I lately received my first copy of the AARP magazine and was pleasantly surprised. I remember once seeing an issue at the home of some people I knew who were nice enough but really, really old (I’m referring to my parents when they were 50, or however old they were when they got their first issue of the AARP magazine) and it struck me as being a dreary little leaflet, but the copy I received was colorful and appealing. It waded into the what-to-eat fray, sifting out a few facts that supposedly no one disagrees with, such as that people who eat an excess of protein are four times more likely to die of cancer than those who eat moderate amounts.
The most riveting article was a long one on decluttering, which I did a round of after reading Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. But Barbara Reich is stricter—if you haven’t used it in a year, get rid of it—and I’m inspired anew. She says you should only have things that are beautiful, useful, or that you love. She says you should not store other people’s mementoes. She says you shouldn’t leave getting rid of unnecessary stuff for your children to do after you’re gone. She says you don’t need four wooden spoons!
I have far too many sentimental items: “That was my father’s/mother’s/grandmother’s/Carlos’s!” or “That was mine when I was a child!” I have the simple wooden puzzle I put together when I was three years old, and a stack of my contemporaneous artwork, and the Raggedy Ann and stuffed animals I communed with in those days. I have costume jewelry of my grandmother’s and photos she took of people I don’t recognize, the mechanical pencil my mother used in the 1960s, a toy truck from my father’s childhood. All these items seem tremendously precious—they seem to fit into the category of well-loved—but since many of them are in a cupboard that gets opened just a few times a year, it’s hard to claim that I really need them.
I also have far too many but-I-might-need-this-someday items, including 20 pounds of wires. Barbara Reich says get rid of those wires! If you really ever need one of them, go to Radio Shack and buy one.
Then there’s the decades of journal entries in the filing cabinets in the walk-in closet that is now more of a peer-in closet. If my clothes weren’t in there, I’d just nail the door shut and try to forget it exists. These days, I don’t print my journal out, but up until a year or so ago, I did, and there’s a lot of it. It’s essential to write it, one of the deepest impulses I have, but I almost never reread it. Nor is it going to be source material for a riveting autobiography—let’s just concede that. I’m contemplating getting rid of the very first volume and seeing if I die. If not, I could get rid of the second, and so forth.
I also have a stack of Carlos’s journals from about 20 years ago, most of which I will never read, due to time constraints, and which I’m sure he wouldn’t want me to read. They cover a year or so and were tucked away in a high shelf closet in his apartment. He probably had no idea they were still around and would be horrified at the thought of anyone perusing them.
I’d planned to skim through the AARP magazine and then take it to the soup kitchen, with the mailing label scissored out so no one thinks I’m old, but instead I’m thumbing and rethumbing it as if it’s a special double issue of Hair Band Spectator.