It’s been just over 17 weeks since we were asked to socially distance ourselves from our world. Things are slowly opening up, but as an older person, I remain cautious about my in-person interactions with others, and as an introvert with a goal (downsizing!) and few outside distractions, I have to admit it hasn’t been all bad. Then, a voice inside my head asks, “What, you’re still at it after all these months? You haven’t stripped your shelves and drawers bare by now?” Well, no. I’m the slow downsizer, remember? And I have so much stuff….. “Yes, but what do you have to show for yourself?”
As my alter ego rips me apart, I feel the need to prove I’ve been busy. I check my records (because, if nothing else, I am a record keeper).
Week 1: Lots of great organizing happening upstairs. I changed up my doo-dads and cleaned out that travel drawer. And didn’t I go through that box with the out-of-date documents? I’m on a really good roll.
Week 2: Made an artistic piece in honor of my dad that captures his essence. (See The Art of Downsizing.) Okay, it didn’t exactly use the originals of any of the items I’ve saved about him, but I did incorporate some scans of the originals. (And I recently send off a box of his work documents to a reincarnation of his old company. So there!) If I can do this with all the parts of my life, I will have a great scrapbook for when my memory starts to fade.
Weeks 3 and 4: Went through all my papers from undergrad and grad school. Made a list of the topics, but couldn’t part with any of these gems. (Not all gems—had I forgotten how to paragraph?)
Weeks 5 and 6: On a crazy tear! Holiday and birthday cards, travel records (all those airline reservations on now defunct airlines—there is a collage in their somewhere), letters, books, appliance instructions (some appliances long since gone), and, most of all, a drawer full of folders of professional projects and papers. I was one busy beaver in my heyday. Exhausted just looking at these things. Need a nap.
Week 7 and 8: Where did this cold come from? I’ve barely been out of the house. Too sniffly and not feverish enough to be Covid. Wary... Need to make more progress in case I get really sick. Continue to plough through the professional folders and start to tackle the work records (the real jobs). Read through appreciation letters from my career counseling days. They liked me; they really liked me! And look at those beautiful notes I wrote up from that dreadful practice teaching stint? Those notes belong in a museum. I’m enjoying this review but not throwing very much away. To top it off, like a boomerang, UPS returns the box of my dad’s work papers as undeliverable due to office closure. Feeling discouraged. Sigh….
Weeks 9 and 10: Need to do something more creative. Made a couple of scrapbook pages about trips I took decades ago. (Will write a post on this.) Did some shredding. Always satisfying. Rolling through the folders of programs from plays, etc. and documenting these. Up to the year 2000! More letters read and shipped out. Bug-eyed from all the tiny writing. Tackled those pesky little boxes from the basement called badges, lists, and small souvenirs. Why on earth did I save these things? Every once in a while a gem, but most of it goes Into the trash. Now we’re talking!
Weeks 11 and 12: A mix of childhood souvenirs (aw, that little poem I wrote in 6th grade, and OMG, what cute drawings of teddy bears!), painful records from my mother’s life (all her jottings about her declining health with highlights in red), and more items from my work life. Mentally strung out. Too much nostalgia.
Weeks 13 and 14: All about correspondence these two weeks, childhood (daycamp!), and adolescence. Some things smelling musty. (Put fabric sheets in folders to absorb odor and shove to back of drawer.) Post Office to mail old letters from friends becoming a weekly ritual. Took a break with husband to clear basement shelves with random packets of nails and unidentifiable objects we’ll never use. So much easier to part with nails than with letters.
Weeks 15 and 16: Scanner decides to act up. Good for a couple of pages, then dead. Aargh! Who am I without my scanner? But buoyed up that my alma mater wanted my old syllabi, bit the bullet and threw away a bunch of yellowing college papers. Just like that! (Okay, they are still in the “hold” bag, but that’s a step in the right direction.) Feeling lighter already without the Dreyfus Affair and Thomas Reid’s Ethical Theories to bog me down. Revisited the two dozen versions of my resume I’d created over the years. More success at chucking!!
Week 17: Can’t believe after all this time that there are only a few empty file drawers in basement. Are goblins at work refilling them? Further stymied by all the bags and boxes of items waiting to be donated. Struggled to immortalize on a scrapbook page a week-long trip to the NW in 1988. At this rate, I’ll finish this project by age 100, which kind of defeats its purpose. Reviewed crumbling news articles I wrote from the 70s and early 80s. Started to cough… Decided I needed some low-hanging fruit---something without emotional resonance. Went through 25 years’ worth of medical files—boring but was able to shred most of it and free up another drawer. Yay! Thought that my computer had swallowed up 10 years’ worth of documentation of cultural events attended. False alarm… (Saved accidentally under another title.) Too much drama. Not sure I can take this for another six months. Would be ironic if, after all this, I have an epiphany that I don’t need to keep any of it…..
In my dreams.