One more week and this latest book I’ve been writing will–Lord willing–be finished. I’ll send it off to my editor and then I will begin my clearing-out stage. I’ll wad up and throw away reams of scribbled notes, put my research books back on the shelf, and maybe even dust and vacuum. I love this part of the process.
I’ll also spend time clearing out the clutter in the rest of the house. Drawers, closets, garage, overflowing trash cans, inedible objects in the refrigerator. It feels so good to organize and reclaim my house after allowing everything to fall apart as I try to hit my deadline.
It isn’t just my house I’ll put back together. I’ll also try to repair the friendships I’ve allowed to stagnate during this “birth” process of getting a book finished. I’ll get to start cooking again.
The oddest thing about having a career as a writer is that it has made housework very appealing when it didn’t used to be. But back to clutter……
For many years, I lived several hundred miles away from my family back before e-mail, and I would compose weekly letters to my mother detailing everything that had happened in my life that week. Since I was raising boys, I included cute little things they would say and do. Mom saved every letter religiously. When my family and I move back home, she gave me a big, plastic, garbage bag filled with twenty years of my life in letters.
I carried that bag home with me, put it in the garage, and made plans to go through each single letter to glean all the wonderful memories and tidbits that I’d want to put into a scrapbook. It was a big project, and one that I kept putting off. Then the big day arrived when I decided that today I’d really take a run at that small mountain of letters. I went out to the garage and…..there was no big plastic bag on the shelf where I’d put it. I looked behind boxes, and everywhere I could look. The bag of letters was nowhere to be found. I went inside and questioned my husband. He came out, took one look at the shelf where I was pointing, and said, “That bag was your letters to your Mom? I’m sorry. I thought it was trash and put it in the garbage several weeks ago. Those letters are gone.”
There was nothing that could be done. It was completely out of my control. Twenty years of my life had been set out with the garbage and I could never get it back, no matter how apologetic and contrite my husband was.
Then something odd happened. I realized that instead of being angry, all I felt was RELIEVED! I didn’t have to go through those letters after all. I didn’t have to work on scrapbooks. I could do anything I wanted. The day’s agenda had suddenly lightened up.
It’s been several years since my husband accidentally threw my letters out, and I’ve never regretted the fact that he did that. Instead, every time I think about it, the only thing I feel is relief.
Clutter is like that. If it isn’t something you love or need or find useful or beautiful–be kind to yourself and get rid of it. Life will fee so much lighter if you do.
January 7, 2014 @ 4:15 pm
Ms. Serena, It made me breathe deeper when I read about your bag of letters that got sent off with the garbage truck. Wow. I’d call your attitude a sweet one. That might have been an opportunity to get upset. I know I might have been—at least for a moment, or longer. 🙂 But then, I also understand the relief. You’re getting the wheels of brain rolling. Should I slide my “piles of papers” down the same slippery slope?
January 12, 2014 @ 9:49 am
Congratulations on finishing another book!
We’re in a similar spot, Serena, in dealing with stuff, though through different circumstances.
We moved here many years ago to spend time and care for my mother. The last five years or so have been intense. As a result, I’ve had to let a lot of things wait. Mom passed away in November. Then the holiday season got underway. We traveled to Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky and were gone almost three weeks. Also during this time, we were having a sunroom added on….need I say how behind I am?? Wow! And now there is Mom’s clutter too! Need it or love it? Need it or love it??……..
We got home two days ago. I have a cold. But bit by bit I will make headway…
I wish you and Steve the very best in this new year. We would love to stop by the next time we are in Ohio. It would be great to spend some time together.