Missed concert prompts war on clutter

By all reports, Sunday’s Albany Symphony matinee concert in Saratoga was marvelous. I’m sure I would have loved it, but I lost the tickets! Perhaps that’s what prompted me to attack the moldering cardboard cartons of memorabilia in the outdoor storage shed – my life’s in desperate need of order and clarity.

My husband purchased the tickets at a recent church auction. They’d been donated by a couple with a subscription series who couldn’t use them, as they were vacationing out of town, so we had no proof of purchase. I clearly remembered stashing the little white envelope in my handbag when I got them – or at least I thought I did. But just to make sure, I decided to double check on Saturday night. To my horror, they weren’t there.

The handbag is a good one, a red leather Tignanello with lots of zippered compartments and deep pouches, and I rummaged through all of them, then turned the purse inside out and shook out the contents on the sofa. Among all the used tissues and cough drop wrappers I found lots of loose change, an expired driver’s license, and business cards I’d collected who knows when, where or why, but no tickets. Nor were they in the side table drawer where I usually stash tickets and other time-sensitive papers.

Panicking as Saint Patrick’s Day segued into Sunday, I searched all the relevant nooks and crannies I could think of. Still no tickets. I gave up around one-thirty, popped a Lunesta – my first in over a month – and fell into bed. Next morning, my husband woke me by saying “Any more ideas about where those tickets might be?” We resumed the search, but I had to bail in time to make choir practice before the service, and they never turned up.

My spouse was good about it – he even sprang for brunch at the New World Bistro, so now we were out $50 on top of the original $40. He didn’t lecture me or even raise his voice, and when I asked why not, he said “I figure you’ve been torturing yourself more than enough.”

Back home as concert time rolled around, l was overwhelmed by an atypical urge to attack my clutter. For my search and destroy mission, I decided to tackle the outside storage shed that contains cartons of miscellaneous books and papers I’ve been meaning to sort  for decades (well, two decades, anyway.) Months ago, a branch from my neighbor’s dead maple had smashed onto the flimsy metal roof during a storm, and we hadn’t gotten around to “fixing a hole where the rain comes in,” as Paul McCartney would say. Expecting water damage, I’d been afraid to look, and my fears were justified. Half a dozen boxes stacked beneath the leak had been soaked, and the contents spilled out haphazardly.

I donned rubber gloves, pulled up our giant trash receptacle and began to jettison soggy books and papers. Trekking back in time, I trashed dozens of how-to-run-your-own-business books from my decade as founder of ElderSource, Inc., my long defunct home care agency, notebooks and photos from my years as an art therapist, extra catalogs and show announcements from my years as an artist in SoHo. There were dozens of wedding announcements from 1975, of which I salvaged a handful, and a copy of Daily Girl, a soft-core magazine from 1973 with a feature article and full-page color photo of the interior of a geodesic dome I’d constructed for a feminist art show called Erotic Garden. (Once the show was over, the dome took up residence in my loft, where it served as an extra bedroom. My daughter was conceive  there, but that’s another story.)

I even found the notebook from my freshman seminar at Radcliffe, which featured weekly dinners at a Harvard house featuring speakers like Erich Fromm, Marshall McLuhan and B.F. Skinner. But what I most want to find is the letter enclosing a check for the prize money I won for showing my paintings at the Woodstock Festival in 1969. That would give my paintings a provenance and increase their value if I want to sell them.

Today’s another sunny, abnormally warm day, so I’m going out to the shed to resume my search and jettison more junk. I’ve only got a couple of hours; then I’ve got to get spruced up to go to the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall to hear Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. It should be a great concert, and fortunately, since I’m ushering, I don’t need a ticket. Now, if I can just find my name tag!

There’s lots more to say about disorganization and culling clutter. Do you have any stories or advice to share? I’d love to hear your comments.


4 thoughts on “Missed concert prompts war on clutter

  1. Hi Julie,

    Nicely written article! I have developed a system for keeping track of concert/event tickets, info pages and brochures about same that works excently. I use a small Day Timer two pages per week format to keep track of our daily engagements. Already our commitments extend at least into October 2012. I buy a separate engagement calendar with a picture on the left side and spaces for writing for each of the seven days of that week on the right side. Such engagement calendars are made by Audobon, Smithsonian, Sierra Club and the like and have gorgeous photos of various aspects of nature.. They usually come in a card board box so can be mailed easily. I staple tickets, event info, directions or clippings about the event to the left side over the picture for the week in which the event occurs. Generally I don’t write on this calendar but one could. I keep the little Day Timer calendar open to the current week on my desk. The “big” calendar goes in a holder thingy that also sits off to the side on my desk. This system works most effectively.

    Sorry you couldn’t find those tickets from your church auction and congratulations of starting to sort and deal with old memorabilia and stuff you’ve saved over the years. If you don’t clean out and get rid of a lot of that stuff, your daughter will be stuck with the job when you and Robb die. Hang in there and keep sorting, enjoy the memories and do get rid of a lot of long-saved stuff.

  2. Hi, Betsy. Yes, our daughter has reminded us on more than one occasion that she doesn’t want to be stuck with our junk!

    The idea of stapling tickets to your calendar is great! But what if you lose the calendar? I’ve got a two-page per week one similar to a Day Planner that I carry in my purse.

    I’ve read artaicles on organizing that warn against keeping more than one calendar. But if it works well for you, congratulations!

  3. Hi Julie-

    Great article! I travel and train people in understanding their own “Finding/Keeping” issues, as well as how to work with others who have this challenge. I am recovering from this issue myself, and now use my experiences to support my peers and collaborate with researchers and clinicians to develop new self-help workshops. Two of my groups are The Buried in Treasures Workshop, and WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) For Reducing Clutter.

    When I train on the subject, I use big colorful Power Point presentations, and when I was searching for an image of “a woman in clutter,” I found your art above. It is just amazing, and I was wondering if I could use it? You would receive full credit, and in exchange, I’d be happy to support you in your decluttering endeavors! You can learn more about my work, and if I’m the sort of person that you’d want to share with, on my website below.

    One way that I’ve started to “store” things like tickets/flyers/artwork is to photograph or scan them into my computer. I back the files up on an external hard drive. If it’s something really special, I’ll email the image to myself, with the description in the subject line. That doesn’t work for events I haven’t gone to yet, but it sure helps me to let old tickets go! I’m sort of an archivist. Going digital has been great.

    (Hope you find the Woodstock letter!)

    Cheers to a life less cluttered!

    Thanks so much,


    • Hi Lee. Thanks for the thoughtful response. I found the image of the woman in clutter on Google, and I have no idea where it came from, so I don’t have the authority to approve your using it. But if you’d like to take a chance and use it, feel free. It would be great if you link to this blog too.

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