When my grandmother died, it was my job to clean out her house.
In her attic, I found thousands of rubber bands tied together and labeled. Every bulletin from the Immanuel Lutheran Church that was written in her lifetime was tied in a neat package with string around it. There were also dozens of string balls, made from excess string.
Likewise, there were homemade notepads, consisting of stacks of scrap paper cut out of junk mail. And pencil stubs. Christmas wrap for the ages. She had not wasted a thing.
Some Tuesdays when I take my two garbage cans and my recycling box out to the curb, I think of her and what she would think of me.
While I give the most minimal of my resources to housecleaning, there is nothing I love more than a clean house. Fresh flowers on the coffee table are something I cherish—and when they overstay and become brown or limp, I find myself deeply embarrassed. What if my grandmother saw them?
Most houses, most days, are a mess. Most days, my life resembles a tangle. Commitment A is sitting on top of commitment B, and I can't seem to get untied from commitment C. "Caught" is my middle name, "knotted" the description of experience I use most often. That's why I love "The Ashley Book of Knots." It gives some of the finer knots a name, and actually teaches how to tie them—and untie them.
Grandma's ball of string did the same things. It put the mess together. It was an attempt at order. Not a success, but an attempt. I clean house for the same reason she balled string: to attempt order.
From "Why Write Letters: 10 Ways to Simplify and Enjoy Your Life," published by the UCC's Pilgrim Press.
The Rev. Donna E. Schaper is senior pastor of Coral Gables Congregational UCC in Florida.