Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Compliment to Savor

“Well organized.” That’s how the woman from the moving company described my stuff as we toured the condo so she could estimate what moving to San Francisco might cost me. Every time she opened a closet or walked into a room, the phrase “well organized” came up again.

Organizing is easy when you’ve heaved out two-thirds of your stuff. The heaving – that’s not easy. I’ve written about it before, in earlier posts here. In today’s New York Times Magazine, Rick Marin writes about it, in “Lives: Objects of Accumulation.”

Marin’s dad has died, his mother is in a nursing home. An only child, he boldly goes into their home, filled with 50 years’ accumulation of stuff, and begins to sort and pitch. The project took him five 15-hour days, some of it spent discarding a drawer full of rubber bands, a closet where he found his grade school projects and rooms full of dusty, musty books.

I’ll pause now for a moment of gratitude from my son, because I have saved him 75 hours of toil by getting rid of so much of my stuff. (Note to son: I think this proves you owe me a four-day visit. I did the math using waking hours only.) When I’m in the nursing home – or have walked into the sea to go south with gray whales – he won’t have to do what Marin did. “Well organized.” That’s what the woman said about me when she looked at my condo.

Kay Ryan, poet laureate of the United States, addresses the topic of clearing out in a poem called “That Will to Divest,” which appeared in the April 12 issue of the New Yorker. Because I don’t have permission to print it here, I’ll just say that Ryan succinctly notes that the more stuff you get rid of, the more urgent it becomes to toss out most of the rest of it. Her poem includes this: “It gets harder…not to dismiss rooms, not to divest yourself of all the chairs but one.”

And why not?

Years ago, every time I announced I had bought a new pair of shoes, one male friend was incredulous. “You can only wear two shoes at any one time, and most likely, you will wear two that match,” he would say. The same is true of earrings – or was, until I started mixing up the pairs for an interesting look. I’m past that now, and I also own just 12 pairs of earrings. Even that seems too many.

“Want what you have.” That’s the mantra I repeated often after I took the buy-out from the Post-Dispatch. Then, when I decided to sell the condo and move, I discovered I didn’t even want much of what I had.

Now what I want is to live among family, the family my son joined when he married. Wonderful people, one and all, they wait patiently to welcome me in San Francisco while I wait in St. Louis for the condo to sell. The good news is that people are meandering through now, two or three a week, looking at the place.

Even better – I’m well organized.


  1. I shudder to think what that that guy threw out, 50 years of history, things that can never be re-created -- hell, things I could have sold.