Danshari: the art of decluttering and discarding.

I’ll bet you didn’t know that even taking out the trash is an art. Look out. I’m on my way to a bright and shining new world.

Inspired by the clean sweep of the House in D.C. and our own clutter in Augusta, I have started this new year by filling trash boxes with magazine and book collections, bookmarks, political lawn posters and buttons, and excess underwear.

This all started with the books of Japanese masters of the art of danshari that include Marie Kondo’s “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying up” and Fumio Sasaki’s “Goodbye, Things,” Christmas gifts from concerned daughters who saw that I was drowning in clutter, most of which they left with us when they went to college.

First, I started by removing all memorabilia from the fridge doors: So long “Hillary for President” magnet, various info cards and appointment notices, and picture Christmas cards from families that have been on there so long the tiny children are in college. Clutter.

I actually made a move earlier this year by giving four hundred books to a charity group and dozens of coats and jackets to the homeless shelter, and throwing out a storage box collection of 35 years of hard copies of my columns.


Could this be the rebirth of life in my final years? Can an old dog really learn new tricks? I’m not sure. I think I just needed something to occupy me until the impeachment begins.

I start each day by first making my bed and follow up with a list of objectives to accomplish.

This morning, I took a deep breath, hitched up my big boy pants, and set out on the road to total danshari.

Then I hit a roadblock — not a glance or brush-up, a totally unexpected head-on roadblock.

I opened a drawer in this built-in breakfront in the den that I hadn’t opened since Jimmy Carter was president.

There before me lay a cache of familiar objects I had completely forgotten about, a collection of accoutrements of the passing of some dearly departed, stuff my totally irreverent brother Jug always called “jewelry for the dead.”


This is a Catholic thing. If you’re a Jew or Muslim, you may be confused, so there may be nothing here for you to read.

As a Catholic, preferably an octogenarian pre-Vatican II Catholic, you may well have accumulated many of these sad pieces. They’re in that drawer in the old desk in the basement or in a box on the top shelf of the closet. You know the one.

Like mine, it probably resembles a display in the gift shop at the Vatican.

Between the two of us, She and I have, over the years, collected eight coffin crucifixes, a box full of the pieces of five broken rosaries and a deck of prayer cards.

These are the sacred items that are, in some families, placed on the coffins of the departed at a wake. They are then given to the family of the departed. No one knows who started this tradition, but I suspect it was probably an Irish thing.

How I came to have these items is a mystery. I have in the past offered them to my brothers and sisters while they were still with us. Among the answers were, “You’re kidding,” “No thanks,” “I’m Jewish now,” and “Who is this again?”


So now I find myself impaled on the horns of a dilemma. I’m not surprised that the situation is not covered in either Kondo’s book or Sasaki’s.

Do I finally dispose of these things, as in throw them out? Like in the trash? At the curb? In the rain? Dirty snow? Headed for a landfill?

A garage sale is out of the question. What if a couple of nuns come up the driveway?

“It’s a dollar, Sister — no, not 50 cents; a dollar.”

There’s more. In the attic I found a statue of the Blessed Mother with a broken nose and another with a missing arm. Where did I get this stuff?

Oh oh! Breaking News at noon. I’ll think about it tomorrow. But what now? I make the sign of the cross and close the drawer.

J.P Devine is a Waterville writer.

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