Last week, my family went on a “staycation.” Rather than going away for a week on vacation, we stayed at home.

I decided to put the time to good use and do some chores which had been eating my conscience for months. I cleaned out four closets, 27 drawers and two large boxes.

While some people might find sorting and tossing an odd way to spend vacation time, when I told my friends of “The Big Purge,” the reaction was unanimous.

“Oh! That sounds awesome!” they said. “I bet it felt good.”

Yes, indeed, it certainly did. Not only did I make a significant contribution to Goodwill, but I rediscovered many interesting and long unseen items. It might not have been a vacation in paradise, but there were plenty of hidden treasures.

High on the top shelf in my closet were stacks of boxes containing old family photos, letters and papers. Tucked inside a paper bag were the sympathy cards I received when my grandmother and great-aunt died in January 2002. Amid the cleaning clutter, I sat down and reread every card. Fifteen years later, I couldn’t help but notice many condolences were sent by people now deceased, and it made their notes all the more meaningful. It reminded me of the importance of reaching out when friends have lost a loved one.

My grandmother was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Before the days of the internet, she spent many hours researching genealogy at the public library. She kept much of her documentation, some of which was in the dust-covered boxes.

Neatly folded in a faded envelope were her notes on Shelby Cullom, an ancestor and contemporary of Abraham Lincoln. In the same envelope was a paperback primer for Illinois schoolchildren, dated 1909, celebrating Lincoln’s 100th birthday. The delicate pages were in good shape, with stories and photos of Lincoln’s youth, although the cover had some water damage. What a treat to read through its pages.

Parents understand the aggravation of buying a gift which is not used or quickly forgotten by their child. After digging through dresser drawers, I found a hooded sweatshirt from London, England, which I purchased for my daughter four summers ago. Here it was buried in the drawer, worn only a few times. I was thrilled when I found the sweatshirt perfectly fit me. I wore it the rest of the day in celebration. (And, yes, I’m keeping it.)

Still surrounded by boxes and stacks, I spent 15 minutes untangling an old necklace. It was a distraction from the main task at hand, but when the necklace was free of tangles, I felt a gratifying sense of victory.

But while I like to dispose of clutter, I am married to a saver. Sometimes my husband wants to save the stuff I want to pitch.

Still enjoying our “staycation,” we sat in the backyard and shared a bottle of chilled white wine. The July heat, however, had warmed the bottle, and condensation began to drip down the side.

“I wish we still had that insulated bottle sleeve to keep the wine cold,” I sighed. “But I am sure I got rid of it in one my cleaning frenzies.”

“You mean the ice pack thing with cartoons of French waiters on it?” he asked.

“Yes, but I haven’t seen it in years,” I said.

My beloved went inside and reappeared less than a minute later. He proudly presented the aforementioned bottle chiller, frozen and ready to use.

“I pulled it from the garage sale box,” he said. “I thought it might come in handy someday.”

“Here’s to you,” I said, raising my glass.

“Cheers,” he replied, “And to the rescue of useful items from The Big Purge.”

I can only wonder what else he has retrieved and packed away.

Contact Susan Hazlett at susanrhazlett@yahoo.com or write to her in care of The Pantagraph, 301 W. Washington St., Bloomington, IL 61702-2907.


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