Monday, June 10, 2013

Diamonds Among the Detritus

There's something about beginnings and endings of academic years that makes me want to take stock. This desire has outlasted my career in elementary education, and I'm not sure if that's because I still have a student in my house, or because it's a habit that's so ingrained, it just feels strange not to sort and purge and de-clutter.

This mindset has inspired a particular de-cluttering task, and in the spirit of summer vacation, I am mixing practicality with pleasure. My objective? To read a magazine a day each day this week. Hardly a lofty intellectual pursuit, I know, but I'm okay with that. I have plenty of things to keep my mind nourished; this particular goal is a means to an end -- one of the little tricks I play on myself to reduce the accumulated "stuff" that has piled up in my house.

I love to read - always have. I'm easy prey for a book or magazine with a cover that piques my interest, and if the cover (or jacket) copy is tempting as well, I'm likely to take it home with me and add it to my collection. The trouble is that reading material needs to be read, or it just becomes clutter, no matter how promising it is. And as much as I love to read, I never seem to find enough time to actually indulge in that particular pursuit.

But now it is summer. Days are longer. I've been relieved of the role of homework assistant/taskmaster for a few months, and it's the time of year where I find it just as easy to pick up a book as to pick up the remote. And while I have many to-be-read titles gracing my bookshelves and other surfaces, it's the magazines that are overrunning the place.

The magazine pile-up increased dramatically when my daughter was in middle school. Each fall, she came home with a glossy temptress in the form of a fund-raising packet featuring photos and thumbnails of hundreds of magazines. I wanted to be a supportive parent, and so I subscribed. A lot.

Consequently, although my daughter's middle school years are behind her, the detritus of the fund-raisers remains tucked away in drawers, bins and baskets, mocking me. I know I should just get rid of some of it, but the curiosity-seeking reader in me believes there's a gem lurking in each issue, and I'm certain that if I only find the time to excavate, I will be greatly rewarded.

But this week, the clutter-buster is lording it over the curiosity seeker. I want to sit down and read a book without being distracted by its glossy cousins, and so I need to reduce the magazine population. I know that as I dig through the piles in search of each day's reading adventure, I'll uncover coal among the diamonds. And, since I'm teaching a writing class in two weeks where back issues of magazines will be a valuable resource, now is the time to uncover -- and dispose of -- both varieties.

Reading one issue a day will still leave me time to write and to sample chapters in the novels and non-fiction titles that hover nearby, clamoring for my attention. It is, as I said earlier, part plan, part trick -- a means to an end that I can fit into a work schedule slimmed down by the changes in routine ushered in by summer vacation. And since I've already let many of these subscriptions lapse, I know there won't be as many issues coming into the house to fill the space I'm clearing. From an organizing perspective, that's a very rewarding payoff -- one that will help keep me on track as I mine the piles for diamonds.

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