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Essays by Karen Anderson: Letting Go, Gradually

Illustration by Kacie Brown

For a few years now, I’ve been trying to get rid of things—and I’ve learned that this is a gradual process. Each time I review my stuff, I can let go of more.

In the back of my kitchen cupboards, for example, is a serving dish without a cover and two aluminum pans that I haven’t used since the last time I made this survey. Which suggests that I don’t need them very often or at all. Into the Goodwill box they go.

Clothing is harder because, I tell myself, “You never know.” But this time I do know that I’ll never wear that long corduroy skirt again. I could pretend it’s out of style but the fact is that the waist is too tight. Ouch, I said it. Into the box it goes.

Books are the hardest thing. Each one has a piece of my history, whether I’ll ever reread it or not. Just seeing them on the shelf is a source of security, somehow. But I remind myself that they will find new readers at the library sale—and I manage to select five.

It’s a gradual process but I noticed last fall that my neighbor’s ancient oak doesn’t let go of its leaves all at once—but releases them in stages. Now these, then these. Then one day, the tree itself.

Karen Anderson contributes "Essays by Karen Anderson" to Interlochen Public Radio.