Deb Rachel Doesn’t Know From Cleaning

2012 Debutante Rachel BertscheI’m the last person who has any right to write a post about spring cleaning. Or any type of cleaning. Just ask my husband.

We were recently talking about my next book—which is about celebrity obsession and perfectionism, and how I’m going to try and incorporate the aspects of celebrities’ lives that I most admire into my own (Jennifer Aniston’s fitness, Gwyneth Paltrow’s cooking, Jennifer Garner’s marriage, etc.)—and Matt’s response was “which celebrity focuses on having a cleaner house?” Perhaps I’ll need to incorporate Martha.

My spring cleaning is  more like spring listing. In order to extract some order from the chaos, I write lists. Normal productive lists, like “Potential Book Picks for Book Club” and “To Do For Work” and “To Buy,” and some that are less so, like “Every Winner of Survivor, Not In Order” (this one I just tried to see if I could name them all. I could).

So I’ve decided to use this opportunity to construct a Spring Cleaning list. My father’s favorite saying was “when in doubt, throw it out.” I should probably embrace it.

Here, the things (physical and emotional) I doubt, and thus must throw out:

— Pair of heels I’ve never worn but can’t get bring myself to get  rid of because they are fancy designer shoes that were 90% off.

— The self-imposed email guilt. (Just answer them or delete them. Make a decision, Bertsche.)

— Books taking up valuable room on my bookshelf that I have no plans of reading or disliked intensely. (In this case, don’t throw out. DONATE!)

— DVR series recordings of Gossip Girl, Mad Men, and Project Runway. I don’t watch these shows, whether I want to or not. Stop using valuable recording space!

— Preconceived notions of what my next book “should” read like or look like. Second books can be hard, with the reader comments from book one still ringing in your ears.

— Plastic baggie filled with peanut butter filled pretzels in the cupboard. Nothing good is coming from that.

— Inclination to compare myself to other young 20-something (er, 30-something) memoir writers with brand new books on the shelves. (Remember: the book world is vast and the very best thing for all authors is for readers to read. Period. Any books at all.)

There are so many–so many!–things I’m missing. To what in your life will you apply my dad’s “when it doubt, throw it out” motto?

12 Replies to “Deb Rachel Doesn’t Know From Cleaning”

  1. Good list, Rachel!

    Hmm. I guess, if I could, I’d toss out senseless worry. But that’s probably not any more likely to happen than me tossing out all those boxes of old books in my basement. (Yes, I worry about that sometimes …)

  2. For me, it’s my albums. Oh, that milk crate of LPs I have been lugging around FOR. EV. ER. and the turntable too, of course, because you can’t throw out one and not the other. It really is one of those things. It’s not that I couldn’t get them on CD, but I have moved them around for so long, they have taken on a life of their own. As in: I’ve lugged them for 20 years, if I throw them out now, what will the last 20 years of lugging them been for??? Who knows. Maybe I’m just waiting for the turntable to break–or that glorious smell of vinyl and the sleeves to fade. (Yes, even 20 years later I can STILL detect it!)

    1. Erika, I totally hear you. It’s sunk cost effect, right? You’ve already invested so much effort into lugging the records around, you can’t quit now! Been there.

      But converting them to CD (and then putting them on your computer because CDs are on their way out too, right?) could be a good 2012 project! You know, since you have nothing else going on.

    1. Katie, I just went out of town with only a rollaway carry on suitcase and realized I had enough clothes for a week or two, and all things I was excited to wear. It occured to me, while dressing in that hotel room, tht maybe I should get rid of everything else I own. When I go into my closet I’m not excited, I’m overwhelmed. It’s a really awesome feeling to feel GOOD about all your options. Closet purge, here I come!

  3. I really need to get to the source of my clothes closet problem and not buy things I am waffling over. “If in doubt, just walk out (of the store)” should be my mantra. I bought a blazer a little while ago that I was on the fence over and know I will likely never wear it and now I’ve missed the exchange window. Silly, Joanne.

    1. If in doubt, just walk out… is brilliant! I love it and should definitely leave by that mantra as well! See, the Debs really do change lives.

  4. My dad has always said the same thing, but about meat in the fridge (advice I use often). I love that many here have already commented on books and clothes because that’s where my “mayhem and foolishness” (Clean House, anyone?) persists too. Like you, Rachel, I find myself overwhelmed by my closet and love the thought of packing for a trip wherein I can appreciate each necklace and pair of shoes I select. I need to apply the logic of the dad’s to my closet, and then my bookcases…probably in that order because I find it much easier to donate clothes than books! I used to think more clothes/shoes/accessories/books the better but it’s really a waste of time to wade through stuff you don’t like to find the few things you do.

    1. Ah, to meat! A use for the phrase I’d never imagined.. but so appropriate. Between the fridge, the closet and the bookshelf I think we know where I’ll be this long weekend!

  5. I find it much easier to get rid of things if I think they’re going to a good home/cause. Maybe you could donate those fabulous shoes to something like Dress for Success ( or the Glass Slipper Project (

    Books and DVDs can go somewhere like the fabulous Open Books — or you can drive out to the burbs and sell them to Half Price Books!

    Need help? I am WAY better at throwing out other people’s stuff than I am my own. 🙂

    1. I have made it down to Dress for Success before and it’s pretty great. Good thinking Miss Molly! And I love Open Books so so so so SO much. My mom volunteers there, and I scored the awesome copy of Sweet Valley High there recently. (Jessica dates a college guy and he has a sweet and totally ’80s ‘stache. Badass.)

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