I’m an autumn. I don’t mean color, although I do have some brown and dark red in my wardrobe. No, I’m an autumn mentally, physically, and spiritually. This season works for me on every level. It marks the end of summer heat waves and sauna-like subways. And when the fall gives way, it leads to even colder temperatures and snow. I feel physically liberated from the humidity and I develop a more cordial relationship with the weather.
To mark the impending arrival of fall and to celebrate this Labor Day weekend I am embarking on a massive fall cleaning. This is my new year, and I want to start it off with a clean and tidy environment. I write better when my space is uncluttered. At the moment, however, I’m knee deep in books, papers, and other research ephemera. It’s part of the job, but I have a tendency to let things pile up until the only flat surface left in my apartment is the top of my head.
My father tells me that everything should have a place. That’s the key to order. I’ve worked on the basis that everything does have a place, usually piled on top of something else. I’ve come to see that my theory is less than ideal.
I live in New York City and am not yet a wildly successful New York Times best selling author. I have yet to inherit an island, win the lottery, or marry well (or even terribly). The end result is I have a decent-sized apartment on the Upper East Side that is, by Big Apple standards, spacious. Well, it would be if not for my personal library of several thousand books. I recently had a choice between another bookcase and a small couch. I bought two more bookcases.
With space being at a premium I really need to find a home for everything or give it the heave ho. Books…well they aren’t going anywhere, so my focus is on everything else. One way I’ve started dealing with my clutter is by throwing out/donating multiples. I don’t need ten bath towels or fifteen coffee mugs. Old running shoes that are past their prime but still in the closet waiting for me to turn them into ersatz slippers are history. Essays I wrote in university are getting scanned and then shredded. And on it goes.
It’s a slow process, but I feel better with each trash bag I fill and each countertop I rediscover. It’s like an archeological dig. Yesterday I found a flyer for Circuit City. I have rubber bands in my junk drawer that had petrified. I found keys that look like they’d open a crypt under the Vatican. And under every piece of furniture I’ve stampeded herds of dust bunnies that would put the Great Plains buffalo migrations to shame.
Time for me to get back to work. If you don’t hear from me in a few days call 911. It’s likely I’m buried under takeout menus, WWII photograph albums, note pads, and scraps of paper with story ideas, calculations for stuff I have no idea what for, and phone numbers with no names.