Now that the sun has decided to call it a day long before I want it to, we are forced inside as winter approaches and dark evenings turn to night.
And so it begins. As I vow each year, I plan to tackle another drawer or closet and purge our lives of obsolete items that we've held onto for way too long. I yearn for those Ikea-organized closets and Shaker-like simple rooms. I picture in my mind how much more space there will be when the entranceway closet is depleted of long-abandoned hunting jackets that are molting on the hangers.
I feel giddy at the thought of kitchen countertops uncluttered with must have stuff. Surely these is a better place to store that old mixing bowl that now holds errant pennies, pens and coupons clipped from Sunday's newspaper.
Won't the refrigerator hum a little better when it's devoid of all those magnets and photos of family high school graduates long out of college stuck to its doors? Do I really need more than the statue of the Blessed Virgin on the kitchen windowsill? She's a bit crowded with a tiny Fiestaware pitcher containing the last of the roses that bloomed this week and the new bottle of eyeglass cleaner.
Getting started, taking that first step toward my goal of a less-cluttered life can be most difficult. With the darkness upon us so early and cold winds chasing us inside, we are forced to deal with letting go. We have to come to grips with less sunshine in our lives and the eventual return of road salt and cinders through the front door.
The task that lies ahead is daunting to say the least. I consulted a similar-aged empty-nester friend who, too, is wondering when and how to part with certain mementos of our families. How long do we keep the 13 years of school photos (we always buy too many) or the drawings from kindergarten days?
My friend agrees there are certain items that, as parents, we can't release into the Hefty bag just yet. I know that I will not let go of the kindergarten artwork from our son that includes a set of his handprints in red and green paint. It has a caption about remembering how small he once was. It always brings me to tears. It's a keeper.
I could not imagine a Christmas season without the handmade ornaments he also made in kindergarten. I especially love the red Santa made of wood. How the cotton ball beard has made it through 20-some holidays is magic in itself.
It is time to rid the kitchen of too many pots and pans that sit cold most days as one-dish meals are more common in the household of two. I will hold onto the dozen or so dish towels inherited from my mother-in-law and I won't let go of the jar of marbles my mother presented me on some odd occasion.
However, this is the year, I swear, that less will be more. Blessings will be embraced not accumulated like too many shoes in the closet.
Heather Ziegler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.