Decluttering Quest: a matter of life, not death

Decluttering Quest: a matter of life, not death

Recently I checked out a popular decluttering book that all the decluttering bloggers couldn’t seem to shut up about: Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

Admittedly, I was a little annoyed and hostile about the book going in. Everyone seemed to talk about it like it was the only valid decluttering method around, and that Marie Kondo was completely infallible. Also, her method sounded a little suspect to me; yes, ideally we should only be surrounded by things that make us happy (or in her words, “spark joy”), but what about the less-inspiring but necessary things that everyone needs to survive: bathroom items, cooking equipment, household tools? Okay, admittedly I do have an interchangeable-head screwdriver made to look like a sonic screwdriver which does indeed make me happy, but one cannot live on Doctor Who novelty items alone.

But I read the book anyway, out of a combination of curiosity and the hope that I could maybe get some good ideas from it – or, if not, that I would get some ideas for what not to do.

Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it

To my surprise, I actually liked the book – so much so that I also read Kondo’s follow-up book Spark Joy, which goes more in-depth into sorting and organizing. I think one reason was that I liked the respect Kondo showed for people’s possessions, an aspect which seems to be lacking in the “THROW EVERYTHING OUT YOU DON’T NEED IT” school of thought that I’ve seen in a lot of other decluttering writing. Yes, Kondo does recommend getting rid of a lot of stuff, but her goal isn’t to live with as little as possible; it’s to live with the things that bring us happiness. She also treats these things as if they have a spirit or life of their own, and I’ve always loved that idea even if I don’t fully believe it.

Perhaps the most important effect the book had on me (aside from giving me some great storage ideas) was that it made me reconsider my motivations in this whole Decluttering Quest. Up until I read these books, I’d been thinking of this process largely in terms of death rather than life. If that was the case, was I really decluttering for myself or just for my family? Shouldn’t I be focused on doing this in a way that makes me happy, rather than getting rid of stuff just for its own sake?

With those thoughts in mind, I decided to sort through and organize the clothing in my dresser using Kondo’s criteria and see how the results made me feel. And in the end, I felt good. I liked the new layout of my clothes drawers and felt confident that their contents really were important to me. And, surprisingly, I found that the items I loved most were my socks, especially all my Halloween socks.

20170620_160258Do fifty-some pairs of socks really make me happy? Yes. Yes they do.

The thing that was most different about my new approach to decluttering is how much consideration I’m giving now to proper storage and display – treating my things with the respect they deserve. I know the general rule (and certainly Kondo’s rule) is to save organization for after you’ve sorted through absolutely everything, but instead I’ve been approaching it group by group, organizing an area once I’m done sorting through and cleaning it.

Up until now I’ve been strictly focused on sorting, and frankly it was making me kind of miserable. Everything just ended up in stacks and piles elsewhere and it began to feel like I hadn’t accomplished anything at all – if anything, it made me feel like I’d just made things worse. Waiting to store and arrange things once you’re completely done is a good idea, but I think for people like me it’s better to see more immediate results. It makes me feel like I’ve actually accomplished something, like I really am putting things in order. That’s a good feeling.

Intellivision-induced reorganization

As part of this new focus on organization, I’ve been starting to look carefully at how I treat the things I claim to love most. This started in a corner of the basement where I had a small bookshelf dedicated to my entire video game collection – consoles, games, and collectables. This collection had gotten so large and chaotic that it was all jumbled – figures all crammed together, consoles stacked on top of consoles, wires everywhere.

It wasn’t until I got another old console that I realized how out-of-control it had gotten. I was trying to cram an Intellivision on top of an Xbox 360, thinking that I wouldn’t have a place for my Gamecube now, when it occurred to me that I could clear all the games and figures off the top shelf and put them somewhere else where I could actually spread them all out.

So I bought a cheap but attractive shelf and carefully planned out how to display it all – with the help of a clear acrylic display riser my mom gave me. Now everything looks nice and is easily accessible; I also found a couple boxes to give some added protection to my cartridge games. The new setup looked so nice that I decided to put up some of my video game posters on the wall behind it, and now instead of a single cluttered shelf I have a nice little video game corner.

20170615_165125A small but colorful section of my video game corner

The posters were an especially nice addition, as I have a whole cache of them that I’ve been meaning to display ever since I moved home but haven’t found a place for. There’s a Majora’s Mask poster, for instance, which hung in my room from when I was ten until I was sixteen. Then it was replaced by an album and photo signed by Benny Andersson from ABBA, which I recently took down and stored elsewhere as I noticed the signatures were beginning to fade. Taking them down was sad, but it gave me the chance to start rethinking everything that had accumulated on my walls over the years.

