Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Paralysis of Paper

I have a bookshelf. I also have a lot of books. I also have lots of binders and folders and files with papers in them. During my culling of my closet, I also had a go at the bookshelves and ended up with one of these:
A box o' books for my favorite Julia who lives in Georgia.
I sent these to a girl who will probably have devoured these by now. Oddly enough, even after doing this, I still had no room in my bookcase. So I had another go at the bookshelves, attacking the worst of the offenders: papers...


This is the pile I'm taking to the garbage in a little bit. it's about a foot high and is composed of school notes, pictures I printed out to decorate binders, binders, dividers, old magazines with beautiful pictures, patterns I mean to knit, and lots of loose-leaf papers.

I knew I needed to get rid of all this baggage. Look at how all these little pieces of tree pulp add up to a gigantic pile! It's not like I said, "I need to keep this huge stack of meaningless papers." It just happened over time. But as my bookshelves kept filling up with meaningless papers and books, I couldn't make myself get rid of it.

It wasn't until I watched a show focused on recycling and how recycling paper is actually damaging to the environment, that I broke free of my paralysis and started to throw it away. Paper is a renewable resource. I know it is because Georgia forests constantly surrounded me on my mission with trees grown specifically for paper. If I want to get rid of all this paper, it's fine. I don't need to hold onto these things, no matter how important the papers told me they were.

"Wait! I'm an award for your excellence on the AP tests!" says one certificate.

"Yeah, well, all I care about are my graduation diplomas and the fancy pieces of paper that said I served a mission." Toss!

"Wait! I'm a piece of a story you wrote in high school!" a sheet of loose-leaf paper with itsy-bitsy writing shouts. "You know that writers never get rid of all their old writing."

"I think I'll make an exception for you. And all of your friends." Empty out a binder. And then dispose of the binder as well.

"Wait! You might read me!" a copied bit of ancient prose cries out to me.

"If I'm being perfectly honest, no I'm not." And into the pile it goes.

So stacked up beside a pile of books headed for Deseret Industries, is a pile of papers that I am just going to throw away. It feels good, like I'm letting go of things that have been weighing me down for years, always hissing at me in the back of my mind.

I love this lamp more than life itself.
I had a similar existential* crisis when my Grandmother died and we had to clean out her apartment. She collected little crafts made out of acrylic yarn and plastic canvas, ceramics she had painted, tithing receipts, funeral programs, figurines, cheap and free jewelry, books the kids weren't allowed to read... All of it told us a little bit about her. She liked to make things with her friends. She liked to remember those who had passed on. She paid her tithing faithfully.

We threw out almost all of it. We split up the few things with worth or memory among my aunts and uncles and their cousins and called it our inheritance. I inherited a lamp that reminds me of nights I spent sleeping over at her home when I was little. I remember feeding the ducks in her backyard that came from the stream running behind it. I also remember running away from them when they wanted to bite my toes, and my Grandma holding me and telling me I would be fine.

I took a look at all the things I held onto in my room: tickets, trophies, papers, scarves, friendship bracelets, papers, pens, old homework, a collection of bags, notebooks, yarn, papers. And then I deep cleaned my room without any prompting from my parents. I'm sure they thought it was weird.

I've had to change my thinking from, "You can't EVER throw away stacks of paper or get rid of books. Books are holy and sacred and can never be sent away -- " and no they're not. If I'm not going to use them, I need to get rid of them. My room, which is an extension of myself, feels free when I've cleaned it, organized it, and determined to keep only the important things.

I think the point of all this is: don't just hang onto old things because they're old. Make sure everything is of worth. Out with the old, in with the new.

Next up: the yarn basket. (Why do I buy yarn when it's on sale and not when I have a pattern in mind? I hate myself.)

* "You don't even know what that word means, Valerie." "Shut up. It sounds cool."

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