#reverb10: 11 things

Prompt: 11 Things. What are 11 things your life doesn’t need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life? 

Reverb10 prompt from Sam Davidson


(How I wish I could number surprise, blindsiding illness among these eleven things. I’m lucky I posted my previous Reverb10 post early, because if I hadn’t, I would have ended up missing a day. I’ve been in bed most of today, too. Would you believe I rarely got really sick until I taught school? Now look at me. Koff.)

I think I’m supposed to write about great, sweeping abstract noun-type things in this list. And yet I’m at a point in my life where I’ve pared down a lot. Over the past five years especially, but really, if you look at who I was in 2000 versus who I am today, things are a lot less complicated for me. I shed myself of lots of toxic things. I like the way things are now, pretty much. The people in my life are ones I don’t want to let go; my work is fulfilling and I have enough time to do it; the new things in my life are things that enrich it beyond compare.
What I have that I should let go, to be honest, prosaic, and lacking in abstract nouns, are things. 
  1. Masses of teacher paraphernalia. I am a never-say-never person, and yet I can say with 90% confidence that I will never teach school again. I taught in a unique environment to a unique population of students. The more I read about education now, the less I want to take part in it. Parents are aggravating and insulting, bullying their way into the classroom and undermining the authority of the adults in charge of the place. Students are unmotivated and accustomed to grade inflation. If I ever found myself in a situation where I had to teach again, I’d need to recertify by now, anyway, and I’d go through that only to teach gifted and talented. So guess what? Books and paperwork by the boxload can definitely go. In 2011, I’m going to scan just enough paperwork—whatever I’d need to recertify and keep a modest portfolio, and the rest shall go poof. 
  2. Boxes of photographs. This is the sort of thing that makes people gasp, when they hear I want to throw away photographs. I want to scan a few, definitely, before they go. But I want to curate a collection of the ones I took on film and printed before I got my first digital in 2002, and they will be enough. When you don’t have children, there’s no sense that anything needs to be passed down to a future generation. That’s freeing in a lot of ways. And if there’s one thing that digital photography (and the freedom from 24-images-a-roll traditional pictures) has taught me, it’s that not every picture is worth saving. 
  3. Paper. I have so many things I never look at, never use, and never will. It’s bizarre to think they have followed me, some of them, through almost a dozen moves. When the day comes that we leave this house, it will be bad enough to take all my books with me. But research for a garden that would never grow here in the frozen wastes? Vanished, banished. Ancient greeting cards? I know you loved me, but I don’t need a pink and pearly bastardization to tell me so. That Children of the Corn inspired novel with the demon children I tried to write in tenth grade during geometry class? I’ll scan it first. Becky Campbell loved it. Then there’s the other paper, which comes under a few varying rubrics: ephemera, memento, Serious Item With Account Number or Dollar Figure, recipe, knitting pattern, information, story idea, other. There has got to be a better way. I will find it, and use it.
  4. Clothes. I have too many. I had to, for a long while: I had no laundry facilities and washing clothes meant a gigantic production. I also needed professional work clothes in abundance. I no longer need those things, or quite so many of them. I have laundry facilities right in my very own basement. This winter, I’m retiring an enormous, ancient, beaten dresser (not an antique or anything, never fear; just an ugly old dresser) and getting two modern replacements with functioning slide hardware that will fit perfectly into the closet in my bedroom. Items that don’t fit in my closets will be vanquished, and nothing new will come in without something old going out.
  5. Internet haunts. Before Reverb10, I had X number of websites in my Google Reader. In the past eleven days (well, minus two, as I haven’t done much since Thursday), I added 350 people I visit to comment. I will add still more before December is done. And a surprising number of these are ones I want to stay in January. This means I will be getting rid of old ones, places I visited passively without interacting or making a real connection. That’s going to be incredibly freeing. 
  6. The box of pens. My stepfather is a pen-klepto. He picked them up everywhere. When he came home, he would find yet another pen on his person and dump it into the bottom drawer of his workbench in the basement. I share not one gene with this man, and yet—though I do not pick up random pens like he did—I keep them instead of throwing them out. Pens have a peculiar smell en masse. I want that smell, that bottom-of-the-workbench-drawer smell, to be gone from my house. I want to run out of pens and know what that feels like. 
  7. Oh, I thought of a good one. I’m retiring my dishes this coming year, and letting go of two mismatched sets of dishes that I have packed and unpacked through many moves. I’ll freecycle them and someone will haul them away. Hurrah! 
  8. I’m really drawing a blank here. Excuses. Yes. Everyone should get rid of excuses, so I will too.
  9. The consumption of gluten and dairy. They make me ill! Why do I bother? Pizza and gelato, that’s why.
  10. The reading of books that do not enchant me by page 40. 
  11. Physical things over experiences.
As for how they’ll change my life? Except the clothes, of which I really do have too many, the rest of these things are items I don’t really see. And yet they’re there, filling up space. I am conscious of them, especially all the varieties of paper, every sheet of which feels like something I’m supposed to act on. That’s nervewracking, when I think of it, which is something I avoid doing. The only things I want to be full are my bookshelves; everything else can be whittled down. I’m no minimalist, and as I said in the beginning, I am much more pared down than I have been in past years. And it feels really very good to think that, though I have thought about this prompt all day long, I can’t fill it with anything more than I have here. It means the other parings, the ones I’ve done before this year? They were the right ones. They worked. That feels really good to know.