Friday, July 5, 2019

A Sorting Lesson

"What about this?"

Wendy came one Saturday. Friendly, talkative, and energetic, with several recent moving experiences under her belt, she was ready, even eager, to bring her experience to bear for us. We loved her for that but were concerned that she was failing to comprehend the magnitude of our stuff collection.

See, over the last several years Ellie had frequently said, "When I think of moving all I want to do is go to bed." We had been in our house for thirty-plus years; no doubt she was thinking of the millions ( slightly exaggerated, I am pretty sure ) of nick-knacks, small statues, kitchen gadgets, bar accessories, framed photographs, framed art, computer accessories, mini food warehouse, seasonal decorations, books and the like, not to mention the years of photo albums and gently used clothing intended for Goodwill, that we had stashed in various places around the house.

My response was less poetic; thinking about moving turned my mind to my basement workroom ( which served as a combination hobby room and storage room for things like obsolete electronics, miscellaneous cords, plugs and electronic accessories for which I might someday have another use, blocks of wood which will certainly be handy to have if I ever do wood carving again ), my basement office ( which contained various and sundry office gadgets, dozens of little notebooks given by charities, my fountain pens, inks for them and tools to work on them, ballpoint pens, multiple office accessories and gadgets, two nearly-full two-drawer file cabinets and several bookshelves containing things like ... well you get the idea ) and my beloved computer with its multiple pieces of peripheral equipment. Move this stuff? Let's nap!

And the garage. It contained a myriad of things including stuff I had put there when not knowing where else to go with it. This was a one-way area: stuff went in and nothing ever came out. Whenever this garage came to mind I'd force myself to turn my attention.

Thoughts of moving simply overwhelmed both Ellie and me, but we did have a new place. We didn't want to move everything - and while our new place was big, with generally adequate storage, we may not have been able to move literally everything.

"You have to decide early on what you want to take and what not," Wendy had often said when we spoke of moving from our house of thirty-six years. "If you're not rigorous," she'd go on, "you'll get to the new place, open a box and wonder, 'Why did I move this?' That's what happened to me, anyway. And you don't want that." No, we didn't.

Upon arrival, she was cordial but all business. "You sit down," she said to Ellie. Ellie's hip bothered her a lot and sitting appealed to her. "I will go through each cabinet, piece by piece, and you need to respond, 'keep,' 'don't keep,' or 'don't Know.' I'll put each piece in the appropriate group." Ellie nodded.

Wendy approached the first corner cabinet, opened it and pulled out a angelic figurine. She motioned to Ellie, "Well?" Ellie began her consideration. Wendy waited very briefly, "OK, don't know!" and, in one smooth motion, put the figurine in the 'don't know' box and pulled an old china teacup from the cabinet.

"I hadn't decided!" Ellie yelped.

"Honey," Wendy said showing neither sarcasm nor rancor, and motioned to the two corner cabinets, drawers under each, and two - door cabinets under those, "there's a lot of stuff in there. We've got to be quick. You have to decide faster than that."

She briefly returned her attention to the tea cup. "What about this?"

Ellie's "Keep!" was immediate.

It went on like this for the bulk of the afternoon. In the end, we had empty corner cabinets and drawers, three groups of stuff that had been in them, a sorting lesson and a new bond between Wendy and Ellie. To almost nobody's surprise, the 'Don't know' group was the largest. Now, however, thanks to Wendy, we had a better handle on how to deal with it. And I was beginning to grasp how I was going to handle the stuff in my office.
If you would like to comment but don't care to use the comment field, send an email to

No comments:

Post a Comment