Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Life Full of Bags and Boxes

Here are a few of the things I've done this evening instead of finishing the syllabus for my summer course:
  • Loaded 1/3 of the bridal shower gifts into my car so I can transport them to the apartment tomorrow or Tuesday.
  • Sorted through the old (bordering on ancient) AWP Chronicle mags and throwing out 15 of them. (I kept four because they had articles that looked interesting, but the probability is I will never read them.)
  • Thrown away some ratty clothes, put away some nice clothes in a bag for Goodwill. Probably more will end up in this bag. But it seems I have to consider giving clothes away a couple times before I decide to actually do it. (Except for that hoodie in the back of my closet that an ex-boyfriend gave me. I could've sworn I'd already gotten rid of that. Into the bag.)
  • Sorted through half a shelf of paper junk, including: my writing from when I was 15 and under; printed out emails; printed out recipes; printed out directions for polymer clay projects; my "I'm famous" folder of all my publications, newspaper appearances, etc; pictures people have drawn for me; etc. The recipes, polymer clay projects, etc have all been tossed. My writing and "famous" stuff is still around, but condensed into fewer folders.
  • Made a half-hearted attempt to go through the letter drawer in the desk before realizing this was a project for another day. (Note that in addition to this drawer, I have six shoe-boxes full of handwritten letters.)
  • Wrote this blog post.
Getting rid of stuff is always cathartic and satisfying. But there's a real element of difficulty to some of it. Those letters, for example. There's no question of throwing away the ones written by my cousins over the years ... especially now that both of those cousins are in the convent. But there's a box of letters, too, from a bunch of girls I met on a trip to Rome and kept in touch with for a few months ... and who are now completely absent from my life. They all went to a boarding school in Rhode Island, a beautiful place I once went to on retreat--a school run by an organization I was very involved with as a girl but which I would be isolated from as a teenager.

I could throw away those letters.

But the thing is those letters--tangible objects--are really the only things that remind me of that part of my life. That those girls existed, that for a short time I was emotionally invested in them, and they (to varying degrees) in me. My trip to Rome; the school in Rhode Island; the organization and the good and bad memories I have of it ... That particular letter-writing phase was a small, distinct chapter in my life, one which carries meaning, but isn't something I carry around consciously. And I forget about it, even though it is, in some way, a part of me. It'll be in my psyche somewhere if I throw away the letters, sure. But will I ever remember it? Won't I be throwing away some tangible part of myself?

(This is probably how people become horders, isn't it?)

Most of the boxes in the new place are unpacked, except for the books. I don't want to bring boxes of baggage with me into a marriage, or leave (too many) of them behind for my parents to keep. But my tossing will be thoughtful. Maybe too much so. Maybe not.


  1. An idea I read once was to scan the letters into the computer and save them to a thumb drive. If you haven't gotten around to it in a specified amount of time, then toss them. It was originally for artwork, but could apply here too.

  2. i second that idea of scanning the letters! genius! i am a habitual purger. sometimes i wish i was more thoughtful about my tossing though. it occasionally makes people sad (like my mom) that i'm not more sentimental about stuff.