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  • Writer's pictureMarilyn Saltzman

Seder – Order in the Office


My home office has some treasures:

A musical snow globe, circa 2002 – gifted to me by a young Jeffco student who organized an anti-bullying rally with my help


A color print featuring a George Washington quote, “To learn and to teach…to scatter light,” – presented by B’nai B’rith when I kicked off their 2000 International Program in New Jersey


A laminated Golden Transcript newspaper column – written by me in 1976 to honor my mother and made into a plaque by my father


A stained-glass Jewish star – given to my mother, inherited on her death


These are just a handful of the items I am trying to decide how to handle after decades of their adorning my walls and shelves.


No, we are not moving or downsizing as several of my friends are currently doing. Just painting my office, which a couple of nights a week also serves as my grandson’s bedroom.


To do the job, though, we had to move everything out. And it was a lot. The large furniture included a four-drawer oak file cabinet, a desk with two computers and a printer, and Dian’s new bed. Then there was the bookcase filled with books, looseleaf binders, journals and DVDs. And everything (but the bed) was adorned with memorabilia, awards and tchotchkes. The walls were covered with art and plaques, some of which had been hanging there for well over 20 years.


In the process of clearing out the space, I also unearthed some forgotten treasures – a 2004 Tilden High School alumni magazine with a story I wrote about being at Tilden the day JFK was shot; a 2003 public relations journal with an article I didn’t remember writing; and a white vitamin jar filled with small pottery shards that we were allowed to take as souvenirs from an archeological dig in Israel.


My office is now bright blue at Dian’s request, and I am faced with a dilemma. How much of those old treasures should I keep?


The decluttering expert Marie Kondo says, “Tidying is a powerful tool, but it’s not the destination. The true goal of tidying is to clear away clutter so you can live the life you want…When you reassess your belongings and organize your home, you set the stage for a huge transformation. This is the magic of tidying!”


Magic may be a bit of hyperbole, but I can link decluttering during this season to an ancient miracle story. Passover commemorates the miracle of the Jews’ escaping from slavery under the Egyptian Pharaoh and gaining freedom. One of the traditions around Passover is to clean house. And seder, the word that describes the Passover ritual celebration, means order.


I have decided to defy my natural tendency to rush, which my ancestors had to do when fleeing from Egypt. Instead, I can follow the model of the lengthy, relaxed seder meal and take my time when deciding how to rearrange my space in a way that feels meaningful.


Kondo says, “Keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy. Thank them for their service – then let them go.”  


This quote resonates with me as a student of Mussar (Jewish ethics) because joy and gratitude, along with order, are middot (soul traits). I like the idea of expressing gratitude to some of the no-longer needed items and then giving them up. And I appreciate the freedom to keep those items that touch my heart.


So, yes, I will reinstall the freshly scrubbed switch plate that Heidi made in an Evergreen High School ceramics class because it makes me smile at the thought of my daughter’s artistic talents every time I turn on the light. The snow globe will stay because it reminds me what an enthusiastic young girl named Jamie, now a married woman with an engineering degree, was able to accomplish.


Some of the pictures and tchotchkes will remain in the office while others will be relocated around the house. And some items, with a final word of thanks, will be delivered to the resale shop, the recycle bin or the trash. Freedom to choose creates joy, gratitude and order.

 

 

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