The walls are made of nostalgia

I keep failing to take before-pictures of everything I’ve been doing, but my room’s decorations had basically stayed the same since I was seventeen. Posters and drawings covered the walls, with framed awards hanging over the desk as well. The only additions in the years since were a framed poster signed by John Waters and a photo of me from my time in the Revolutionary War reenactment group in college. (An odd combination which show that I’m not just trash, I’m nerdy trash.)

In the past few days, a lot has changed. Much of what was on the walls has been replaced by artwork that I’d had for months or years but couldn’t find a place for. The change has been dramatic; I’d expected the removal of so much stuff to make the room look bare, but instead it looks much more lively and colorful. It’s given me a much better idea of what I actually want in a home.

And that should have been my decluttering goal all along: to make a living space focused on the present, not on the past. There’s nothing wrong with remembering and respecting the past, but my bedroom was more like a time capsule than a place to live in. It feels like I’ve given it the first chance it’s had in ten years to breathe and change. Maybe that will help give me the space I need to do the same.

Decluttering Quest: breaking the rules

Decluttering Quest: breaking the rules

Today I committed one of decluttering’s cardinal sins: I packed away an entire collection without sorting through it first to see what was worth keeping.

See, in one corner of my bedroom, right between the door and the desk, there’s a stack of three pink plastic milk crates. They’ve occupied that spot ever since I was fourteen, when I bought them to accommodate my growing ABBA collection. At the time, my love of ABBA was an all-consuming obsession. Honestly, “obsession” isn’t a strong enough word to convey my love of ABBA when I was a teenager, and hearing it used to describe my intense interest in anything since then is laughable. If you didn’t know me when I was in high school, you have not seen me truly obsessed.

As you can imagine, I expressed this obsession the way many people do: I bought a lot of stuff. Soon those three crates were packed with records, CDs, DVDs, pins, necklaces, paper ephemera, and all kinds of merchandise – including a complete set of the rare ABBA dolls. But my obsession abruptly came to an end following my fiancé’s death when I was nineteen; ABBA was what first brought us together, and soon the memories I’d associated with the band became so painful that I couldn’t even listen to their music anymore.

Condensing chaos

But the collection remained where it had always been, greeting me from under and increasingly thick layer of dust every time I entered my bedroom. I felt a small twinge of pain every time I saw it all, but I couldn’t just get rid of it. So everything sat there completely untouched for eight years.

I wish I could say deciding to finally pack the collection away was some grand gesture signaling that I’d finally moved on, but it was motivated by simple practicality. While reading a popular decluttering book today it occurred to me that the main reason that stuff accumulated on my bedroom floor was simply because I didn’t have a place to put my purse when I came home. I always set it on the floor leaning against the crates. Soon stuff began to accumulate in front of the purse, then beside it, then spread until it had taken over the whole floor.

I needed to keep my purse and work bag close to the door, but leaving them on the floor was causing all kinds of chaos and putting them on the desk would only move the chaos up there. But if I emptied the crates, I could move my purse, work bag, and other little I’ll-need-it-soon items in there, leaving the floor clear. If there wasn’t anything there to encourage leaving more things there, maybe my floor could be a floor again.

Dusting off the past

I’ve written in this series before about my method for sorting through collections but what I said wasn’t applicable to this particular collection, which is so emotionally charged that it’s much more like a set of mementos. I also wrote before about what happened when I hit my first emotional roadblock while going through my boxes of keepsakes, but the lesson I’d learned then wasn’t practical; letting myself “feel the feels” about this particular part of my life always leads to a small-scale breakdown which renders me useless for at least a couple days. But I needed to do something with the stuff.

I decided that I couldn’t sort through the collection right now – I don’t have either the time or the strength to do it properly. So, going against both my own experience and the advice of every other declutterer, I just thoroughly dusted everything off and put it straight into a plastic storage bin. Even this simple process brought up difficult emotions; I almost burst into tears when I found a set of small photographs, long assumed lost, which my late fiancé had carried in his wallet. But finally everything was packed up, the crates were dusted off, and I had a new place to put my purse and work bag.

Someday when I’m stronger I’ll sort through that bin, if only to figure out which things I should sell or give to other ABBA fans. But for now, I feel better knowing that everything’s still there, even if I can’t see it. (Frankly, not seeing it might be the best thing for me right now.) I’m being ruthless with everything else; I think this is one thing I can afford to put off for a little while.

