Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Clearing Cupboards

     Spring cleaning. It sounds like a good idea but I’ve never done it. There isn’t much about housecleaning that excites me, but I do love a tidy cupboard or closet. And that bit about “a place for everything and everything in its place” suits me just fine. Clutter confuses me. Seriously. So while I may drag my feet when faced with washing windows or scrubbing bathrooms, I jump at the chance to straighten shelves or have a good clear out.

     William Morris, whose designs generated the Arts and Crafts Movement of the early 1900's, said, “Have nothing in your houses which you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” It’s a good philosophy for someone like me, and I have tried to practice it in my own home. The trouble is, there are an awful lot of beautiful and affordable chachkies out there.

     I had a garage sale last summer. It was a major purge because I am attempting to simplify. There isn't room in the house to store all of the beauties I have collected when clutter not only confuses me, it feels oppressive. Making the decision to keep or toss item after item, however, was mentally, even emotionally exhausting. In the end it was worth it; the peace of proportion was greater than the pain of purging. That, and I had a wad of cash.

     Oddly, I have discovered that my fondness for clearing cupboards also comes in handy when I write.

     I began writing a novel over twenty-five years ago. For a long time it was just a hobby, but I finally finished it a few years back. In the process of soliciting an agent I was told the book was too long for a first-time novelist. Way too long. You can accumulate a lot of words in twenty-five years. So I began snipping paragraphs and pitching pages that had taken me days and days to write. Ouch. I tried not to think of it as waste, and once I pushed through the pain, I realized that editing felt much the same as having a good clear out–I enjoy it. There is still work to be done, but the words are stacking up neatly and my sentences are looking sleek all lined up on their shelves. It won't be long before I am ready to submit my book again. Oh yes, and I'm having another garage sale this summer.


  1. I have to say, I am a beneficiary of your"purging" and a very thankful one. I too keep in mind the William Morris quote and employ it often now-a-days when considering what I should store away. It makes for some hard decisions, and I am still working on editing my accumulations, but a life-time of them takes a bit of time to think about, especially when my husband and I need to agree on what stays and what goes!

  2. Thank you for your recommendation of The Hundred Dresses: I have found it on Amazon and it looks like the very thing. Childhood books can be such friends ('When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit' was mine). And the simplification of possessions is good, good, good: I should do more of it but unwanted presents are such a mental hurdle: what did you do about those?