How do you divest yourself of decades-old stuff?


Mark Kinsler
Published 8:17 a.m. ET March 24, 2019

In the interests of efficiency and personal survival I have moved the clock repair works into our home office. Natalie, visions of a clear dining room table dancing before her, eagerly contributed her old test-grading table to the cause, and the vast wheeled tool cabinet rolled in like a parade float.

That part was easy. But the move also displaced some 20 cartons of decades-old papers and books, each of which must be exhumed, examined, reminisced over, and sentenced.

It’s all from former lives: Natalie’s Texas insurance firm, my correspondence courses, the detritus of two teaching careers, two sets of grad school research data, my old cello music, Natalie’s recipes, my catalogs, Natalie’s greeting cards, my clock parts receipts, Natalie’s art supplies, and personal documents from the 1930s inherited from two sets of parents. 

It’s all stacked in the dining room, where the curatorial committee will mull over each artifact. Prior to a flat spousal rejection I suggested that we might sort through and euthanize each other’s memories, for far greater spiritual effort is required to do one’s own. But with luck the trash can, shredder, and recycling bin should eat well over the next few weeks. 

What should we do with old class pictures and my mother’s Phi Beta Kappa certificate?  How about maps and brochures from dozens of excursions, newspaper clippings, cat photographs, letters, instruction booklets, magazines, lab manuals, and 100 obsolete disks of computer software? And beloved old tool catalogs, spiral-bound class notes, and the pile of cartooned notes I left for Natalie over the years? 

It’s mostly my fault. Natalie is exquisitely neat and organized, while I find comfort surrounded by shoals of junk. Both justice and order would be served were it to collapse, entombing M Kinsler beneath his stuff.  

Meanwhile, down in the cargo hold, the joint archaeological project continues.  Wish us luck.

Mark Kinsler, kinsler33@gmail.com, lives, teaches and writes in an old house in Lancaster built upon Inca ruins with the three cats and Natalie, who longs for her spring daffodils. 

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