I believe I’ve mentioned before that I write each morning. Ever since 1998, when I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, I’ve been writing what she calls Morning Pages. It’s just a way of clearing your mind for the day, writing whatever comes up without trying to write well or be pithy or profound. I write on looseleaf paper and I guard this routine selfishly. The odd day when I miss might be because I have to leave the house super early to catch a plane (obviously not often)–but that’s about it. People tend to think this shows great discipline, but I do it because I love it. It’s a routine that I adore–in my bed in pajamas, sun rising out my window, cup of tea on one side of me, dogs on the other.
So I’ve been doing this for 24 years. You can imagine the amount of paper. I usually write at least 3 pages, often more than a ream of paper each year. After my aunt died and we read every scrap of her handwritten notes, I was in a panic to clear mine out. Not just minutiae, there’s also a lot of petty grievances and complaints in those pages. What if I got hit by a bus and my family read all of that?
But the pages had piled up again. This winter, I suddenly developed an allergy to dust mites. Well, I had been saying that if I was allergic to dust, considering the state of my home, I’d already be dead. My bedroom and studio are filled with things. Far too many things. Books, papers, clothing, pillows, scarves, shoes, jewelry, art, art supplies, piano music, tchotchkes, heart-shaped rocks, etc. Thus, those two rooms, especially, are very difficult to dust. So I hardly ever do it.
The other day, sneezing like mad, too miserable for a planned road trip, I attacked my bedroom. There sat piles and piles of Morning Pages, some in binders, some just loose and stacked, going back to 2008, gathering loads of dust. Ugh.
But what to do with them? Paper. I had to recycle. But what if those workers who go through the recycling started reading? I could just imagine one saying to the other, “Listen to this!” Laughing, casting aspersions on my very personal ramblings. No, I could not bear it. So I sat for hours, mask on, tearing the pages in half before taking four garbage bags of torn pages to the recycling center.
I considered holding back 2020 and 2021, each of them much more than a ream of paper. But why? For historical reasons? Would I ever read them again? Would I want to read them? I often think I’ll go back and pull the best parts of them, the pages in which I really was writing something interesting, discovering something or other, recounting some important moments or days in my life. In the end, I tore up those, too, and off they went.
Marie Kondo would be proud, but only a little. I have miles to go before I stop sneezing.
“Edit your life frequently and ruthlessly. It’s your masterpiece after all.” Nathan W. Morris
“Tidying is the act of confronting yourself.” Marie Kondo
“Clutter is often the result of so many good intentions.” Becky Rogers
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Thanks for listening,
P.S. MerryThoughts is the name of my first book, out of print at the moment. The word is a British one, referring both to a wishbone and to the ritual of breaking the wishbone with the intention of either having a wish granted or being the one who marries first, thus the “merry thoughts.”