I've been looking so long at these pictures of youThat I almost believe that they're realI've been living so long with my pictures of youThat I almost believe that the pictures areAll I can feel --The Cure
My husband and I are following the KonMari Method of housecleaning. For the last two days, based on the recommendations in this book, we are systematically decluttering our house. The book recommends working by item type rather than room, and dealing with like items all at once. Our experience of this has been terribly effective so far, resulting in several bags of clothes and several boxes of books donated. The process makes sense, doing things in this way; it is easier to stay focused when you only have to look at one category at a time and you have 'permission' to set certain things aside for later. It is a deceptive simplicity-- I see this process as being a bit like a hiking trail; the first piece of the trail by the park office is smooth and wide and easy going, but as you ascend, it gets a little narrower, a little more rocky, a whole lot harder.
When I was unearthing boxes from the bottom of our closet, I found a box that I assumed was mostly books but quickly discovered was more than half journals. Now, journals fall into the realm of the dead last, final hundred yards of the precipitous climb to Mt. Organized. Miss Kondo believes that after working your way through all the mundane categories, rigorously eliminating anything that does not serve you or give you joy, you will be better prepared to make necessary ruthless edits of your sentimental items. I am a sentimental saver of the highest order so I appreciated her permission to delay, as long as possible, what I imagined would be a difficult task.
But here were the journals, in a very 'right now' stack, staring at me. I gingerly explored the idea of getting rid of them, as one pokes a tentative tongue at a possibly sore tooth. Could I do this? Should I? Panic set in. What would it mean to let these things go? What does it mean to keep them? How hard would it be to page through them and look at them? I shoved the two oldest ones in my bag and took them to work. They covered 1987-1991, the years spanning my senior year of high school to early in my junior year of college. (I didn't write every day, obviously.) These two volumes were significant in that they covered my first relationship, the dissolution of same, and all that came after in the getting over it and other things. There was evidence of hilarious pranks, photos I hadn't looked at in years, and other memorabilia captured in plastic scrapbook corners. And though it scared me a little, I knew that I could let them go. I liberated them from their bindings and split them into shredder friendly pieces. I saved a couple of letters, a poem written by my husband (just a friend at the time), a photo or two. I noticed that neither book captured the memories that stand out in my mind, the friends I had and still have, the places I went and all of those moments where you breathe in joy and as your heart pounds in your ears you are absolutely convinced that nothing could possibly be more amazing than to be alive in that very moment. Those things live in me, they are part of who I am. The rest I fed into the shredder, filling the bin with the smell of old paper.
Tonight I shredded the rest of the stack. With every handful of paper I said to myself, "Now I choose to move forward." I didn't realize how much I'd let myself be burdened by the past until I let it go. And although I broke the rules a little bit, I needed to take some rocks out of my pack so I can make the rest of the climb.