Posted by: gaylejervis | January 10, 2011


Saturday morning I set up an old card table in my storage room and began cleaning out a cupboard that was filled with office supplies but hadn’t been thoroughly organized since I first began putting items in there.  That may be close to 20 years!   Needless to say it was a little overwhelming when I finally decided that I could no longer toss one more thing in there and hope that the doors will still close.

I began loading my card table with the following items trying to decide what to do with them: a small battery operated Spell Checker and Thesaurus, two Walkmans, several containers for 3X5 index boxes, hundreds of index cards, jars filled with pens and hi-liters – most of them dried up and useless, stacks of empty CD’s and DVD’s.  3 old compass sets, a black and white pencil case that Kristen had sewn, stacks of photo sheets, a box of empty transparencies, and another box that was filled with transparencies I had used in 1977 when I taught a Short Story Unit in Junior High,

I was now stacking items on top of each other when I added to the table two large boxes of letter sized hanging files that I had once used during one of my big efforts at becoming organized. Adding to my pile I placed empty books of journals that were purchased because I either liked the cover or the feel of the paper, and of course who could forget the drawing books I purchased when I thought the kids and I should learn how to draw.  I found a large plastic container to toss   hundreds of crayons, pencil crayons, hi-liters and markers that were purchased during our home school days.   And why do I have so many small boxes of paper clips except that I couldn’t resist purchasing them at Costco.  Just what I need – a lifetime supply of paper clips!

As items became stacked more and more precariously on top of each other, and as things began to slide onto the floor, I was beginning to feel quite overwhelmed by my task.  I hadn’t counted on not only the physical energy but the emotional energy being expended as I had to decide what was worth putting back on the shelves.  For example, I put my Walkmans in the pile for Goodwill, and then just as I was putting them back in the storage cupboard, Greg enters the room and told me I would never use them again. I reluctantly put them in the garbage.  Then when Greg wasn’t watching, I pulled them out wondering if I should at least keep one.  Finally I remembered a comedian who used a Walkman as part of his comic routine as he made fun of the past:  “And to think we thought we were so cool carrying these heavy players that used audio cassettes.”  I slowly put them back into the garbage.

Besides the difficulty of deciding what to keep, I also found it emotional looking at some of these items that triggered memories of the past.  When I looked at this huge stack of letter sized hanging files, I recalled one of my many efforts of becoming organized.  Then I recalled another system as I held the long index box containing various colors of index cards.   There were dividers for each month and 31 dividers for each day of the month.  It was one of my more sophisticated programs that included appointments, days I was to do particular housekeeping chores, books to read, bills to pay etc.  I had to stop and assess why I was feeling such sadness as I handled these items.  But then it made sense: those were obviously pre – illness days when my life was very full and I needed an organizing tool to juggle what I was doing!

When I saw my transparencies on the Short Story that I taught to a classroom of Junior High Students, I smiled when I realized transparencies are a thing of the past.  But again there was some longing and sadness.  At the end of that year I had had to go on disability for two years due to a car accident and then I never returned teaching since we chose to start a family.

Always a little sentimental when I think about the days that we home- schooled our children, I even lingered over the worn down crayons and pencil crayons that needed sharpening. I held them tightly remembering little hands that used them.  I even found a metal badge that said, “I Love Home School.”   I fingered the black and white cloth pencil case that Kristen had sewn and  was swept away by nostalgia.

Greg later found me lying down on the sofa in the basement.  I was physically and emotionally exhausted.  As I lay there I couldn’t help but hear my Dad’s voice as he talked about how the years went by so quickly and how life had its disappointments and how  “Life is one big dream.”   After a rest, I returned to finish organizing my cupboard and I saw that it had been transformed into a current, useful stock of office supplies and I just enjoyed looking at all the neat plastic containers I used to store those paper clips and staples.  And as I stood there, I understood why my Mom, after Dad passed away, did not display memorabilia from the past.  She realized that in order to live in the present without misgivings,   and without becoming too attached to sentiment, she had to put them away or  she could not live fully today.  And as I looked at these organized shelves, I decided that this closet could become a symbol for how I want 2011 to unfold:  A life uncluttered from holding onto the past of sentiment, nostalgia and yes from holding onto regrets and longing, a life that has  room  for new things since it is not stuffed full of things I can no longer use, and like all freshly cleaned cupboards, a life that has promises of fresh starts.



  1. So much wisdom in your post! As I tackle my build up of stuff, it’s good to know I have a kindred spirit in the family going through the same actions and emotional responses to things past. Your mom’s recognition of how to live in the present instead of being pulled back into the past is so helpful.

    It’s great to see you back at your writing! Can we have tea sometime?

  2. Great to see you writing :)

  3. So good to see a new entry! I too struggle with nostalgia and overcrowding – they go hand in hand in my house! I love your comment on your mom’s way to handle it. I will try to incorporate her view myself (tomorrow, maybe..I’ll try).

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