Tuesday, June 11, 2013


I need space. I feel hemmed in by things that sit on open shelves and gather dust I'm tired of wiping off: reams of colored paper, vinyl record albums, PC computer software that won't work on my Mac, all my new art supplies, a box of photos waiting to be scanned. I'm ready to give away some of those things and throw away others, but I need covered space to store what I want to keep. I open closets and free-standing storage cabinets and look what's in there, check to see if there are things I can get rid of to create space for other, more important things.

Today I inspect the contents of file storage boxes in one of the cabinets. One box is filled with the the diaries of my great-aunt Hazel; those'll stay. Another box contains receipts and instruction manuals for small and large appliances I've long since replaced; those get tossed, but first I pull out and shred any canceled checks that were attached to the receipts. Next I find a box of work-related items: newspaper and magazine articles about leadership and management, company newsletters (all of which I helped write), cartoons clipped for posting on breakroom bulletin boards, a year's worth of meeting schedules on loose calendar pages. I remember what that job was like without the aid of all these papers. Everything goes into the trash.

In other file folders I find registration receipts, handouts, and notes from continuing education courses I took years ago. Such a variety of classes:
  • Introduction to Computers - 1 & 2
  • Self Hypnosis/Personal and Professional Excellence
  • Increasing Personal Effectiveness
  • Cajun French
  • Color Analysis
  • Time Management for Supervisors
  • Stress Management
  • Performance Appraisal Systems
  • Increasing Organizational and Team-Building Effectiveness
  • Humor - The Sixth Sense
  • Journal Keeping
  • Introduction to Greek Philosophy
  • Introduction to Linguistics
  • Transactional Analysis
  • Editorial Cartooning for Fun
  • BASIC Computer Programming
  • Bookkeeping
  • Intensive Journal Workshop
Grateful for what knowledge I've managed to retain, I throw the paperwork away.

There are folders full of training instructions for volunteer work I once did: teaching an adult to read in the Operation Upgrade program, crisis intervention on a local suicide prevention hotline. I throw it out. If I ever decide to do either of those things again, I'll need formal retraining anyway.

Now I find mementos of a visit to New York City when my older daughter lived there. There are plane tickets, travel itinerary confirmation, a playbill from Les Miserables, which we saw on Broadway. That trip is firmly entrenched in my mind: the energy of the city, the view from Kim's high-rise apartment, the color and sound of a street fair, a short and uneventful subway ride, my first taste of Thai food, a wonderful but exhausting day at the Museum of Modern Art, and, yes, the magic of the New York theater experience. The memories are all I need; the rest can go in the trash.

Inexplicably, and obviously misfiled, there's a newspaper clipping of a poem in this last box. I remember how, when I first read it so long ago, it affirmed the sense that I was finally growing into my own skin, finally at peace in my own mind. Rereading it today, I can even apply it loosely to the feeling of freedom this "stuff-purging" process is bringing me. It may be difficult, but sometimes it's good to let go and move on. 

I'll refile the poem, but I'm keeping it.

Comes the Dawn
by Veronica Shoffstall

After a while you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,
And you learn that love doesn't mean leaning
And company doesn't mean security,
And you begin to understand that kisses aren't contracts
And presents aren't promises.
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head held high and your eyes open,
With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child.
You learn to build your roads
On today because tomorrow's ground
Is too uncertain for plans and futures have
A way of falling down in midflight.
After a while you learn that even sunshine
Burns if you get too much,
So you plant your own garden and decorate
Your own soul, instead of waiting
For someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure,
That you really are strong
And you really do have worth
And you learn and learn ... and you learn.
With every goodbye you learn. 


  1. 680 Saddleridge Dr. I'll be waiting for the next time you go on a cleaning spree. PS, I recognize some of those training manual titles!

    1. Annette, I'll bet this "spree" would move a lot faster if we traded places so you were throwing out my old stuff and I was throwing out yours. We ought to give it a try.

  2. I found this poem in the community bathroom of my dorm when I was 19 and wrote it down in a journal. It's brought me much comfort through the years!

    1. Holly, it's one that sticks with you. I find it very empowering.

  3. I see you have been busy refilling. hope you have a good weekend.

    1. Thanks, Patsy. I took a nice break yesterday, now it's back to the purging and reorganizing. You have a good weekend, too.


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