• One Minnesota Writer

First Five Fragments for Friday: Purge

Your weekly offering of writing/art prompts.

January is often a month for cleaning, clearing, cleansing. Every glossy magazine has something about letting go of old stuff and habits, about improving one’s whole life. Their whole life! As if we are complete slobs the rest of the year and now it’s come to this.

Well. Seems this year my partner and I fit right in. We’re in the process of cleaning off the living room shelves simply because we have to move them all for a new floor that’s coming in February. And cleaning off the living room shelves has bled into questions about why I’m keeping the old tattered jeans that fit before menopause, the books about submitting work that were written when snail mail was the standard, or that old aluminum pot that was my mother’s but is terrible for actually cooking anything. Yesterday, I dumped stacks of back issues of The Sun and Dwell and Yoga Journal into the recycling bin. Back issues of writing magazines are next. There are two bags of items from my closet waiting to go to someone else who can use them. There are two boxes of books on my office floor also waiting to go to a new home.

Once, I went on a writing retreat led by Natalie Goldberg in which we were asked to talk to one other person about our dreams, our plans. At least, I think that was the question. Maybe it was more like what we would change about our lives or something like that. Anyway, my somewhat unreliable memory recalls that I told the woman I was paired with that I dreamed of getting rid of everything I owned and starting over. That part of the conversation is clear because she was so surprised at the idea that I would get rid of everything. At the time, I really believed there was very little I was truly attached to beyond the people in my life.

So, I’ve been thinking about that this week as I’ve tossed things into boxes and bags. Yesterday, I took one book off my shelf and put it back a couple of times before finally leaving it on the shelf. It’s not a book I love, but it was published in 1924 and I decided one really old book in the house isn’t a terrible thing. (It’s an odd little book, Leaves from the Golden Bough culled by Lady Frazer. The Amazon link says it was published in 1925, but my copy is 1924. Here’s one abstract about it from the journal Nature: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v114/n2876/abs/114854b0.html) Books are the most difficult things for me to part with, even the ones I don’t love.

I’ve come to a point where it’s quite unlikely I’d get rid of everything and start over. But I like to think I still could.

Five things to purge with abandon:

1. Old clothes 2. Old cookware 3. Anything that has to sit on a shelf and collect dust 4. Wire hangers 5. Papers from college

If you have kids, ask them before you get rid of anything. Once you have your pile of stuff, you have the bones for either a really wild art project or a bunch of stories that need to be written. Take some photos to keep the ideas and move the stuff out. Go!

Happy Friday, everyone.

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