Years ago, when I lived in Oakland, my then-husband and I took the car to a mechanic.
I never drove beyond our neighborhood in Oakland (as I explained ad nauseam, my brain was not wired for city driving), and so never really knew where we were, or how we got there, or how to get home. (This is, in fact, a metaphor for my entire time in Oakland.) But even I could tell this area -- wherever it was -- was a little sketch.
On the pavement outside the mechanic's garage was a hand-lettered sign. It read: "KEEP THE JUNKS OUTSIDE."
As a found treasure of the city, this sign was gold. We joked that we needed it in our apartment. We seriously considered stealing it. Somehow the plural form of "junk" -- so many junks! a garbage dump of junks! -- transformed its banal message into a searing life-truth. Keep. The junks. Outside.
Today this warning rings more true than ever, as life is always filling up with junks. Our little house is full of junks. The Internet: some cool stuff. Also, a cornucopia of junks. Even my own brain, in the peaceful silence of early morning (okay, 7 a.m.), is clogged with junks. How might one "keep" some of them "outside"?
This weekend, I hit upon one idea. I'm calling it the Box of No.
Here's how it works:
Stumbling upon some random item (a piece of clothing, a plastic toy, a page of kindergarten art, a vegetable purchased two weeks ago), I am not going think how much I paid for it, or how it may still fit if I lose five pounds, or how one day -- when the kids are gone and don't call -- I might desperately want it as a memento. That is all crazy talk! Instead, that thing will be placed in the Box of No. (As in: "Just . . . no.")
I will not worry about taking it to Goodwill or consignment (though this may happen, some distant day). I will not consider it my responsibility to deliver it into the hands of some as-yet-unknown person who will appreciate it. I will not feel bad that I rejected its nourishing goodness in favor of cheese and crackers, a Luna bar, or something else I didn't have to chop and cook with olive oil, garlic, and a dash of pepper. I will simply thank it for its service, or willingness to be of service -- solemnly, as if blessing a felled elk -- and then deposit it in the Box of No.
It may not actually be a box. (Do I even have that big a box?) It may be a couple of garbage bags. I am excited about this idea, as wading through all this crap -- sorry, these junks -- is impeding my ability to Do Interesting Things.
Yesterday, I told my son that all the cookie trays full of Legos on his bedroom dresser would have go. For one thing, we're not making any cookies. Second, they are incompatible with the Box of No aesthetic or philosophy.
"Are they going in the garage?" he asked. "Yeah." ". . . Okay."
Apparently, they were already filed in the -- quite spacious, in an 8-year-old boy -- Box of Who Cares.