Everybody loves a “before and after,” and no one more so than my 10-year-old daughter, Georgia.

She is constantly showing me “glow-ups” on YouTube – makeup glow-ups, wardrobe glow-ups, health and wellness glow-ups, and especially home décor glow-ups. She tells me her “aesthetic” almost every day – currently, it’s still “cottagecore” – and has a running “wish list” of stuff for her room that she wants to buy on Amazon as soon as she has saved up enough money from her fledgling pet-sitting business. 

Despite the fact that I edited a home and garden magazine for several years, I have zero sense of home décor for myself. My house is clean in the sense that we do the dishes and take out the trash and scrub the toilets … but our “aesthetic” is definitely “clutter covered in dog hair, which, no matter how much we sweep and vacuum, accumulates on absolutely everything because our dog is a mix of two of the heaviest shedding breeds even though he is otherwise a perfect baby.” 

Georgia, however, knows exactly what she wants her room to look like. She’s been drawing me plans for months of where she wants everything to go and what she wants it to look like, and I kept putting it off, but finally this weekend, I bit the bullet and jumped in. 

And good God, what a “before” we had! The girls shared a room for years – from when we moved in eight years ago up until 2020 when my stepson left for college – and although the room got periodically deep-cleaned and reorganized, the closet was a place of which we shall not speak. The plans for Georgia’s room glow-up, however, did not include her sister’s vast collection of American Girl dolls, and so those needed someplace to go, and thus I had to put on one of my handy pandemic masks and venture into the horrifying depths of the closet. 

I’m not sure I’ll ever be quite the same. It wasn’t just the dust and the (of course) dog hair, although that was considerable. It wasn’t even the fact that my children, who both profess to hate/fear roaches, had stashed valentines candies and opened packs of chips inside of bags and coat pockets … and then stashed those items inside the closet. It was mostly the sheer volume of it all. Board games. Barbies. Books. Costumes. Purses. Science projects. Art supplies. 

At one point, I found a book that I had forgotten even existed … and then I remembered hating it and having to read it every night for months and months and feeling like it would never end … and then I just sat down on the floor, surrounded by piles and piles of crap, and had a massive sobbing existential crisis wondering how much of motherhood I’ve already forgotten/wished away and now my kids are in middle school and high school and I will never read Walter the Farting Dog again.

But then I snapped out of it because there was still a mountain of stuff on Georgia’s bed and I needed to clean it if I didn’t want her sleeping with me. 

Anyway, it took about five hours, at least 10 contractor bags, two trips to Goodwill, and a whole lot of spray cleaner and paper towels, but I got it done. And it felt amazing, existential crisis notwithstanding. The closet is now emptied of half-eaten Whatchamacallit bars and sticky lollipops (whyyyyyy????) and full of neatly organized boxes. I gave the last of my baby toys to my neighbor, who recently became a grandmother, and I washed, folded, and put away the outgrown clothes that have sentimental value and gave away the rest.

And now Georgia has her “after.” Her room has truly had a glow-up, and she loves it. 

Me, though? My “after” is realizing that I am not as young as I think I am because my lower back is killing me and I think I did something to my knee. 

Aches and pains will come and go, however, but a clean closet lasts … ehhh, I give it at least three months.