More on The Happiness Project

My interpretation of Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project continues. And although months have gone by, I remain stuck on her first task, the de-clutter phase. That segment alone could occupy the rest of my life, because no sooner do I get rid of one thing than a second thing materializes to replace it. In my defense, most of the stuff does not belong to me, but enters the house via school backpacks carried by the family’s junior members. As a kid, I don’t remember having nearly the papers, folders, and projects that my children lug home daily. However, because this first-world problem bedevils only people who possess enough resources to buy paper and folders, not to mention enjoy access to schools, I’ll stop complaining.

Back to clutter. In the culling, purging, and donating phase, books for me represented the final frontier. I love and cherish my books, to the point of irrationality. Maybe this is because for so many years I dreamed of owning books, and couldn’t. A career in the art world, undertaken sans trust fund, will do that to a person. Not until I met, fell in love with, and married my husband—who, thankfully, works at a decent, steady job—did I feel solvent enough to indulge my passion for books by buying them. And buy them I did, with abandon, until our room downstairs, my quote unquote office, overflowed with books that, until recently, crowded my desk, the shelves, the floor, and indeed, threatened to overwhelm my psyche.

How could I give up even one of them? When I knew the story of each acquisition, the tale of how it came into my hands?

But give them up I must. Give them up I did. My de-cluttering mania forced me to make decisions. All books about adoption and Guatemala, I kept. Any book signed by a writer, I kept. Books on the craft of writing; art volumes from my museum days; any novel, collection, or chapbook I simply adore; and the one book I owned as a child–Teena and the Magic Pot—remain. Everything else, gone. Donated to the used bookstore run by our local library, or to the Salvation Army and Goodwill. Somebody else can and will treasure my books. From now on, with few exceptions, I borrow from the library. As we say in California: Reduce, reuse, recyle.

My Gratitude List:

In Guatemala, during my last trip, I bought a gorgeous pillow cover made from a full-sized purple and orange huipile. Too big for a standard pillow form to stuff it, the cover sat folded for weeks, useless. This weekend, I bought three yards of muslin and two bags of fluff, and—easy as that–Olivia sewed me up a form on her handy Singer. Friends, we have a pillow. Thank you, Olivia!

When I go to bed at night, I can’t wait to wake up so I can eat breakfast, my favorite meal. Also from this trip to Guatemala, I brought home a stash of the “Salvavida” granola served in Guatemalan restaurants, which you can buy packaged in Antigua’s large grocery, the bodegona. For days, I’ve been sprinkling a tablespoon of Salvavida on my usual cereal, fruit, and yogurt, and remembering my sojourn to that special country. Delicious!

Which reminds me: I’m a coffee drinker who cannot think or talk without caffeine. Every morning, before I get out of bed, my husband Tim brews a pot of very strong coffee, and hand delivers me a cup. This before my feet have touched the ground. Thank you, Tim. Thank you!

Onward to the holidays. ~


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