dust and sweat

airing out my closets

I’m in the middle of housecleaning right now, and I needed a break. So as I sit here, there’s sweat dripping down my neck and circling around my waistband. I’m going to mention again that it is almost October, but yet it’s hot enough outside that a little garbage detail can make you very stinky.

I’ve lived on my own for about five years now, and every year I move into another apartment (some bigger, some smaller) and I cannot believe how much crap I’ve accumulated over the years. I just started feeling really trapped in my apartment the other day and I decided enough was enough. It was time to start cleaning out all this shit I carry with me place after place after place. There’s boxes I have packed that I haven’t opened in two years! I just keep moving the packed boxes. Obviously I don’t need anything in those boxes, but just having them gives me some sort of security.

I hate throwing away things. In the theatre, you never know when you’re going to need something. Right now there are nine hula-hoops on my porch that I used in a show five months ago, but I can’t bring myself to get rid of them, because– who knows? We could write a hula-hoop sketch. I’ve been wanting to give them to a friend who lives near a day care center… just donate them to some kids, but I keep forgetting to put them in my car and then it starts raining on the hoops and now they look so sad I just want to go out and buy nine new hoops to give to the center. They don’t even know I was going to donate some hoops, I’ve just guilt tripped myself enough that I don’t know what to do with the molding hula hoops on my porch.

I’m sure they will stay there for another month or so.

Over the years I’ve held onto countless dresses that I’d never wear, but my mother insisted I may need “for a costume” one day, and I cannot argue with that logic. I’ve kept pieces of wood, poster board, broken lamps, broken electronic equipment, parts of computers, old magazines, stupid hats, and albums I’ve never even listened to… you never know what prop you may need.

I keep every letter an old boyfriend has given me… and then one day I get to feeling really guilty about it because of the new boyfriend and I throw out all remnants. Eric told me once he wished I hadn’t done that (he wasn’t there when I did), because he said that they were mine, and a part of my past, and it wasn’t necessary to erase my past to be with him.

But I hold onto so much of my past that it takes six movers to lug it to the next place. And I keep stupid stuff. I have all the playbills from every production I saw at the Alley Theatre in Houston. I still have my T-Square from my drafting class four years ago. I don’t assume that I’ll be bitten by the drafting bug anytime soon, but there may be a day when I need to do some impromptu renovations on my apartment, and I need to be ready with the blueprint.

Another part of my clutter I refuse to think is my fault. I am a big Winnie-the-Pooh fan, I don’t know if I mentioned this before… but I’ve always liked Pooh Bear and especially Tigger, and I used to collect Tigger and Grover stuff a few years ago. Well, all of a sudden Pooh became HUGE. And everywhere I went there was Pooh stuff and Sesame Street stuff– and I became the easiest person in the world to buy a gift for. And the Pooh stuff started tumbling in. I have so much Pooh that I kind of look like a crazy person, and the funny thing is I didn’t buy it for myself. But they are gifts, and I keep them and cherish them and everything, but I look a bit obsessive. I think the point got across pretty clear last Christmas when all I got from everyone (including my family) was Winnie the Pooh collectible items. It was about the time that I wa unwrapping the Winnie the Pooh dish towels that my father yelled at my mother, “She’s twenty-two years old, for Christ’s sake!” My younger sister was unwrapping useful household item after really cool electronic equipment, and I was sitting with a Pooh necklace, a Pooh calendar, Pooh earrings, a Pooh blanket… and I realized that other people really like to buy Winnie-the-Pooh things. They are cute, but you wouldn’t want them in your home, so people were buying them for my home. Plus I had a few married couple friends, and since they didn’t have children of their own, I became a sort of surrogate child, and they would buy me toys. I’m not kidding. One day we were all in the supermarket and I went, “Oh, look at that Pooh balloon!” and my friend said (in perfect mother droning fashion), “Put it in the cart.” I would get gifts buy pointing and going “Pooh!” It was incredible. It was like I was six again. (so i think i’ll be six now, forever and ever) After that, I think people backed off, and by my 23rd birthday, I started getting a variety of gifts again.

But my house is still the house of Pooh. Grover never caught on quite so large… mostly due to that pronoun-deficient Elmo. So my few Grover items around my computer desk still make me smile.

So, I’m cleaning all of this up, because I want to be low-maintanance. I’m sort of jealous of those people who can just pick up and go… just catch a plane and go somewhere else without worrying about all this stuff. And then I think… how sad that they have nothing tangible to show for all they’ve done with their lives. I have lots of tangible things representing parts of my past. That’s why they are so hard to throw away. I remember why I kept it in the first place. An old straw? That’s from when my friend Brian and I shot spitballs at each other on the trip where I won a first place acting trophy. An old flyer? That’s one of the first Lollapalooza ads when it was this idea Perry had to have a big festival of music and I was standing on Montrose in Houston all young and yearning to go to Dallas to see my favorite bands. A jar of stuffed animals shaped like penguins for juggling? That’s where I kept the first condom that I ever got… I picked it up at Lollapalooza the next year… when they finally came to my town.

It’s sort of silly, but they seem like nothing, but they hold a lot. Marcia Gay Harden (fellow UT alum) taught a workshop last year where she said that when she’s on a set that’s supposed to be her house or something, she’ll go around the set while they are setting lights or something, and touch all the pieces of the set that are supposed to be her decorating. And she’ll put stories to those pieces. That way when she’s in the scene and she’s supposed to feel something about her home, she can look at these salt and pepper shakers and remember how she got them for her first anniversary with her nearly departed husband. The story stays in her mind and her character’s history is alive to her. I think I keep these things around so my memories stay fresh.

But I think I have too much around here. And that’s why I want to clean it all up, clean up my head… figure out what I need, and what I’m just holding onto out of habit. Clean up some cobwebs. Prioritize.

At least get rid of some of this dust.

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