My father brought over a box of books the other day. It had been under their basement stairs for an untold number of years. We're all going through some pretty important shifts in my family, particularly tackling some of the physical objects we've held on to for a long time. For my parents, the sorting is about considering the next phase of their life, lightening the load of stuff accumulated in a lifetime. Downsizing. I too am sorting through all of the things that we own, creating a more comfortable space for a life that is radically different than what it was when we moved into this house 11 years ago.
I've gotten better with parting with stuff, but only in the past year have I dug deep to get rid of things that I once thought I'd hold on to forever. Like the books I've crammed into every nook and cranny of my home.
SPOILER ALERT: THIS ISN"T JUST ABOUT STUFF AND IT NEVER IS.
Creating a peaceful place is an important part of where I am in life now. I don't want to come home in clutter. I don't want to work in clutter. I don't want to be bothered by anything that is not essential. (Is this what the dreadful management consultants call "right-sizing?" Perhaps.)
My friend Katie Rogers has helped me with this. She's a feng shui goddess and energy worker and decluttering genius (among other things) and has taught me that stuff = energy. Anyhow, I'm doing her 27-Day Declutter Your Way To Clarity course this month. (Note: the first time I did it I learned a lot but was still quite foggy and filled with chardonnay. So while the seeds were planted, now it's really clicking and I'm truly able to let go but not of my elf cookie jar, which I'll never part with.)
Katie says to do at least five minutes of decluttering a day. Today I chose to go through the box of books from my parents. I decided that I didn't need to keep any of my teen-obsession medical thrillers or the 1989 Writer's Market (a book that listed all of the magazines and books which to pitch stories -- SO MANY IN 1989 and what an ambitious/deluded 13-year old I was). So I put the box, along with a few bags of ill-fitting H&M clothes (not heirloom pieces), in the car for the Salvation Army.
Before I left I cracked the spine of the book for nostalgia's sake. As an eighth grader, I loved to flip through that book and imagine sending query letters and manuscripts (though thankfully I never did then).
And there, taped to the inside cover/ "U.S. Postage By The Page" chart, was a handwritten note from my late grandmother. Written in her beautiful penmanship, blurred by time, it reads:
"To Dear Erin, my Favorite Writer, May you always be 'Happy in Writing' and may your work continue to give pleasure to your readers. Love from Grandma."
It was just the best note to get right now. Letting go of all the non-essential stuff, here's my grandmother reminding me of who I am. (I also like that she put 'Happy in Writing' in quotes. Keeping it real, Grandma!)
As I drove to the Salvation Army, I was reminded of my earliest identity. And what my grandmother's son, my father, has told me many times -- that throughout my life I'm happiest when I'm writing. I'm discontent when I'm not.
All of the other books went, dropped off at the Salvation Army during an unseasonably warm January day. This one I kept, a reminder to cherished, placed on the shelf of the books I will keep.