Kittredge: Christmas Cleaning

Print More
(Host) Many people find their houses cluttering up this time of year and make an effort to eliminate some of it.
Commentator and minister Susan Cooke Kittredge has found that getting
ready for the holidays has raised some questions about what to save and
what to let go.

(Kittredge) I am trying to neaten our house for
Christmas; this essentially means moving stuff from full view to a more
hidden location. All I’m doing, of course, is making room for more
things: crèches, poinsettias, decorations and gifts.

But I can’t
blame the clutter on the holidays, things just seem to accumulate
around me and it makes me anxious; I long for a minimalist environment.

most of my life my idea of a peaceful room was one with a lot of books
in it, but that has changed in the past 15 years. Anatole Broyard,
writer, editor and literary critic for the NYT, was one of the first
people to suggest that culling books was a good idea. It was almost
blasphemous for someone of his literary pedigree. Even before the
internet, e books and audio books, he got me thinking about why we keep
books and where we want them: not in the dining room, maybe not in the
bedroom…How often, after all, do we take down that old copy of Zen and
the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance?

When my husband and I moved
some years ago, we recycled many books. I kept my treasured favorites:
poetry, fiction, theology, reference, history, gardening, cooking. Okay,
we still have a lot of books.

I think the next sacred cow to go
will be the framed photographs. There are so many photographs on my
desk that I can barely find space for my laptop. Don’t get me wrong, I
love the pictures of my family from years ago. But that’s just it, all
my current photos are on my computer or my phone. We take pictures so we
will be reminded of good times and people, to hold on to the past.

Saturday I happened to be in Burlington Square Mall when a flashmob
broke out. Members of the Vermont Symphony started playing their
instruments in the atrium while on the balcony above members of the VSO
chorus started singing. It was fun and exciting and delightful to watch
the startled shoppers’ reactions. But looking around it became clear
that more people were looking at their phones than at the musicians,
recording the event for later.

There is something to be said for
not preserving an event for another time, but rather being fully
present in the moment and trusting ourselves to remember what happened
and how we felt about it. Our memories of events are always embellished
with what they meant to us, with emotion and feeling, an essential
narrative no video can supply.

Perhaps what I will do is
digitize my old photos and make them into an iBook. I know that I will
take a lot of pictures of my grandchildren during Christmas, just to
have them on my phone in my pocket wherever I go. The framed photographs
that will stay on my desk will be of people whose pictures I can no
longer take, people I miss every day, especially during the holidays.

Comments are closed.