Getting Ready for 2014: One Method of Decluttering

Picture of a teapot shaped like a dead clown.

I have a photo of this fabulous object, a clown teapot with cups shaped like clown heads, each with xes for eyes, as though the principal clown had slain all his enemies and taken their severed heads in the process. Therefore it's okay I didn't buy it. Someone else gets all the joy.

We’ve (as in two humans, two cats, a briefly lived betta, and assorted temporary insects) lived in this space since 2001. While I’ve decluttered and cleaned before, cruft inevitably creeps in. An odd little ball colored red, white, and blue. Countless keys. Sharpies in a rainbow of colors. Twists and ties and clips. Twenty years after my D&D days, there’s still a few polyhedrals rolling around.

Many things have memories attached, and discarding the object sometimes feels like discarding the memory. The paperweight I bought in Prague while traveling to train Eastern Europeans about network security software. A tin butterfly from our time in Mexico when I was a child. The sequinned baby shoes I use as a prop in the flash class. I feel as though if I put them aside I may lose the thing that triggers the memory.

While I’m not ditching everything, a lot of these are getting digitized. I take a few pictures with my camera and stick it aside. Here’s an example of a book I’ve been carrying around since high days. My paternal grandmother got it for me when I expressed an interest in folk tales and folk songs. I drew on it heavily when writing songs for Armageddon, sometimes adapting songs outright, otherwise creating ones patterned after the originals.

It’s a hefty doorstop of a book. I suspect I’ll be able to find this knowledge, or comparable stuff, on the net whenever I need to. But at the same time, the object holds memories: sitting in my room in high school, reading through it, while the rain drummed on the roof and the locust tree outside my window tapped its long fingers on the glass, for one. Performing songs based on it as my bard on Armageddon, purple-haired, seemingly bemused but secretly sharp, Karaluvian Fale. I take more than just a photo of the dustjacket: one of the inside so I can see the font, another of an illustration, one of an enigmatic and very scrawly note. Enough that I’ll be able to evoke it, access those memories again if I want to.

What’s the best way to preserve these images? I haven’t gotten that far yet. For now I’m saving and tagging, and trying to shrink down the mass of physical stuff attached to my life.

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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and the magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She is currently working on Exiles of Tabat, the third book of the Tabat Quartet. A new story collection, Neither Here Nor There, appears from Hydra House this fall.
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