‘Tis the day before Thanksgiving, and all through the house/mansion/chateau/penthouse/pied-a-terre/castle/villa, the denizens of Dandelion Chandelier world are in a frenzy. Some are packing franticly for themselves and two or more kids; others are welcoming waves of houseguests at a rate that threatens to become a tsunami; some are brining turkeys, or baking multiple pies. One is fuming at the airport because his flight just got cancelled.
And me? I’m going all General Patton on my family, commandeering a squadron of teenagers to clean up the first floor of my house.
When I was younger and poorer, I used to imagine that when I was older, and had a little more scratch to my name, I would never have to face the wearying task of cleaning up my home before the holidays. I foolishly thought that wealth would produce a team of elves who would make all the mess disappear with no oversight or input from me. That’s how the leisure class rolls, right?
Oh, no. Wrong, wrong, wrong, a thousand times wrong.
One of my friends jokes that she has to clean up before her housekeeper arrives, and it’s totally true. Only you can tell what’s trash and what’s a family heirloom; what’s necessary for tax purposes and what’s junk mail; which photos need to come out of storage to be prominently displayed, and which ones definitely need to be hidden away. And only you, the CCO (Chief Cleanliness Officer), can decree that the house is, in fact, ready for company.
This is why you should have a huge party at your home at least once a year, preferably in late September or October. It will force you to clean up a year’s worth of flotsam and jetsam, dust the cobwebs out of every corner, clean the windows, and finally throw out the last of the Christmas morning paper and boxes that have been sitting around all year because no one had the energy or the heart to just throw them away.
If there are unwashed beach towels lying about, this is the moment to make them disappear.
My famous annual autumn dinner party is a well-disguised, clever ruse to force an epic clean-up of my house – this way I don’t have to go berserk the week of Thanksgiving to get everything in order before my entire family comes to celebrate the holiday. Don’t get me wrong, I do love autumn and love having people over. We generally host some kind of lovely party in the fall, sometimes a fundraiser, sometimes a girls-night-out, sometimes just a raucous house party. It’s all good, and it all serves my nefarious purpose, which is to get everyone in my household to declutter.
This year, we didn’t have the party. And that was a HUGE (no political reference intended) mistake.
So here we are. Three kids and two parents, and if we could get them to do it, random passersby lured in off the street: carrying huge piles of papers, unread books, mittens and scarves, and who the heck knows what else, to the basement. To the attic. To the trash heap. All this just to be able to get to the point where someone can mop, or sweep, or vacuum, or dust. Because my parents arrive in 45 minutes, and they need to see a perfect house. You understand that, right?
I know what some of you are thinking: why do you have so much stuff in the first place? I hear you, and every year I tell myself that’s it, I am going to do that ritual where you hug things and if you don’t love them, you throw them away. But somehow, I am never in the mood for that. I do believe that throwing things away can be a healing and cleansing process. I just don’t ever seem to have the time for it.
I once met a man who owns only 100 possessions, having discarded all the rest. He seemed really chill, and I would like to be like him. Free to roam, no strings, clean house, clear mind. Someday I will purify myself through the ritual of discarding many of my earthly possessions. Preferably through the use of a large bonfire, which seems like it would be really cathartic.
But today is not that day.
I know this is a rich folks’ problem, as my auntie would say (although we all know she’s the type to check for dust in the crevices of the living room when she thinks no one is looking). We have so much to be thankful for, and there’s an entire meal to be cooked, and now my family members will be here in 43 minutes, so I’ll just leave it at this: the best cure for over-consumption of stuff is remembering this exact feeling: what is this, who bought it, and why? Throw it out!
In the meantime, I’ve got to get back to my command post. Happy Thanksgiving Eve, everyone. Fire up the stove, or have a safe journey, and have fun on the big day! Just don’t forget to dust.