Knowing What to Save

I am, like Virginia Woolf, trying to get a room of my own. Well, an attic.  Well, half an attic…the other half is the kids’ playroom.  Still, I’m pretty psyched, and when it’s done I’ll post photos so the world can see where I sit when the muse calls (or where I check twitter, or whatever).

But while I’m not as bad as the folks on Hoarders, I will say that clearing out that space has left  a pile of the most random shit in history.  Seriously, people, when the waves of time wash out, THIS is the flotsam and jetsam left behind:

-A Playmobil red dragon, complete with chains

-A pair of my grandmother’s kid gloves, complete with the price tag from Jens’s department store in Buffalo (marked down from $30 to $12.50)

-An expired passport

-My graduate school diploma

-The husband’s expired passport – the one where he totally looks like a terrorist with a weird goatee and a collarless shirt

-A ton of random books, including Agatha Christies with a .95 cent price tag and pages so brittle they crack when you turn them

So what’s a girl to do?  Every item caused a sigh of recognition, a momentary pause to acknowledge what forces had brought this lost thing to wash up on the shore. But then what? What is so precious that it has to be kept forever, and what can simply be remembered? How can we archive the memories we love without the talismans that are all we have left?

Revising a novel is not unlike digging through this attic.  There are random treasures – lines that I love, whole paragraphs that make me laugh again, just like they did when I first wrote them.  But in the novel, as in my soon-to-be-office, hard choices must be made.

In both cases, I tend to take the path of least resistance. In the revisions, I move all cut text into an “outtakes” document, where, presumably, I can return and read my comic genius for years to come.  In the office-to-be, I shunt things from one pile to another, from the floor to the dress-up bin (the gloves), from behind the table to the photo box (the expired passport).  After all, you never know when these treasures might be needed again.

p.s. I was going to create a kind of photo documentary of the random, but my camera is buried under a pile of paperwork on my desk, and iPhoto is already in possession of some 15,000 photos (since I am as bad at deleting photos as I am at throwing things away).  So you’ll just have to use your imagination.

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