Saturday, March 30, 2013

Learning and decluttering......

      During the third three-hour sessions with the kindly decluttering supervisor, I realized that, while I had exhibited enough to be put on a tenure track, and enough to actually receive tenure in an Art Department, and have had a few self-portraits shown at MOMA twice, I’m of no real importance as an artist and it’s fine to toss out copies of emails recording the negotiations for two exhibits in Lawrence, for the Bread and Roses strike centennial last year. Certainly it was interesting to work on those videos and the drawing piece, about 100 more-or-less 4x5ish pieces of Reeves BFK.

     I was happy to drive up there on route 28, a meandering road that avoids the highway I’m phobic about. I liked the people I met and thought I did a good-enough job with the interviews, that they’re useful in the history center archive. Maybe someone will watch the DVD’s in some form or another 50 years from now and maybe the folks who I interviewed will watch theirs some years from now and feel pleased about who they were, what they were doing, in 2012. But I’m hardly important enough to keep all that correspondence.
     Now, that was an important realization and will make a difference in the tossing out and decluttering process.

      And, when I woke up this morning, I knew that I’d truly absorbed the lesson of ‘large, bold, black letters on each file folder’ and understood that folders containing related information should be put near similar files. That’s such an easy concept that my decluttering advisor probably has no understanding that I needed her time and her patience for me to finally absorb it. No de-cuttering book, magazine or article  could have taught it to me. I needed a real human, standing here, going over all this stuff, taking out her Sharpie and lettering some folders, for me to understand, absorb, the concept by the next day.

     I’m sure it’s hard for this nice woman to walk into the house and see that I’ve not finished one room before I’ve wandered on to the next. That there are still unsorted piles, visual blobs, in rooms that she’s helped me tackle. Most clients must want a finished product…all surfaces cleared, no piles in corners, a closet door that will close. But what I want is to learn how to think.

     So, our time in the kitchen and so-called living room didn’t teach me anything I didn’t already know – get rid of what you don’t need. But my two sessions in this workroom have taught me the concept of like-with-like and how one might keep files in a way that would prevent the necessity of shuffling through all the labels, faint as the printing is, to find the one I want. Invaluable.

     It really doesn’t look as if there’s been progress. And she might well feel discouraged. In fact she probably has to tell herself, ‘Well, she’s paying me and I can’t force her into finishing what she clearly doesn’t want to finish.’ Though there has been progress between sessions, it never puts paid to one room.
     Hopefully she understands my sense of humor as I grumble along, annoyed that she wants me to find places for the last four unidentified bits and bobs, as she calls them, before I careen into another basket of stuff that’s been sitting on the floor, under the table, for eons.

     She mentioned a coffee table, or something low with a drawer (another concept -- drawers,) that I might buy since she identified my ‘spot’ for working which involves dropping books and papers, envelopes and pens on the floor and keeping whatever is important on a small-low stool – my checkbook and the still life for whatever watercolor I’m mucking away at.
     She is sure that I will understand that the floor is not a place to keep things. And I’m sure that I won’t because it’s so convenient. So, we’ll have to see whether I’m capable of grasping that. Capable of buying something that’s knee height and serves as nicely as the floor does.

     I did pretty well, physically, while she was here. And was careful to lift only one very heavy basket because I was so eager to tear into it. I actually asked her to lift two others, which I felt bad about, why should she lift the symbols of my disorder, but they were smaller and my sciatic nerve was already angry.
     I was capable of carrying a box (a box, does she know how valuable boxes are and how hard it was to let go of that box?) to the car filled with a few things she’d volunteered to take to Goodwill, including the white chamber pot with a small chip that I bought when I taught workshops in Maine a hundred years ago. Why on earth did I buy something as odd as that, as absolutely unrelated to anything I was interested in? I bought it the way I bought old photographs of people I didn’t know, photographs that I’d never look at and had no reason to want except that they were inexpensive and it seemed like the thing to do. I was a photographer, right? A photographer with no general interest in history and no understanding of the early photographic processes, no less.

     I’d taken a Tylenol before we started and planned to take on four hours later. A card table that my friend Lorna was getting rid of was set up in the room because I’d understood, after it took me almost three days to get over our last three-hour session, that bending down to sort things on the floor was truly impossible. And when my back began to hurt, after about twenty minutes, I tried to think of ways to stop aggravating it. Fibromyalgia or resistance to this whole process? It’s not important to know why the aching starts so quickly since that’s an old problem, one I’m used to handling.
     However, by the time I got back upstairs and was actually making myself a healthy dinner (hard to believe,) I had to hold on to the stove, then the kitchen doorway, squealing in pain. Full-blown misery, the kind I often experience if I’ve taken a walk and then gotten right into the car. Terrible. But it doesn’t take long to go away. And I did eat and actually do back exercises.
     I was able to go to an early meeting of Weight Watchers this morning, only to find that I’ve gained THREE POUNDS in one month. I’m a bit achy, but not feeling nearly as bad as I did two weeks ago after our three-hour session. Maybe we can do another session next week. Hopefully.


  1. i don't understand submitting to someone else's notion of how very unimportant you are. i mean, aren't our own doubts sufficiently harsh enough to make that judgment? personally, i wish i had saved all the things i thought so irrelevant long ago. but then, i'm not trying to tidy up anything, just get by fromm one day to the next without too many unpleasant and/or unanticipated surprises. xo

  2. oh, James, I just read a great deal of your new book...and now I'm going to email you! The decluttering lady didn't convince me of my unimportance, I did that all by myself...and I had to clean up after my father and step-mother...took almost a week, with five or six people helping full time... oh, dear, your family will be happy about everything you did toss out...when you kick the bucket...xxxooo