We are trying to unclutter our house. I emphasize the word trying because we are not very successful. For every book we get rid of, two new ones appear. This morning I threw out sauce packets that may well date back to our time in Beirut (1976-1978) or Senegal (1979-1981) or New York (1981-1983). I want to avoid that, after we have passed on, our children and their friends who are cleaning up our house make fun of us.

I also found two camping meals, dried up spaghetti and lasagna that must be at least 15 years old. Axel wants to try them. I should have thrown them out before he woke up.

We ought to be in a stage of our lives where we disquire rather than acquire but we are failing hopelessly. I sorted through my clothes a year ago, ashamed of how much we have compared with people who have nothing. I remember visiting houses in one of Dhaka’s poor urban neighborhoods. People have no closets – they have bars tacked to the wall of their hut and they hang their one or two outfits over those bars. Or, closer to home, the Shaker village of West Gloucester in Maine where one hangs one’s clothes on pegs on the wall.

That year ago I had put clothes I never wear in a paper bag. I could not bring myself to dump the bags in one of the containers for recycled clothing and instead put them somewhere out of sight in my office. When my office got too cluttered I found the bags, unpacked them, ironed the crinkled clothes and put them back on hangers. Sigh.

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October 2015
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