The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #161248   Message #3850161
Posted By: Charmion
12-Apr-17 - 07:53 AM
Thread Name: Declutter & Fitness - Clearing Out the House
Subject: RE: Declutter & Fitness -2017- Clearing Out the House
That tidiness and shine was achieved at considerable effort, and it lasted about five minutes after the photographer left. In fact, the coffee table in the kitchen is where newspapers and books pile up until I can't stand it any more, and Edmund's office (the one with the desk facing the window) is normally full of running gear, printer parts, and lawyer's clutter (i.e., yellow note pads, open file boxes, disembowelled accordion folders, three-ring binders, and random stacks of paper. All that was swept away, along with its associated cat hair and dust, to create the fantasy of order presented in those photographs.

My parents were both champion packrats, and living with them --
and cleaning up after them -- taught me to make Charmion-specific house rules and stick to them. Rule 1 is No Stacking Books On The Floor. Rule 2 is Only One Filing Cabinet.

These rules are based on the principle of No Accumulation. When the library outgrows the shelf space, we purge it, starting with novels. When the tax files fill up their assigned drawers, the old ones go to the shredder. And now that we're past our sixtieth birthdays and moving house, we're going through the ephemera of our lives, consigning most of it to the shredder and the recycling bin. Childhood scribbles, old birthday cards, postcards from teenage travels, years' worth of letters from university and military bases -- gone and, thank God, not missed.

We are not celebrities or even particularly interesting as people to those who don't know and love us, so it would be the height of arrogance to expect others to care about our papers when we are dead. Even if somebody a century from today might want to read our letters, it would be completely unfair of us to compel our heirs and assigns to sort through pounds of dusty old papers to identify anything of interest or value.

When my parents died, I found myself charged with just that task, as my father had bequeathed a large collection of his family's papers, some of them dating back some six generations, to the National Archives of Canada. Unfortunately, there was a lot of dross around the gold, and it was my job to do the preliminary sort before the collection was ready for transfer into professional hands. I well remember the despair I felt when, just as I thought I had it licked, I found four butter boxes full of my mother's war-time letters to her father, whom she actively disliked, stashed behind the furnace. Each letter began, "Dear Daddy," but I remember that she never referred to the man as Father or Dad, but always as Himself. The mixed feelings rolled out of those boxes like toxic gas.

Did I have the guts to shred them? Not then, but I would now. I'm getting tough in my old age.

A practical tip on paper disposal: You know those big paper yard-waste bags? They're great for loose paper and the output from the shredder. I load 'em up, label them "Waste Paper" in big letters, and put them out with the newspapers.