To Toss or to Keep: Haiku on Decluttering

February 10, 2017


Since last March I have been sorting and culling through my belongings. This is primarily because of selling a home and moving after decades of accumulating “stuff.” Systematically trying to see what “sparks joy” also sparks ennui, longing, regret, trepidation and sometimes laughter. It’s enough to drive a person crazy. It’s a stark face off with childhood naivety and the realities of years of life’s complexities. It ties you to generations back in time and makes you wonder about the next generations for whom artifacts pale in comparison to digital records and thumb drives.

It is necessary. It is brutal. It is wrenching. How can I part with “things” that are so invested with meaning? How can I unburden myself of the sheer number and responsibility of possessions? Some people have the gift of parting with belongings easily, without shedding a tear, with no regrets. Some of us find comfort (and have the luxury) of surrounding ourselves with reminders of life’s adventures. But when the attic’s full, the attic’s full, and the rafters shouldn’t groan.

Because I am still (and forever?) in the thick of this process of streamlining, I figured a little literary arts therapy was called for. Here are ten haiku inspired by my ongoing work in every closet and crawl space of my home.


To use all this yarn
I’d have to knit forever
Without bathroom breaks.

Ragged Elephant
Absorbed my untold sorrows
With her noble trunk.

To toss or to keep:
Long strands of my heritage –
Grandma’s lock of hair?

I don’t “need” this wrap –
But scents of African fires
Still cling in the weave.

From the dumpster falls
An old delicate message
From the tooth fairy.

My Christmas shopping
For the next millennium
Is already done.

My mother’s wedgewood –
A blue and white treasure trove
Of love and buttons.

Brittle newspapers
Still loudly shriek the horror:
“The president’s dead!”

These embroidered jeans
Still know all the lyrics to
Crosby Stills & Nash.

Boxed up art supplies –
The unused pigments of all
My colorful dreams.

What decluttering challenges do you face? How do you manage it? Feel free to use more than 17 syllables.


  1. Nancy Lovell

    February 10, 2017

    LOVE! LOVE! LOVE! Your crochet! My grandmother had one like that on the end of her guest bedroom when I was little. The tornado get the whole house in 1979. If you are getting rid of it I’d love to buy it from you

    • Linda

      February 10, 2017

      Thanks, Nancy! I have to admit, the crocheted afghan belonged to my father-in-law and was made for him by some loving family matriarch, probably in the 1930s. Not only are we sorting out and culling our OWN belongings, we’re going through all my in-laws’ belongings with the distribution of their estate since my father-in-law’s death in November. So at the same time we’re getting rid of stuff, we’re taking IN more stuff that is drenched with the same joys and griefs. It’s like a tsunami of heart-wrenching/joyful decision making. Sorry, dear one. I’m keepin’ the crochet! 😉

  2. Chris

    February 10, 2017

    I’m sort of obligated to like everything you write, but I am going out of my way here to say that this is wonderful! As well as triggering some (shared memories), it’s a master class in the content-full potential of the haiku form.

  3. M2theH

    February 10, 2017

    We might move to another state, and we might not. Either way we have way too much stuff so I am being brutal about decluttering. Most of it is going to DI, some to neighbors, and a lot to the trash.

    It’s very sad when you find out your entire DVD collection is worth about $20 thanks to netflix.

    I going through all the craft stuff I inherited when my mom died. I feel a little guilty, but it’s way to much stuff, I’m a crocheter not a knitter, and haven’t we all moved past paper scrapbooking?

    • Linda

      February 10, 2017

      I know what you mean. I finally tossed many, many yards of fabric MY mom saved back in the 70’s and 80’s. She lived by the principle of “She who dies with the most fabric wins.” She clearly won. Hopefully some good soul at DI will see that fabric and continue her legacy to make something, um, lovely with it. 😉

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