Recently, four different friends have said, “Seeing your house makes me want to go home and clear out all my clutter.” I find it ironic and hysterical that I, of all people, would inspire anyone to de-clutter. I’m such a recovering pack rat!

I am in the process of losing nearly 20 pounds. Of paper. More specifically, letters — you know, the correspondence that existed long before email was invented. I’ve always loved writing and receiving letters, and I had regular pen pals through high school and college. Inveterate letter writer plus chronic pack rat equals one very heavy box that I’ve carted around through all my moves. (Another friend recently said she’d moved three times in the past five years, and my first reaction was “wow, that’s a LOT” and my second reaction was, “oh yeah, me, too.”)


The box barely survived this move.

Why didn’t I just chuck the box in the recycle bin? I was tempted, very very tempted. But back in high school, I went on a retreat and part of that retreat was receiving surprise letters from our parents, telling us they loved us. I’d misplaced those letters years ago, and wanted to find them, especially since my mom passed away.

So, I kept this box in the hopes that I’d jammed those letters in there at some point. But I wasn’t ready to go through the old letters or even to read the one I wanted from my mom. Looking at those letters made me feel overwhelmed, both with memory and with the task at hand. Until last week, when I did this:

So many letters, so many memories.


I want to get it done, so I can get outside!

I rifled through, read very few, and found the missing letters from my mom and dad. I sat there in our entryway and cried. But then I felt light and ready for the purging task at hand. I’ve sorted by sender. I’m reading a few at a time, laughing and remembering, and chucking most of them in the recycle bin. The picture of the overturned box is unintentionally symbolic. The letters are in shadows…and a whole world of light and adventure exists beyond them.