Valuelessness and Lightheartedness: Light and shadow

I wish for you all the enormous satisfaction of removing clutter, old clutter, clutter so old you’d lost track of the room buried under all of it.

Every time my husband and I filled the Patriot with clutter, every time we drove it off, left it at its destination and came home to more clear space, we breathed more deeply and smiled more readily.  It became easier and easier to believe that plans for our new marriage and our life together were coming true.

The featured image is a payload of recyclable paper: hundreds of old mimeographed (!!!!!) elementary student worksheets in math, reading comprehension and phonics that accumulated over a thirty-year career.  The lesson materials they were meant to accompany were long gone.

We offered these worksheets to the local Christian school where my husband’s deceased first wife taught for a season years earlier.  But they explained that they’ve moved all that kind of practice drill to online programs.  Save a tree.  Reduce grading time.  Eliminate paper clutter.

So.  Off to the recycler with all of it.

Sorting all those “best laid lesson plans”…  Over and over pulling up a handful of paper, riffling through it to sort recyclable worksheets from necessarily shreddable student progress reports… removing all paperclips… again and again for days and days…

Well I had lots of time to think.

It was borne in on me that time, years, decades, much more than “moth and rust,” is what destroys any value in all those resources we stash against possible need.

And…  Light and shadow: It is clutter that imprisons space much more surely than space imprisons the clutter.

Author: American Declutterer

I've had three careers, moved among thirteen states, and cleared four houses after loved ones moved on. Sometimes you just have to look at all the stuff and laugh. Then get back to discarding.

5 thoughts on “Valuelessness and Lightheartedness: Light and shadow”

    1. Are you asking whether slide rules lose value over time?

      Fifty years ago all the science-minded smart kids in my school carried slide rules. Twenty years later, the same sort of kids carried scientific calculators and by ten years later Texas Instruments had cornered the school market on graphing calculators. Nowadays we have Wolfram alpha and my students are “Asking Siri” to remind them of the sine of a right angle.

      A beautifully crafted slide rule is a lovely thing. The cleverness of its design is a testament to human ingenuity. I would suggest that its value is no longer couched in absolute utility but in its place in history and the cleverness of the object itself.


      1. I completely agree. So as a slide rule transcends utility, the rule “this is no longer useful, I should therefore get rid of it” does not apply. Getting rid of a beautiful slide rule as part of decluttering is a more nuanced decision. By the way, I came across several smartphone slide rule apps.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Ahhhh. I see the problem. I wrote, “…time, years, decades, much more than “moth and rust,” is what destroys any value in all those resources we stash against possible need. …”

      Neither the slide rule nor the abacus on my bookshelf is there “stashed against possible need” any more than the books themselves are.

      Those duplicated drill sheets, as well as a few cartons of canned goods and a lot of other stuff in the storage room were stashed “against possible need,” and for no other reason. The food is outdated now and the worksheets are obsolete. That led to my reverie.

      My philosophy of getting rid of stuff is, not to “throw away” beautiful or meaningful things; nor things which are in useful: such as tools for our professions and hobbies and all the other things we reach for. If the time comes to discard such things it is far far better to find them a home, a way to be sure they will continue to delight in their beauty and usefulness.

      But even the useless and broken stuff should never simply go to the dump if there is a way to fix it, or recycle it. I run down the hierarchy, should I keep this, can I find it a home, can it contribute to something new, is it suitable only for landfill.

      Your comments suggest that I make this more explicit in a post. Thank you!


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