By Debbie Kerr
I have heard several people comment that they are going to declutter and clean out their junk drawer over the holidays. After all, it is that magical time of the year. For some people, this decluttering will become a requirement to make way for new items either purchased or received as part of the holiday. Others will have this sudden urge to be productive as they take time away from work. In fact, it may not be so much a need to feel productive but the actual availability of the time to declutter.
Whatever the reason for deciding to declutter, decluttering is not as easy as you might think. There are even sayings that go against this process like, “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” While this may sound like encouragement to clean…possibly even to make money, inwardly we might tell ourselves, “What someone else calls junk is actually my treasure.”
You might want to “save it for a rainy day.” You never know when that magical day will come when the button you’ve put in the drawer will become handy. There’s a charger in the drawer and you don’t know what it charges, but surely you will find out the day after you throw it out. This will result in pandemonium as you curse yourself for trying to be productive. No one wants to experience that kind of stress and so the object stays in the drawer.
On the flip side, you look around your room and it seems so small because there are so many things creating clutter that you really don’t need or use. In some cases, there are objects that bring you a sense of comfort and security. The saying is to keep those things that bring you joy. Personally, I am not a joy kind of person. I will settle for keeping those things that make me happy.
You try to find something in the junk drawer. Sometimes it is so crowded that you struggle to open the drawer and, when you do get it open, you can’t find anything. You start tossing things on the counter as you look for the required object only to start wondering if it is in the drawer or if you threw it out in a weak moment. Darn that urge to be productive.
Ultimately, you give up. You realize it’s more productive to buy what you are looking for rather than continuing your search. You don't let the ability to buy what you need keep you from adding to your junk drawer...just in case.
More than One Junk Drawer
I’m embarrassed to say that I have more than one junk drawer. It’s called a cabinet. I was looking for something and found copies of my children’s report cards. My so-called children are now 30 and 26. When I told them I had their report cards from grade school and onward, they asked me to bring them out so they could read them. One cursed his teachers for their comments and the other one just grinned a lot. One child complained that one teacher, who had one glass eye that remained stationary, didn’t see my son with his hand up so it just seemed like he was not participating in class. Children, regardless of their age, still say the darndest, and inappropriate, things.
In addition to a drawer of report cards, I found my cancer drawer. Yes, I have one and it is pretty darn full. I have all the booklets, paperwork, and calendar (a physical one) of all my appointments. What’s sad, yet good in a way, is that I was diagnosed with cancer almost 11 years ago. Part of me knows I should get rid of everything, but like so many of us, I fear that the cancer will return and I may need everything again. I tell myself that there will be new information available to me if that happens. I also realize that the copies I have kept of my test results are also stored somewhere else electronically. In both cases, knowing that the same content is somewhere else does not bring me the same comfort of having the information readily available.
There is also the fact that I am a writer and sometimes I wonder if I will add to my existing book or write a new one. This is one of those situations where I would curse myself if I threw out the information only to need it again…or so I tell myself.
For these reasons, the cancer drawer still gives me a sense of security. I may try to at least thin out the contents a bit. Maybe it will be a bit-by-bit process.
Ironically, that same drawer makes me laugh. Yes, although I have a fear that my cancer will return, I also laugh about my previous cancer experience. In my cancer drawer, I found a booklet about sex and sexuality and I had marked on the front that there was a grammar mistake inside. It shows what is important to me…not the content. First, and foremost, I am a writer and editor. In fact, in all honesty, I also edited the survey from the place where I received some of my treatments. I sent it back with my feedback. I never received anything in return so I don’t know if they ever made any changes based on my suggestions. I’ll let the next too eager editor deal with it.
The other drawers are not as full as mine, but thankfully, most of the content in the other drawers are not mine. I am an equal-opportunity person, so I willingly share some of the drawers with other people. Those are not my drawers to deal with physically and emotionally. There is no sense of security there.
Much Bigger than a Cabinet
My mother is going into a nursing home and so we have sold her condo. There is still content in the condo, but much of the content has been moved to a brother’s drive shed. He says he has walked into the shed, felt overwhelmed, and then walked back out. I fear I will feel the same way, especially since there is no inventory of what is in each of the boxes.
With little sympathy, as the oldest and a girl, my brothers feel that I will have the biggest emotional tie to the content. I am supposed to go through everything first so that I can determine what brings me joy/happiness/security. My fear is that too much of the content will do just that and it will result in too much clutter in my own home.
Luckily (maybe), there is also a timeline when I must complete my task. Between the closing of the condo sale and the fact that valuables are being stored in a shed that may not be watertight or rodent free, I am motivated yet still reluctant to start the process. If I have trouble with a junk drawer, I have no idea how I’m going to deal with this.
People Not Things
What I need to remember is that the people connected to the objects are/were the joy elements of my life. The objects themselves are not what really matters. Perhaps what I discard, even if it is not really junk, will become someone else’s treasure. I feel secure in the knowledge that the memories and the feelings that go with them will always remain with me regardless of where the objects go.
Over 30-years of writing experience, about 10 years as a cancer survivor, and a lifetime purveyor of wit and laughter.
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