Saturday, October 4, 2014
Off and on over the past few years, Joyce and I have had little flurries of "downsizing"--that word which can mean something useful (I guess)--getting rid of the accumulated clutter of your life--and something horrible--losing a job because of employer cutbacks. Joyce and I have not fired each other (though I check the mail every day for a pink slip from her--no, not that kind of slip), but we have finally begun a more-or-less regular routine of clutter-elimination.
We got the routine from a former student of mine, John Mlinek, whom I taught my very first year (7th grade, fall 1966). We've stayed in touch with John over the years (to our great benefit), and he told me the last time we saw him (last summer) that he now gets rid of one item per day from their house. That's a net one item. If they buy something, two things have to go.
Joyce and I are a bit more cluttered (mostly my fault), so we have vowed to recycle/donate/trash/sell three items per day apiece. And we've just completed our first week.
It's actually been easy--so far. Kitchen utensils from the packed utensil drawer. Small appliances we've never used. Some other baking and cooking and serving implements that have lain ignored for decades. Once we get out of the kitchen, I suspect things will get more difficult--maybe even emotional.
We're also going through our thousands (that's right--thousands) of books, beginning with the signed editions (we have hundreds of those). We are letting some remain on the shelf for the nonce; others we are setting aside for gifts or sales. We have been selling books on Amazon.com for a while, but we haven't put anything on the site recently, and the ones that are there are, well, staying there, it seems.
We're soon going to start selling on Advanced Book Exchange (ABE Books) next, but we're waiting to set up our LLC status: D. J. Doodlebug Books (that's our name on Amazon, too). The D and J are obvious enough; doodlebug is the nickname my dad had for me. In fact, one of the last things he ever said to me when I walked into his hospital room: There's old Doodlebug.
Anyway, as soon as we finish with the signed books (we're working on this 15 minutes/day), we'll start culling all the others--making piles: a. donate, b. keep, c. sell.
There's a lot of hovering emotion in this--in downsizing. I look at the assisted living unit where my mom, 95, is now living, and she has very little "stuff" remaining from her life: a few books, photographs, pictures on the wall. The rest of it is either gone, in the homes of one of her three sons, or in storage, waiting ... Objects mean so little, later on.
Downsizing is just one more formal acknowledgement of mortality, of course. Which makes it all the more painful. If you allow yourself to think about it. Which I try not to ...