Thursday, August 27, 2015

De-cluttering in High Gear

I wrote an article for Alaska Magazine once about Alaska’s history going to garage sales, recycling centers, or the dump. People who were part of our history got old, maybe moved Outside, maybe died. Oblivious kids just trashed it.

We know how easily that happens. When we moved my mother out of the house we all lived in for fifty years, we started out with great plans: give the office supplies to elementary schools, give the tools to vocational education, give the original Ms. magazines to a women’s studies program. But after uncovering the 400th pencil, the 200th matchbook, and an attic full of packing sponge – packing sponge? – it just started … getting tossed.

And didn’t we all say: “I’m going to make sure my kids don’t have to deal with all my crap!”

This is the Difficulty Scale for De-cluttering, from easiest to hardest (a first draft):
  1. Other person’s stuff – Easiest!

  2. Broken stuff you finally believe you won’t get around to fixing

  3. Stuff you will never ever use again and don’t want to be reminded about, it’s in the way, AND you have identified the perfect recipient who thinks it’s treasure

  4. Stuff already in storage and you come across it and it’s been unacknowledged and undiscovered for so long it has retreated from your consciousness AND you have identified the perfect recipient who thinks it’s treasure

  5. #2 and #3 above with no perfect recipient but if you donate it to a nonprofit’s garage sale, maybe it can turn into treasure for them

  6. Stuff of sentimental value. This can be anything from your past and you think you might like to look over it and remember it fondly some day. You imagine sitting in a comfortable chair, maybe a cozy fire, and you’re sifting through a box of memorabilia and grandchildren are oohing and aahing about how interesting it all is.

    Dream on.

  7. Stuff that might come in handy some day. Ugh, my personal struggle.
Back when I wrote that article for Alaska Magazine, I urged people to make contact with the Museum or the Library to see if their stuff had value and to arrange in advance where it would end up. Let’s see, that was about 20 years ago.

These things take time….

So I called the Library and today Arlene from Archives came and took cartons of stuff from my house.
It started out easy enough: empty my Daily News columns from the file cabinet. But this is the thing about de-cluttering: once you get on a roll, it’s infectious! I gathered the files from the plays I wrote, the short stories, the essays, the book reviews. The CDs of interviews. The audio files from my radio show. And the stuff they didn’t want? Hey, I’d already said goodbye to it; it could go in recycling now.

Every now and then, I’d think, “But what if I want to look back on this?” or “What if I want to share it with Sophie?” or “What if someone asks me for some information about it?”

Philosophical Considerations: Do I think all I am is my past? How much of my present and future need to refer to that past?

Actual Considerations: Just get this shit out of my house!

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