Secrets in the Recycling

It’s time. It’s time to ransack my house, to examine, to pick over, to handle and….to discard. I am moving and that means all the belongings I need in my new place will, in the not too distant future, be packed up by strangers and hauled just a few blocks away. The boxes and the furniture will be dumped in the new place and I will be left to create order out of chaos. Before that can happen, however, I have to shed many many things. I have already given away and sold at pathetic prices some of my furniture. There was a sort of pride at the beginning of this process that made me insist on money changing hands. After all, the mirror was a fine one, the chair a prized possession of my father. Should I simply hand my things over to anyone who showed up. As the weeks sped by however, these credenzas, tables, paintings became simply a burden. I would have to pay a mover to take them to a place where they would not belong. They simply would not fit. That is the essence of downsizing. The size of the place you have…..goes down.

I rediscovered an old truth. It is delightful to give people things. The heartbreaking memo I got from a Kijiji contact who took away an old kitchen set from my basement was stunning. I had prepared a little box of kitchen utensils, a tablecloth, a vase and shoved it into his arms as he came back for one leaf of the table. As a single woman of a certain age (sigh) what did I want with all these things? It seems he and his partner did want, and need them. The frail Russian couple who manhandled a heavy mid-century piece down my steps bestowed a dazzling smile and asked if I would like a picture when they had restored it. Frankly I was more worried about insurance coverage if they fell and cracked a rib during this operation. As the owners of a new furniture business they were overjoyed to get a “freebee”.

More sinister was my purge of papers. I deposited on the sidewalk last Friday three large paper bags – the kind one uses for leaf collections full of old photographs, shredded tax papers, old textbooks (I threw away a book!) and letters. Ah, those letters – from old lovers, past students, the families of patients I worked with in the hospital, my work-mates on my retirement. Birthday cards to and from my parents, my grandchildren, my dead friends. Old short stories, painful in their crippled and sentimental forms, poems written in the dark despair of sleepless nights, notices of weddings, of funerals. And somehow worst of all, the agendas – going back to the 1980’s. I had kept them on the pretext that I might “need” something in my notes of years ago. I experienced a pride in seeing the record of my working life, row upon row on the little bookcase.

The unavoidable reality is that there is no room for these things in my new place. So, I had to part from them. I did so in a sort of ecstasy. These people, events, years, joys, reproaches, heartbreaks, surprises were part of my life and are integrated in me. Do I need agendas to prove that I lived those years? Do I need this birthday card to prove that my long dead friend remembered me? No, I am it. The walking agenda, the walking photo album, the walking drama, romance, comedy.

Of course, some objects and documents are precious and cannot be parted from – just yet. They will come with me to what will likely be my last mailing address. The next big decluttering will see me carted off and the objects remaining. At least my children and grandchildren will have a little less work to do. And some secrets will have been long-shredded in the re-cycling center.