The years start coming

The years start coming

Well apparently it’s been a whole year since my first post on this blog, which has prompted me to take a look back and think about what I intended to do vs. what I’ve actually done.

One thing that’s definitely changed is how personal the posts have gotten. At first I wanted to keep some imaginary “safe distance” between myself and all you lovely readers, but that fell apart a month later when the Pulse nightclub shooting prompted me to ask what I was willing to put up with today (the answer will SHOCK you!). Though I continued with my posts about writing and media (mostly TRON stuff – and yes, I promise I’ll get back to the TRON Tuesday posts once I can finish TRON 2.0), I found that my personal posts got way more views than anything else. And, frankly, they were easier to write. So in recent months I’ve been focusing on personal posts more and will probably continue to do so.

In the past year I’ve also attempted to do a few post series; in addition to the previously mentioned TRON Tuesdays, there were the “Hallowmonth” posts and the time I tried to make all my Friday posts writing-related. The only one I’ve managed to keep up with consistently is the Decluttering Quest series, primarily because it directly tied into my real-world activities. And I’m not finished with that series, not by a longshot. Expect more of that in the future.

The brand goes out the window

Really, I guess you could say this blog has gotten more casual in general. And that’s a good thing. I’m less concerned now with my “author brand” and more concerned with being myself; that’s the only person I know how to be. Maybe this has something to do with how I’ve been increasingly accepting myself as I am over the past year or whatever, but I don’t want to waste your time by unpacking all that.

There’s probably more I could pick apart about how this blog’s gone so far, but honestly I don’t want to dwell on what I could have done better. It’s time to look forward to all the posts I’m going to write in the future. I say we must move forward, not backward, upward, not forward, and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom!

Decluttering Quest: sacred spaces

Decluttering Quest: sacred spaces

It’s been a long time since I last talked bout my “Decluttering Quest,” or my attempt to sort out the massive amount of stuff that’s accumulated in my life over the years. In the time since my last post about it, I finally finished going through all the keepsake boxes in the basement (which I’ll try to revisit in a future post) and moved on to the final stage: cleaning out my bedroom.

I had a plan for how I was going to go about it. First I’d tackle the piles of stuff taking over the floor, then I’d dust everything off (which I haven’t done since the last time I tried to clean my room, and if the stuff on the floor is any indication, that was two MAGFests ago), then I’d rearrange the books and reconsider everything else on the shelves and side table.

But then I got stuck. Every time I tried to clean the floor, more stuff would accumulate there. Even worse, stuff started spilling over into the space I’d been specifically trying to keep clear so I could access my main altar and akhu shrine. “I’ll start doing ritual again once I clean the stuff off the floor,” I kept saying, but the weeks dragged on and suddenly it was time for a holiday I wanted to celebrate: the Beautiful Festival of the Valley. I wrote about my preparations for this holiday in my last blog post, but when the day actually came I still couldn’t access my akhu shrine.

Let’s clean everything

Even though I managed to reach the offering plate to place the little vase full of roses I’d gotten for the occasion, I felt frustrated that I couldn’t do more. So I took all the dirty clothing that had accumulated in the cleared floor space by the shrine and threw it in the hamper, then washed my hands and grabbed the feather duster.

For the first time since setting it up the previous year I cleaned the akhu shrine from top to bottom, carefully dusting each item and setting it aside, then shook out the altar cloth and dusted the whole area underneath. After putting everything back I lit all the candles (both battery-powered and real) and set down the vase of flowers again.

What surprised me afterwards was how good that simple action made me feel. It felt like I’d finally made an effort to show respect for that long-neglected aspect of my practice, instead of just letting the guilt over doing nothing consume me. Although I still felt nervous about whether I was doing the holiday “right” or not, it finally hit me that in this case, doing it wrong was still better than not doing it at all.

Spiritual decluttering

So when I woke up today, I decided to finally do something about my altar. I wrote before about my altar in my post on “shrine envy,” which for the most part was set up by Seventeen-Year-Old Me while she was “basically stumbling along in a New Age haze trying to figure out what the hell she should be doing, basing most of her answers on what people on Neopagan forums had to say.” As a result, my altar – and my spirituality – didn’t turn out so well:

To put it bluntly, this altar is a mess. So much so that I’m too embarrassed to even post a photo of it. It’s like a visual representation of everything that was wrong with me and my practice at the time: it’s completely unplanned, it mixes things from various areas/traditions that have fuck-all to do with each other, and it puts way too much emphasis on stuff instead of the gods I was supposed to be worshiping.

