Nothing says I Love You like a Paper Trail.

I am cluttered. I blame my mother. (Sorry, Mama…. half kidding.) Having roommates is incentive enough to keep shared living space (hopefully) decent, but over the years I have gathered a collection of books, important (or irrelevant) papers, pictures, books, art supplies, a harp, a bridesmaid’s dress, hand-me-down shoes, hand-me-down clothes, hand-me-down books, some mismatched household items, coffee mugs, one unbroken wine glass, more books…

Nevermind the mental and emotional clutter: snapshots and clipped reels from the nearly two-and-a-half decades that I’ve been gathering those moments into my synapses. Nothing remarkable here… but I have also never found my life to be boring.  I’ve spent time mulling over the pieces.

One thing at a time, by circumstance or intent, I feel I’m being simplified. Lost hard drives of music, photos, writing, digital residue. Lost cameras. Turned over another beat-up car of nostalgic (and not nostalgic) garbage – shriveled rose petals, a dried wedding bouquet. Cracked windshield.A good cry or fifty. The window stuck down in winter, the duct-taped bumper, the summer drives in uncomfortable clothes to interviews, the bitter cold mornings spent hunched over the dead battery.

(I didn’t say I missed it all. Please understand.)

A few years ago a very good friend moved away. I drove her to Chicago and dropped her off at a hostel with two bags and a violin case. No job, no apartment, no rental truck of clutter. I was jealous. I am jealous.

I am trying to reign in the clutter, slowly but surely. Corralled into

  • my bedroom closet
  • a few boxes of school books in the basement
  • that haphazard file cabinet at school
  • a tupperware bin labeled “nostalgic crap”
  • tears on the highway
  • weekends
  • words and syllables – it conserves space
  • this blog?

Recent conversations have  led me to say “because that’s how grown-ups do it.”

I’ve been trying to train myself to be a grown up. I’ve been grocery shopping for essentials and doling out my nourishment responsibly. I’ve been going to the gym, I’ve been putting together my tax documents. I’ve been avoiding Doing Anything (emotionally) Rash. I’ve been wistfully thinking of mobility.  I’ve been snaking out roots for years at a time instead of months, but simultaneously becoming aware of how much things could change. I need to conserve: money, strength, conviction. I need to pare it all down. I remember the girl who at age 17 thought she was going to be a cloistered nun, owning nothing… and I remember that 17 year old’s flurry of books and journals and holy cards and letters between pages.

I need to live more in the present, more in the necessities.


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