My On-Again, Off-Again Relationship with Decluttering and Tidying Up

A black metal filing cabinet with papers on top and folders learning against each side
My filing cabinet, surrounded by papers that have yet to be filed.

Yesterday, I spent some time tidying up my living room.  I hadn’t planned to spend my morning that way, but I came downstairs and saw the ever-growing pile of papers on the table that serves as a catch-all, and I just couldn’t bear to look at it anymore.  This is usually how cleaning goes for me.  I have no set schedule for it, no weekly cleaning routine; it happens in bursts when I feel the urge.

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In Praise of Old-Fashioned Letter Writing

Embellished stationary, matching envelope, and a pen, perfect for writing a letter

In the wake of my father’s death, I received a number of cards from friends and family members expressing their condolences.  I truly appreciated these tangible expressions, which came in a slow stream over the course of several weeks.  I could read the cards and display them in my home to remind myself of the sentiments they shared, and I didn’t have to immediately come up with words to reassure the sender that I would be ok.  Unlike when I received a call or text message, I didn’t feel the need to say anything.

Receiving these cards led me to think about letter-writing, something I used to do fairly often.  When I was in college, before texting had reached its current level of ubiquity but well after emailing had taken hold as a common means of communication, I regularly exchanged letters with long-distance friends.  Reading and writing them took time, but that time was enjoyable.  Rather than dashing off quick texts in the middle of everyday activities, I would set aside half an hour or so to think about what my friend had written to me, respond thoughtfully, and share what was most important in my life at that moment.  I had no real expectations with respect to these letters.  Sometimes a friend would respond fairly quickly, and other times I would not hear back for weeks, or longer.  I didn’t take the delay personally.  I understood that my friends were busy people who were living their lives and would respond when they had the time to do so.  Receiving a letter in the mail was always a pleasant surprise that brightened my day; it was never something I expected.

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How Can We Effectively Respond to this Neo-Nazi, White Supremacist Garbage?

In light of this weekend’s events in Charlottesville, I find it necessary to revisit the topic I addressed last weekend.  Like many Americans, I am horrified by the recent rise in white supremacist, neo-Nazi activity in the US.  Many people smarter than me have written eloquent pieces about what happened this weekend, and I do not pretend to have anything new or particularly insightful to say.  In case there is any doubt, let me be clear where I stand:  Hating, discriminating against, or threatening anyone on account of their race, ethnic heritage, sexual orientation, or gender is despicable and unacceptable.  Human is human, period.

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Ask Alexis: How Do I Raise My Kids to be Kind and Open-Minded?

Painting of a row of back patios, divided by fences
September Morning, 2008. Private collection.

Reader Rebecca sent me the following question:

“I have two boys and I live in a very conservative area. I love where I live (mostly), but I don’t like how a lot of people around here talk about people with different skin colors and religions, members of the LGBTQ community, immigrants, and women. I don’t want my sons to ever talk like that. Do you have any advice for raising kind and open-minded boys in an area that isn’t always very kind and open-minded?”

Thanks for the question, Rebecca!  First, a couple of caveats.  I don’t have kids myself (yet), so I’m hesitant to give parenting advice.  In particular, I don’t know your kids, their personalities, or how they might respond in various situations, but I’ll do my best to share some general thoughts on this topic.

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Guest Post: I Miss My Brother

 

Drawing of a woman sitting on a bench

I believe in the therapeutic and transformative value of writing, and I’m a big proponent of telling your story.  Today, I’m happy to share an essay that was submitted by a reader who wishes to remain anonymous.  I hope you enjoy it.  If you have a story you’d like to share, feel free to send it to me using the “Contact” link in the menu bar.  

When my twin brother got married, I made him a big scrapbook. Full of pictures of us growing up together, it took me a lot of time and money to make. I put in pictures of him playing sports, us playing soccer and wiffle ball in the backyard, us opening presents on Christmas morning. I put in pictures of our childhood dog, pictures of us graduating high school together, and pictures of us holding hands as babies.

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