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tidy for the heart

The sun just came out in the garden, after two days of darkness and rain – it was like watching a film go from black and white to technicolour. Speaking of which, there’s an article about the invention of technicolour in the “Star” this morning. It’s easy to forget that everything we use has had to be invented, developed, designed, by someone. My old handyman, Len, asked for a step stool once, and when I brought it out, he said, “I designed that.” He’d worked at one point for an industrial design company. Len died in 2006 and the step stool is rusty and falling apart, but I keep it to remember and honour him.

Though soon, knowing that I’ll remember and honour Len anyway, I will allow myself to throw it out. Yesterday I finished reading “The hoarder in you: how to live a happier, healthier, uncluttered life” and arose with a new light in my eyes. The book made clear that I’m not an obsessive hoarder but a clutterer. It runs through the reasons we clutterers give for not getting rid of stuff: I paid good money for it so should keep it; it was given to me by someone I love or it reminds me of someone; it might come in handy one day; it might come back into fashion; the minute I get rid of it, I’ll need it; it was free; because it’s there.

Recognize any or all of those? So do I.

I decided to tackle my office, which has been haunting me for months, and the bathroom, where the clutter is hidden but still oppressive. I did not realize just how many travel-sized tubes of moisturizer I’d accumulated, but I could travel for the rest of a long life and still die with a well-moisturized face. I didn’t throw them out – I do travel, after all – but organized them and will use them up, tube by tiny tube, before I buy any new non-travel-sized products.

But then, the office – my long desk covered with papers, clippings, books, the shelves overloaded and chaotic. Before I could tackle that, I’d realized I’d have to clear space on the overstuffed bookshelves in the spare room. Books – my nemesis. But, inspired, I managed to get rid of TWO BOXES of books, mostly out-of-date tomes for writers on markets, agents etc. And then I organized the shelves, something I’ve wanted to do for years, into labelled sections: Memoir; Autobiography; Diaries; Writing (technical); Written by Family; by Friends; Theatre; Travel etc. A small section marked Fun, with a few Agatha Christies. One of the most important, a long shelf: To Read. And above, a much smaller shelf, because so much of my reading is from the library: Have Read, where “Wolf Hall” resides.

Back to the office. Heart light, full of energy, I listened to “Sgt. Pepper’s” (Happy 45th birthday, gorgeous record) while I tackled the office, sorting, throwing out, yes throwing out, and filing. I hate filing, which is one reason the office is always a jumble, but from now on, I will file. My desk began to emerge, the bookshelves, and the chairs – because my clothes are stored in the office too, so there are always piles of sweaters, t-shirts and jeans on the office chairs.

This morning, after a long refreshing sleep (in the spare room with its labelled shelves, the drips still splashing into the bucket in my bedroom, no word from the elusive roofer) I went straight into my office to make sure it wasn’t just a dream – and there it was, all tidy. The surfaces are clear.

Now to USE it.

But first, one of the treats of the year – a walk on the Don Valley Trail, beside the Don Valley itself which is filled not with roaring vehicles but with bicycles for Bike for Heart. The neighbourhood is quiet, and down in the valley, without the rush of cars, it’s almost like being in the country.

And then back to the office, and later today, across town to see the best baby in the world, and dinner with friends. Bliss. But – what’s this? As I wrote, the garden moved back into black and white. The thunderclouds are dense across the sky, it’s dark, and rain is predicted. Instead of the walk, I’ll go do some more filing. Woo hoo!

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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