Wednesday, July 31, 2019


Decluttering can be seen as a necessary evil, a tedious chore, or even a punishment for overindulgent living.

I get that.

And if you've ever watched actual people declutter, such as shown with disheartening realism in every episode on the Marie Kondo series on Netflix, they do not make it look fun.

I, on the other hand, love decluttering.

And not just for the end result. Yes, it's fabulous to have open space where there was none, to be free of a mountain of things that you don't really want.

But I also genuinely love the process. Because buried in among the ho-hum flotsam and jetsam of your mostly unlovely possessions, there will be gems.

Gems, I tell you.

Wonderful surprises,
things you forgot about,
treasures that will bring tears to your eyes as you sit back on your heels and bask in the memories.

This lovely experience of stumbling upon buried treasures happens to me often when I declutter, and in the past week, I struck solid gold.

I was working my way through a series of boxes stashed full of old letters and greeting cards. Sorting through one by one, I took the time to carefully read each message, treasure each sender to my heart, and then pop that pup into the great recycling bin of life.

With the exception of anything sent by my mom, my mother-in-law, or my grandmother. All of their correspondence goes in a special keep pile.

As I sat, dutifully reading, treasuring, and popping, I came across two cards that made my heart positively sing.

* * * * *

About twenty years ago, I met a woman named Silvia Stone and our lives began to criss-cross in a tangle of interesting ways:

I watched her children as she got her new veterinary practice up and running. 
Her oldest daughter and my third-born had rollicking play dates together.
I welcomed that same oldest daughter into our Girl Scout troop. 
Our families became lovely friends.

And Silvia became our new vet, and began looking after our good dog, Casey.

Sad to say, Casey was near the end of his life when Silvia came on board, and she was the one to join us on the day he died. Sitting on our family room floor with us, she brought us peace as we said goodbye to our beloved boy.

A day or two later, we got this card in the mail:

Dear Diane, Gary, Molly, Emma, Janey and Tessa,

You have lost a very special friend, a special part of your family that you loved very much, that you'll miss every day.

Thinking of you and hoping that time will ease you sadness...and memories will warm your heart warmly. 

Dr. Silvia and Amanda

There really are no words to say how much Silvia's words helped me to grieve and also to heal. Her compassion and thoughtfulness meant everything to me on that sad day, and fill my eyes to this very day with tears of loss, yes, but also of comfort and love.

Not long after, Silvia and her family moved to Southern California, where they still live. In the beginning, we exchanged Christmas cards and made some effort to keep in touch. But over the years, we drifted apart, as often happens when life takes people in different directions. 

Silvia's sweet card is the gift of a lifetime and I will treasure it - as well as her gentle, loving presence when we needed her most - for the rest of my days.

* * * * *

It was maybe 1992 when Shannon moved into the house across the street from me. 

I was a confident and comfortable mommy of three, settled into my thirties, and on top of my game. Shannon, bless her, was ten years younger than me with a toddler son who looked like an angel but challenged her daily with his physical exuberance and defiant temperament.

And it didn't help matters that Shannon's devoted husband fished on the Bering Sea, and was gone for months at a time. True, she has wonderfully supportive parents and a sister whose husband also fished. But I noticed, during our play groups and neighborhood chit chats, that Shannon looked up to me. 

We grew close.

When I was expecting my fourth-born, Shannon offered to lend me some maternity clothes. "No, you keep them." I protested, knowing that she was desperately hoping for a second baby. 

"Alright, but at least take the black bodysuit. You'll love it." 

She was right. This one-piece wonder of perfect soft support was what every pregnant woman dreams of wearing, and I literally put it on every single day of my third trimester. And what a happy day it was, not long after my fourth was safely delivered, when Shannon called me to joyously announce that she would need the bodysuit back. I bought her a brand new one to celebrate her second pregnancy.

Apparently, I also bought her some Garden Botanika baby products for a shower gift and, in return, Shannon sent me this lovely note:

Diane, thank you for all of the Garden Botanika bath goodies. I know I will put them to good use! I really love having you for a neighbor more than you know. Thanks for being there whenever I need you.

Love, Shannon

Her second baby boy was born - another blonde-haired, blue-eyed perpetual motion machine - and a few more years quickly slipped by. 

Small changes fluttered into neighborhood life; it took me a while to notice that Shannon had stopped coming around the neighborhood as she used to. Her boys, now maybe six and three, played outside alone, and we other moms looked after them, giving Shannon what we thought was some much-needed alone time. 

Slowly, Shannon stopped calling me, and when we would bump into each other, her side of the conversation seemed awkward and forced. 

Eventually, I realized the problem. Shannon was drinking way too much. 

And soon her world came crashing down on her. 

Her patient and loving husband divorced her, got custody of the boys, and moved a few miles away to live near his parents who cared for the boys while he fished.

Shannon moved to an apartment, and worked on her sobriety, trying and failing, trying and failing. 

Eventually, she got sober and stayed sober. Her now ex-husband cautiously began to invite her over to visit with the boys; they carefully, cautiously began to spend time together. 

And it was on a Sunday evening after a day spent with her boys that Shannon was driving home on the interstate. Another driver cut her off, causing her to lose control of her car and hit a construction vehicle parked in a work zone on the side of the expressway.

She died instantly. 

This card from Shannon is a beautiful reminder of our sweet friendship, and of the precious and fragile days when she was happy. Her words touch my heart, and I will treasure them forever.

* * * * *

 If decluttering is a treasure hunt - and I sincerely believe it is - then these two cards are the precious jewels that can be found, if only I am willing to look.

* * * * *

Read more about my journey to mindful consumption:

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