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The Joy of Clutter

I am invincible! I am woman! Hear me roar as I chuck, heave, and unclutter my life, determined to make space—for what, I’m not sure. 

Armed with heavy duty garbage bags, a “How to Unclutter Your Life” article (to be recycled when I’m done) and wicked determination not to let any sentimental impulse undermine me, I throw open the doors of my wardrobe. Anything that no longer fits, is stained, torn, or broken must be tossed.

First to go are my halter tops. Fork lift is more in my future. Next, the skin-tight jeans I wore the year I hitchhiked from Montreal to Manhattan. I crossed the border into the arms of a boyfriend whose name has left a memory gap the size of the space between the now unzippable zippers.

From my wardrobe, I move into the living room, uncovering detective novels with plots that hold no surprises. Love stories filed under fiction, later moved to fantasy, now find their happily-ever-afters inside the trash. I climb up to the non-fiction shelf where no-carb diets (what was I thinking?), cancer prevention, and does anyone even know what C++ is anymore share dust with What to Expect when You’re Expecting—as if. 

I cling to T.S. Eliot’s “time yet for a hundred indecisions” and Emily who reminds me that Hope is the thing with Feathers. The “How-to” in my hand reprimands me for showing weakness in the face of my literary fellows, who may remain immortal in my soul but for goodness sakes, get them off the shelf! 

I wave my white dust flag and retreat into the kitchen. Chipped cups, super-glued bowls that leak just a little, spoons that have lost their matching forks and knives, and the saucers that have outlived their cups all go.

With a stronger sense of self and renewed resolve I open the drawer beside the stove. Saved wine corks from brises, birthdays, and bar mitzvahs, can openers that began their life before the invention of self-opening cans and butter knives before the fear of cholesterol have collected years of stains and rust. It’s time for us to part ways.

I am invincible! I am woman! Hear me roar as I chuck, heave, and unclutter my life, determined to make space—for what, I’m not sure. 

Forging on, I pull out a misshapen aluminum measuring cup. I know this will be my undoing but it’s too late. Holding the cup, I’m reminded of a recent trip to the Negev desert. Yoash, our guide, was leading a group of us through the Ramon Crater when he picked up a broken stone and passed it between us. We caressed the rock, feeling its smoothness in stark contrast to the jagged cliffs and unforgiving terrain surrounding us.

“Draw your sword and kill me, lest they say of me, ‘A woman killed him,’” quotes Yoash from the Book of Judges. Abimelech was a treacherous king, killing his brothers and burning down cities until he reached Thebes where he was stopped—by a woman. Perhaps she was frustrated that her millstone cracked while she was grinding flour (although I suspect she was fed up with all the violence). Tossing her broken tool out the window, she inflicted the almost mortal wound. With his last breath, Abimelech begged one of his men to deliver the final blow to avoid being killed by a woman, and the ultimate humiliation—by a woman’s broken kitchen utensil.

I hold my mother’s misshapen measuring cup in my hand. According to “How to Unclutter Your Life,” this broken tool must go. I have used this cup to make many muffins, sometimes while impatiently juggling a baby on my hip, sometimes in grief crying into the batter, sometimes savoring cinnamon buns that came out—not exactly but almost—like my grandma’s.

I toss the “How-to” and keep the bags of “junk.” The gaps in the jeans zippers are a reminder of good meals with family and friends, and the other mementoes are souvenirs of my messy—and, yes, cluttered—life. Sometimes it’s the broken tools that allow us to find forgiveness for ourselves, for our indiscretions, errors of judgment, too little flour, too much sugar, but just the right amount of fullness to feel connected to the events that make us who we are—who I am now.

Anna Levine is an award-winning author of children’s and young adult literature. Born in Canada, she now lives in Israel. To avoid tidying her house, she loves to hike the Israel Trail, explore archaeological sites and write about the places which inspire her. http://www.annalevine.org/

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