Getting rid of clutter seems to be the popular activity de jour.  I do subscribe to the equation that less is more (freedom, space, etc.),  until it comes to the actual execution. I use that word deliberately for in getting rid of things (or attempting to) I feel as  if  I’m  executing parts of myself.

This week, oversized garbage bag in hand, I tackled the closet in my son’s room. When I say  “his “room that’s a misnomer. For the little boy who grew up here is now two thousand miles away, a father to his own little boy and girl.

For the past 20 or more years the sole closet in that room has served as a catch-all storage place, items thrown in that have no resting place anywhere else. Saved for the mythical day when I’ll find a use for them.

To get back to the closet– or rather into it – out came a pair of curtains that no longer fit any window in my apartment. So they got tossed  – or did they? A week later, they’re still on a chair waiting for me to decide.

Out came an oversized straw tote bag.  A gift from a neighbor who moved away – how many years ago?   “You can use it for picnics,” she assured me. In all that time I’ve never been to a picnic, nor have I found any other use for it.   In fact, to be honest, I forgot the bag was there. At least it could be recycled.  (Recycling takes away guilt about these “abandoned” things.) I carried it downstairs to offer to another neighbor, carried it back upstairs the next day. After all, I just might go on  a picnic sometime.

Why have I kept the keyboard of my old computer? My little grandson played with it once when he visited, pretending it was plugged into an imaginary outlet we drew on the wall. Maybe I should keep it for him, except that he has already outgrown such childish play. Toss, keep, recycle? None of the above?

Yet items such as these are the easier ones.  The difficult are those interwoven with my lost youth.  Today I make a second foray into  that closet.  I find a bulging  scrapbook,  ragged edges poking out.  Down it comes from the shelf. Opening the torn cover I see disintegrating pages holding my years as an actress. My “other life,” as people call it.  I turn fragile pages, inhaling the dust of decades.

Faded programs. “I didn’t even remember I once acted in My Sister Eileen,” I tell my partner, who has ventured into the room. (A born hoarder,  he doesn’t believe in throwing out anything less than 100 years old.)  I stand there reading each program for its cast names, to see which of these young actors became famous. Score: zero.

Dozens of telegrams – the witty, the affectionate – wishing me luck, hoping I’ll ”break a leg,”  assuring me I’ll “steal the show,”  that  I’ll rise from my Act 1 death in Ten Little Indians  to a lively curtain call.   Wires from people I barely remember and lost friends whose memory stabs me.

Photos  of scenes from shows.  Each bringing back the actor I’d worked with – loved – hated .  “This woman was a famous actress who blew up at me between scenes because I was getting laughs she wanted,” I tell my partner. Feeling again my indignation at being berated. Wasn’t I also proud  I’d  been so good at comedy?  (Where is my sense of humor these days??)

Here are the glossy PR photos, close-ups of a face that seems like a stranger’s. Was I ever that young? That unwrinkled?

I may not ever look at these again. Too much memory.   Chances are that no one else will ever look at this collection either, after my real life demise.  My children may or may not  be briefly interested in the contents. More likely they’ll be frustrated at having to sort through things their mother wasn’t thoughtful enough to discard.

Yet why do I repack this mess neatly in a box (a GAP box, no less) and carefully paste a label on it to read THEATRE?  Back it goes on the shelf.

Maybe we need a new definition of “clutter.”   I’m told it’s anything you haven’t used in five years.  A mathematical  boundary.

But what if it momentarily brings back the sweetness of a lost time?


BOOKS: Widow’s Walk, Turning Toward Tomorrow, Ten Women of Valor.


“Wow!  Did I relate to this. It’s me to the nth degree.”– Warren A.

“Really interesting . I’ll tell others to visit this.” _ Edinalva