Because my religious practice slipped off its shaky and materialistic foundation a couple years later, I never really made an effort to fix the mess I’d made. When I finally picked my practice back up a few years ago I was living away from home, so I was able to start from scratch with a nice little shrine box instead. When I moved back home I assumed the stay would only be temporary, but as months turned into years I realized that I couldn’t keep counting on moving away to fix my sacred space.

And as I went about dusting my altar and everything on it today – which was way overdue – I started to think about each piece in terms of decluttering. Only this time, I wasn’t just decluttering my room; I was decluttering my beliefs. Did I still need all these random natural offerings? Would putting them somewhere else really change my relationship to the gods that much? And what about all the little Buddhist items I’d tried to incorporate into my altar all those years ago? Did those have any place in my practice now? Again and again, I answered “no.”

After all the unnecessary stuff was gone, I reorganized everything. Keeping the lotus tealight holders was an obvious “yes” for me (because the lotus is an important symbol in the Kemetic tradition and because they looked prettier than bare electric candles), but the way they’d been arranged on the front of the altar made it almost impossible to place any offerings there. I moved a lot of the smaller natural items and ritual objects into a cedar box and placed my plastic sistrum on top so it was easily accessible, and other items and permanent offerings were arranged in the remaining spaces on the sides of the altar. The icons of the gods were all arranged on the antique butterfly tray so they were the new visual focal point.

Results

My new altar looks a lot more “bare” than the old one, with a lot of open space in the front center than before. But that’s exactly the way I want it: now there’s plenty of room to set down temporary offerings, which are a more important part of the way I practice now.

Maybe it’s not as pretty or coordinated as other people’s altars or shrines. Maybe the icons are smaller and don’t look as cool. Maybe it looks like I couldn’t afford all the fancier ritual items other people can. But it works for me, and that’s the most important part. Although the altar isn’t enough in itself – it’s what you do with it that matters – I feel like the new layout will help my practice a lot. If nothing else, now I can focus on the deities I’m supposed to be connecting with, instead of all the other stuff.

The Beautiful Anxiety of the Festival

The Beautiful Anxiety of the Festival

“Would roses be too much?” I wondered, staring at a display of already-decaying white rose bouquets in the supermarket. They were only a few dollars, but I wondered if putting white roses on my bookshelf might draw too much of my parents’ attention to my akhu shrine. “On the other hand, I did used to buy roses when I visited my fiancé’s grave, so…”

I’ve written before about my still-uneasy relationship to death, and how I set up an akhu shrine (or a shrine for the blessed dead) in spite of a whole mess of doubts about the afterlife and concerns over whether the people I’m honoring would be cool with the whole thing. What I failed to mention before was the associated mess of fears I have that I’m not doing this whole akhu thing “right” and that it’s contributing to my status as the Worst Kemetic Ever™. And the whole massive ball of doubts/concerns/fears was recently dragged up by an impending Kemetic holiday.

Beautiful Festival of the Valley

According to the calendar I generally use, this upcoming Friday is the Beautiful Festival of the Valley (or “Beautiful Feast of the Valley,” as some others translate it). Basically, in antiquity it was a “celebration of the dead,” a time to visit the graves of dead loved ones to pay your respects and leave them flowers blessed by Amun. It was one of a couple of festivals honoring the dead that modern Kemetic practitioners still try to celebrate.

The tendency for families nowadays to scatter all over the place (and be buried accordingly) has made visiting all your loved ones’ graves in a single day nigh-impossible for some (including me). This, I think, is a major reason why many Kemetics have created shrines for their blessed dead: it gives them one central place to pay their respects, leave offerings, and do rituals if they choose.

Akhu shrines comes in all shapes, sizes, and configurations (as a quick Google image search will prove) to suit the needs and desires of each practitioner. Many include pictures of the dead loved ones being honored. Mine doesn’t. Part of this is an issue of space for me, and part of it is a desire to keep what I’m doing relatively private. (…Says the person writing a blog post about her practice.) For both of those reasons – as well as a desire to avoid an item acquisition frenzy – both of my shrines err on the side of minimalism.

20170201_124710

My akhu shrine

As the picture above shows, my akhu shrine only consists of a white cloth, a small box decorated with stars (mimicking some tomb paintings I’ve seen), four candles, and a small skull carved out of lapis lazuli. The skull represents everyone I’m honoring. I picked a lapis one because of associations between the stone and the starry night sky; “akh” (plural akhu) is sometimes translated as “shining one,” and in one of the envisioned versions of the afterlife the akhu join the stars in the sky. My shrine my be simple, but I definitely thought that shit out.

