Once upon a time, we moved the computer – the one with the 24″ monitor and so many accessories Coco Chanel would throw up her hands in disgust – from the bedroom to the living room.

While hardly a transatlantic journey, those of you who know what it’s like to have the constant hum of a large electronic device next to your bed will understand the import of this move.

C fully supported the move (bless his little pea-pickin’ heart) and so we did it in one fell swoop – desk, chair, computer, file cabinet, printer, modem, router, mess of papers, rolodex. Yes, I have a rolodex. Like, from the good old days. It tickles me.

Now, when I enter the bedroom, I see the bed. Not the enormous void of the computer screen, but a lovely island of sleep. I’m already thinking this may have been a giant evolutionary step forward. I swapped in a little table we had découpaged, a few oversized floor pillows and a lamp, and now the bedroom has an almost Zen quality to it. C and I tiptoe around, smiling small smiles.

When I look back on the various bedrooms of my adulthood, many of them may as well have been garages. Boxes, bags, clutter, paper, clothing, christmas lights – chaos. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a nester – and, apparently, a magpie. Ooooo! Sparkly! Shiny! I’ll put it THERE and THERE. I do love surrounding myself with meaningful items, but how much meaning can be found in a pyramid of empty water bottles? Small mountains of dirty socks? Stacks of used scratch paper?

My mother was a bit of a hoarder. Is that like saying “a little pregnant”? Anyhoo, she saved stuff. Wrapping paper and bows. Rubber bands from all products. She cut the front images off greeting cards to reuse, postcard-like. Stacks of National Geographics dating back to the 60s. Boxes and boxes of my artwork, penmanship, abrupt short stories, yarn craft. The upside was that if you needed anything – squares of red fabric / popsicle sticks / pipe cleaners in all colors / mailed envelopes – it was at your fingertips. The downside, of course, was that the air flowed a little slower around our house.

The day after my mother died, I went into her room and pulled every single item from the closet, the shelves, the desk, the filing cabinet. I made skyscrapers of her belongings and sat between them, trying to focus my eyes. I spread her jewelry out on the carpet and watched it, winking. I felt a panic about her things, as if they might gather together in the night and abscond. My mother had left the world completely without my permission, and I wasn’t about to allow her possessions to do the same.

Instead, I bundled them up, jammed them into bags, sorted through them with clinical, merciless movement, decided with my sister which items to keep and give to family, and the next day, toted the rest away. And you will go THERE, I thundered to her tan slacks.

Sometimes, it’s the act of doing that keeps us from losing consciousness.

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