We’ve all faced the need to clean out our closets and finetune our possessions, whether we’re making a move, downsizing our living space, or just reorganizing.
We have to make hard decisions about what to keep and what to toss or give away. And sometimes the decisions aren’t hard. We wonder why we still have that stack of papers or miscellaneous junk that we never should have saved to begin with.
Exercise: Think about a time when you sorted through your stuff and had to decide what to get rid of and what to save. Think about how you felt. What were the emotions? What tugged at you and why? What was hard? What was easy? Now, write a poem, story, essay, or scene about it.
For inspiration and one poet’s take on getting rid of stuff, read the poem below from the American Life in Poetry project. Visit the American Life in Poetry website to sign up to receive a free weekly poem in your e-mail inbox.
American Life in Poetry: Column 497
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
I’d guess everybody reading this has felt the guilt of getting rid of belongings that meant more to somebody else than they did to you. Here’s a poem by Jennifer Maier, who lives in Seattle. Don’t call her up. All her stuff is gone.
Forgive me, Aunt Phyllis, for rejecting the cut
glass dishes—the odd set you gathered piece
by piece from thirteen boxes of Lux laundry soap.
Pardon me, eggbeater, for preferring the whisk;
and you, small ship in a bottle, for the diminutive
size of your ocean. Please don’t tell my mother,
hideous lamp, that the light you provided
was never enough. Domestic deities, do not be angry
that my counters are not white with flour;
no one is sorrier than I, iron skillet, for the heavy
longing for lightness directing my mortal hand.
And my apologies, to you, above all,
forsaken dresses, that sway from a rod between
ladders behind me, clicking your plastic tongues
at the girl you once made beautiful,
and the woman, with a hard heart and
softening body, who stands in the driveway
American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2013 by Jennifer Maier from her most recent book of poems, Now, Now, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013. Poem reprinted by permission of Jennifer Maier and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2014 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.