But what about those fears I mentioned earlier? Well, in spite of all the thought I put into constructing my akhu shrine, I kind of stalled out when trying to plan how to actually use it. Again, I didn’t know what most of my dead loved ones would feel about honoring them in a Kemetic context (to say nothing of what my parents might think), but my culture also doesn’t really have its own tradition to draw from when it comes to honoring the dead – outside of just visiting a graveyard, that is. And I don’t want to steal another culture’s way of doing it just because it seems convenient or “cool.” So no, you won’t be seeing any sugar skulls in my akhu shrine anytime soon.

So basically this leaves me trying to feel this whole thing out as I go along, combining research with what “feels right” for what I’m trying to do. This most often takes the form of me anxiously asking myself “Am I doing this right?” and myself responding “I DON’T KNOW.”

Would roses be too much?

Which brings me back to the Beautiful Festival of the Valley. Since I’ve missed basically every other holiday since Wep Ronpet (the beginning of the Kemetic year, mid-July), I told myself I wasn’t going to miss this one – especially since my work schedule happened to give me that day off. “Maybe this will give me a chance to make up for not knowing what to do for my akhu on a regular basis,” I told myself. So I read up on it a bit, trying to plan out what I could do myself. Flowers? Offerings? Maybe even ritual drunkenness? Yes, I could do all of those.

Cut to me back in the supermarket. It’s the only place left in town where I could get real flowers, since the local florists had all gone out of business. Standing there, I debated getting fake flowers from the craft store instead, but decided against it since I’ve cut corners far too often with “fake” offerings (in Kemetic thought the image of a thing can have the same magical properties of the thing itself, hence all those elaborate tomb and temple paintings depicting piles of offerings). There’s only a couple holidays honoring the dead a year, dammit; I could afford to get real flowers for them.

“But would roses be too much?”

Maybe not. Roses would be nice, and they’d show I hadn’t completely half-assed this. Besides, roses are one of the only flowers whose smell I can stand; ironically enough they’re the only floral smell that I don’t associate with funerals. I don’t want to be reminded of losing these people in the first place. I want this to be a happy celebration, a way of recognizing that my dead loved ones are still part of my life, in one way or another. So yes, I think I’ll get the roses.

Now to figure out the ritual drunkenness part…

Spring and Chaos (and a few life updates)

Spring and Chaos (and a few life updates)

Sorry for the long radio silence. A lot’s been going on the past month – I’ve been meeting a lot of new people (both socially and professionally), absorbing a lot of new information, and going to new places. A lot of this happened because I finally started my new job in a public library.

Long and frustrating commute aside, the new job’s been a lot of fun. I’m not entirely sure how much I’m allowed to blog about it yet, so I’ll just say I’m finally finishing up training tomorrow and will be sent to my permanent library branch next week.

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Pictured above: not my branch

One of the great things about my new job is that it gives me both access to a lot of books and time to read said books, so books books books. Also, movies – including a pleasantly surprising number of John Waters films that I hadn’t seen yet. Oh, also! I got the chance to briefly meet John Waters recently too, at a book signing. I’m not good at the mouth words when I meet people whose work I like, so I didn’t say much, but it was still fun.

Anyway, I’ll spare you the yammering about all the stupid new crap I’ve been buying now that I finally have a paycheck again (mostly footwear) and skip ahead to something marginally more interesting.

News on the writing front

I’m writing new stuff again! That may not sound like much, but even with all the free time I’ve had, literally the only non-blog writing I’d been working on for the past few months were edits for my book – and even those were few and far between. Now that my free time’s more focused, I’ve had not one but TWO new project ideas to work on.

One, which will be more of a long haul, is sort of an adaptation of Shakespeare’s plays Henry IV Parts 1 & 2 in a modern American context. I say “sort of” because it’s not going to be a direct adaptation; it’s going to be more of a non-partisan political comedy (if such a thing can exist) centered on a former president’s daughter who’s trying to run for a lesser national office herself when she’s suddenly visited by her former best friend from her wild anarcho-punk days, who needs help.

