May 29, 2021 — Joy, in passive voice, is not being sparked in this house, Marie Kondo.
After 29 months, my latest book project (stay tuned) is written, edited, designed, and ready to roll. What is left in its wake is an office I wouldn’t invite the local animal control officer to visit. (Why do we verbally assault dogcatchers? They do good work.)
Today is the day I start. Today is the day I begin to clean my office. But do I have the strength? (Obviously not, or I wouldn’t be writing about it.)
As I look around, I see things that shouldn’t be here. Much of it has nothing to do with the book but adds to its pile of papers, bins, and objects.
- The cardboard posters I made for my parent’s fiftieth wedding anniversary party in 2005.
- Every birthday card sent to me by anyone in the last ten years.
- Christmas card pictures from family and close friends.
- 142,000 magnets on the four-drawer filing cabinet. Ironically, the filing cabinet is empty, a grotesque symptom of the disease I have.
- At least 2,000 blank notecards of all stripes (ones I made, ones I purchased on vacation or at museums.)
- A 100-piece package of neon red glitter pens.
- Deeds for every legal move ever made by anyone who owned the legacy farm in the book. What to do? Wallpaper a bathroom?
- At least four million and sixty-six tiny Post-It notes with my illegible handwriting reminding me of something. Since I can’t read them, they are worthless, but I keep them.
My desk is L-shaped, and I have a small table set up next to it. I swear the other day–for no apparent reason–I found a program from my own wedding in 1984. How did it get there? I have no earthly idea.
The goal here is to get rid of ninety percent, maybe ninety-five percent of the papers in this office, so I can really clean the furniture and then have carpet cleaners come in and attempt to restore what was once Berber carpet.
I have a problem. And it is genetic. My new book is about four generations of my family. Did I mention some of them were named HOARD? This makes me part Hoard, and it is no accident. Much of this stuff came from LeNore Hoard Enz, my grandmother. So this is the rhetorical question if I’ve written a book about it, do I need to keep every original piece of paper? I can’t ask my husband; he’s a librarian. He’ll say yes.
I have a history of throwing things away, so I know I can do it. The reason the metal filing cabinet is empty is that I purged my newspaper and magazine clippings. That was a triumph. You may find this hard to believe, BUT NO ONE WANTS THAT CRAP. Oh, for heaven’s sakes, stop scowling. It’s all available online or in books. Some of my closest friends were horrified that I would throw these things away. Upon my death, there will be much weeping and gnashing of teeth because I didn’t save my work. People will weep when they think of the treasures that have been lost. My page one story on the Toyota plant’s new vehicle, or the history of Girl Scouts in Washington, Indiana. My series of 4-H Fair pictures from 1978 and 1979, in which almost every animal is overexposed. Give me a break. I was using a Roloflex and had to adjust the F-stops. Do you even know what F-stops are?
Another big success I had was throwing away the slides and carousels from the family collection after I had them digitized, copied, and given to anyone who wanted them (small group.) Of course, it took me TWO years after I did this: five hundred slides and several carousels. Slides are coming back.
Time to move on. There’s a big pile of papers sitting to the left of me, calling my name. My husband took the recycle box to the Recycling Center yesterday, so I have a big empty box sitting right here, waiting for me to fill it. I can do this.
Watch for “Centennial Farm Family” later this month. In hardback and trade paperback.
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