d kept it on the floor, in a bag after, sort of knowing I should return it, that I had a case for returning it (“I wore this dress one time and look what it did!”). But really it was worth more than $50 for me not to have to do that. I didn’t want to do it, and I didn’t. Then it got some tiny bleach stains on it, and I’m not sure how. Another dress was also casualty to these tiny bleach stains—was it from perfume? Does perfume turn into bleach when you’ve had it for 9 years? Or maybe it was the rosewater spray I bought at a health food store in Richmond three years ago. Could rosewater turn into bleach? Is that science? Trash, trash.
I sorted through my basket of scarves. Summer scarves, winter scarves, fall scarves. I started buying them after I went to Germany my last year of high school and all of the girls wore scarves all of the time, and I decided: I would like to wear scarves all of the time. So I started buying scarves. I bought one at H&M while I was there, a beige one that I reasoned would go with anything, but it washed me out and so I never wore it. I wear the thin ones sometimes in my hair when it is wet and I’m home, tied up and knotted like a cooler person than I am. I’m Erika Badu, I’ll say in the mirror, but and no, no I’m not. I’ve worn one out of the house exactly one time and a picture was taken of me that time and I’ll never do it again, at least not while sober. I also sometimes wear them as tank tops, breast-binding tank tops, tied around my chest, knotted in the back, with a high-waisted skirt. Never out of the house. So what I’m saying is I don’t really wear scarves and there is no reason for me to have so many of them. The beige H&M one went in the trash. It was old and stained, for something so rarely worn. A mint green one, never worn, Ikea bag. I remember buying that one at a grocery store in Portland because I liked the color, had to have it. Here, take my $20 so I can put that scarf in a basket on top of my shelf and then move it to five different apartments without ever wearing it once. Sure. But the emerald green one I couldn’t get rid of, it was too pretty, and from Kim. And the white and red one with the wide stripes would be so good for when I moved to a beach town and figured out how to wrap my hair up without looking like a cancer patient. And the big black one, I needed that for winter. And the red one was from my mother. And the blue one , too, she bought it for me in Turkey, very important, very special. One in the trash, one in the Ikea bag. The rest back in the basket. This was not turning out to be very successful. I needed to be more ruthless.
Toiletries remain a problem. For someone who often leaves the house looking like she just got out of bed because she has, I have a lot of hair goop and face powder. I have three brushes and a flat iron and a hair dryer and I don’t use any of them except for one of the brushes sometimes. I have samples of face creams and highlighter from the time when I was paying money each month to have such things sent to my house, and then another period when I went to Sephora whenever my mood got low. Makeup and creams and potions are so promising—what if this is the thing that changes my whole look?—and I find them tantalizing to buy and impossible to get rid of, but during this clean, I tried very hard. I threw out the very disgusting things, the very old things, the things I knew I’d never use. But had trouble dumping it all. Who knows, what if I decided next month that I wanted to be a person who wears a lot of makeup? I couldn’t know that I wouldn’t want to do that. I literally could not know. So I kept some of it, stuffed it back one of the baskets, stood on a chair, put it on the shelf over the door. That was so satisfying, to put that basket up there, so I put the scarf basket up there, too, and then to fill the shelf, another basket filled with papers and pens and I don’t know what. That basket used to be on my desk.
I was sick of going through baskets. I decided a more intelligent way to do this cleaning would be do get the bones right—the bed where I want it, the desk and shelf in the right place, the baskets on the right shelves, everything just so—and then later I could take a basket out, clear that basket, put it back up, lighter and cleaner. So I did the scarf basket fully. The makeup basket partly. The papers basket not at all. There’s a check in the papers basket from a project I did. It’s been there for 2 weeks and at first it was because I didn’t want to go to the bank (lazy) and then it was because I didn’t trust myself to deposit it (compulsive spender) and then it was because I decided I was going to use it to pay off one of my credit cards (sensible). But after I made that decision I thought of all the other things that I’d actually like to do with it—a plane ticket, a weekend away, a new pair of boots, a dress—and then I remembered about taxes, I’m always forgetting and then remembering and then forgetting again about taxes. And so the check has just stayed in the basket. Now the basket is on the shelf above my door, and if I’m in bed I can look up at it and think: In that basket is a bunch of stuff I don’t want to deal with. But there’s also this check. I’ll cash it soon, when I run out of money. I’m sure, and it won’t go to the IRS or to the credit card company or to a new pair of boots or a plane ticket, but to coffees and glasses of wine and bottles of water from the corner deli when I’m headed into the city (realistic).
All my books went into the Ikea bag. They were until this point in a stack under my desk and during the rearranging of the furniture they were a stack in my closet and then I just put the whole stack in the Ikea bag. Then I took three out because they weren’t actually mine and I need to return them to their owners and one that my dad bought me that I need to at least try to read. My dad has really good taste. I haven’t read this book yet because I don’t like the title and I don’t like the cover but I know that once I start reading it I’ll have to admit that it is really quite good and then I’ll call my dad and say, You know, that book you bought me is really quite good and he’ll say, What did you expect. So I kept those four books. But the rest are gone. They weren’t even my books anyway, all those books I got rid of. They were ones I picked up on the street or ones that had been given to me. They were other people’s books that they didn’t want and so they became the books that I didn’t want. The books I do want, the books I care about, never hang around for long, because when I love something I immediately put it in the hands of the first person I meet that I think will also love it. That and I’ve moved a lot, as an adult. I used to come home for Christmas with empty suitcases so I could bring back books and pictures and other things, slowly transferring all of my most treasured items from my parents’ home to my new home on the other coast. And as I moved around, those books and pictures and things all came with me, shuffled around California, and then around Oregon. But when I came home, I left it all there. Brought some pictures, a very few books, a lamp that I found on the side of the road my first weeks in Portland. But I left a lot. I don’t even remember what anymore.
Baskets are one thing I left in Portland: Lots of baskets. And one of the first things I bought when I moved to a new apartment here. I have baskets instead of a dresser. I have an aversion to owning a dresser because I have an aversion to owning things that I cannot lift and move myself, so instead I have shelves and baskets. My friend Annie says the baskets are why my homes always feel cluttered. That and the clutter. But I’m working on it. I got rid of some more stuff—a saw, an air mattress pump for an air mattress that I’d thrown away, a box of charcoal and two bags of moss that I’d taken off the street as a sign that terrarium-making was definitely in my future, many totebags. I dragged the Ikea bag to the living room and put my room back together. It really is a nice room.
All my dirty linens and towels were in another Ikea bag, and later I took that one and the one with all the stuff I wanted to get rid of, and I went to leave the house. My shoes are in the hall and I thought: Fuck, shoes. I went and got a shopping bag out of my room and brought it back and put a bunch of shoes in the bag, mostly heels that I never wear. An Ikea bag on each shoulder, a shopping bag in my hand, I left the house. Dropped the bag of stuff to get rid of next to the stoop, dropped the bag of laundry at the laundry place. I’d planned to take the shoes to a resale shop, thinking maybe I could get something for one of the pairs which was very nice and never worn, donate the rest, but the woman at the laundry pointed to the bag and asked if I was getting rid of them. I said yes, and then, would you like them? And she said yes, and so I traded her my bag of shoes for the slip of paper telling me how much my laundry would be ($18) and was on my way. I wandered around for a bit, enjoyed the evening, ate something, and by the time I got home an hour later, the bag next to my stoop was gone, along with everything in it, save the jar of charcoal and 2 books.