Admittedly I was originally going to make both characters men as in the original plays, but fuck it, we have enough stuff about men already. I hope I can pull it off, but more importantly I hope I can pull it off without pissing off my anarchist and punk and anarchist punk friends in the process. (Then again, most of them appreciated the “Punk Magician” skit so…)

The other project, which I’m hoping to finish in the next week, is a little short story about working retail – but in a magical store. Basically it’s one of those “the little shop that wasn’t there yesterday” situations, but instead centered on a minimum-wage cashier working in such a place, who becomes determined to actually help a dissatisfied customer who wants a refund. I’m hoping to submit it to a couple writing contests, so maybe if I’m super lucky (and good) I’ll get an honorable mention. Fingers crossed!

Well, that’s all for now. Hopefully I’ll have something more interesting next time.

Decluttering Quest: letting go of old writing

Decluttering Quest: letting go of old writing

They were taking up space. They were draining me emotionally and creatively. They needed to go. There was only one problem: they were my old unfinished manuscripts.

I’ve heard that some writers have no problem culling their own work. After all, ruthlessness is a crucial part of self-editing, and editing is the key to good writing. But in spite of how easily I can cut a sentence or scene or chapter that isn’t working – and how easily I’ve been able to let go of much of the stuff I’ve encountered in this decluttering quest – I tend to hoard my old writing.

During this process I came across whole drawers and boxes packed full of writing. Much of it was innocuous stuff, multiple copies of poems and short stories – the remnants of years of creative writing classes. In those cases, the solution was clear: keep one or two copies of each thing, or the final class portfolio if there was one, and let the rest go.

False starts and creative drain

But things weren’t so clear when I stumbled on the manuscripts of the first three books I tried to write. (The one I’m working on now, Unlucky Creatures, was the fourth book I attempted and the first one I actually finished.) The first one I decided to keep; it had been fifteen years since I last worked on or even seriously thought about it, and as awful as it is to actually read, I’m as sentimental about it as a parent is about their child’s art projects.

The second and third ones, however, were just depressing for me to even look at. The second book was crappy fanfiction masquerading as historical fiction which, while kind of nerdily adorable, was just embarrassing and didn’t have much material I could salvage for other things. It was both awful and useless. The third was about a mental breakdown I had in my late teens, written while I was still in the midst of the breakdown. (ProTip: don’t write about a major mental upheaval while you’re still in the middle of it. You need at least a little time to process things and get the right perspective.)

Finding the drafts and notes for the third book really depressed me. Part of this was the fact that they were reminders of a really low point in my life, and part of this was guilt over abandoning the book to begin with. It was a project I’d worked obsessively on for a few years – everything I wrote during that time was for this book – and still only half of it was written down. In the end I had to leave it behind for my own sake, which was a hard decision.

As I looked over that manuscript I also realized that even though I’d put that project down almost seven years ago, it was still negatively affecting my writing. Every time I decided to set aside a story or book, even temporarily, a voice in the back of my brain went “Oh great, it’s the third book all over again.” And even though I had no intention of finishing that book, I still found myself withholding ideas from my current writing because part of me felt like I had to “save” them for the third book instead.

Outside help

Even though the negative energy surrounding these manuscripts was clear, I still hesitated to get rid of them – even though I still had all the digital files for the third book. What if I regretted it later? What if I realized I could make them work somehow? It was incredibly unlikely, yes, but still more likely than the idea that someday somebody else would have a strong desire to look at them.

Once I started to consider getting rid of it, I started to feel even guiltier over the third book than I had before – but for different reasons. That book was something that my late fiancé had been a part of, reading through it and encouraging me to continue; would throwing it out be like throwing him out? I knew the idea was absurd, but it still held me back.

So finally I decided I needed somebody neutral to help me decide, somebody who I could explain all my feelings to but who wasn’t invested in these projects – my partner. He agreed to help me out, so I packed it all up and brought it along with me when I went to visit him this past week.

stack-letters-letter-handwriting-family-letters-51191Imagine this, but crammed into a backpack.

After I got there I showed him everything, explained how I was feeling, and asked him what he thought I should do. “Let them go,” he said. I still hesitated, and he continued, “You already know it’s the right thing to do.” He was right, of course. If I hadn’t wanted to get rid of them, I wouldn’t have lugged them along on an eight-hour-long bus trip to hear the answer that, deep down, I already knew he was going to give.

One by one, the packets of paper went into the recycling bin. Once they did I had no desire to retrieve them. In fact, I almost cried with relief. It felt like I’d finally freed up a lot of space – not just in my desk, but in my mind. Finally, I could focus completely on my current work instead of feeling guilty over past work.

Maybe someday I will regret throwing those manuscripts out, but I can’t make all my decisions based on future regret. That writing’s gone. It’s time to make more.