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The Joy of Jettisoning

By Naomi Serviss

I wanted to ditch my son’s Bar Mitzvah sign-in board.

It had been meticulously wrapped in decades-old newspaper and unceremoniously wedged between our ancient steel file cabinet and the bedroom wall.

Discovered while rummaging through our cozy one-bedroom Manhattan apartment.

My self-assigned mission was to toss clothing, bric-a-brac and whatnot.

We had lots of whatnot.

If something didn’t pass the joy test, it was curtains.

I blame Marie Kondo. According to Kondo, any piece of clothing or object that fails to spark joy should be binned.

My over-stuffed bureau drawers and crammed closet were evidence an intervention was overdue.

I joylessly dumped a drawerful of vintage T-shirts and whimsical pajamas on the bed.

No way was I binning my Leave It to Beaver, Mighty Mouse or Felix the Cat tees!

The vintage typewriter shirt I could live without. It barely sparked recognition, forget joy.

My rainbow striped, polka dotted, worn-out elastic-waisted clown pants are still a joyful relic. Sanctuary granted.

Not so lucky were the white capris patterned with tiny black hearts.

They zipped all the way up in pre-pandemic times. I have a picture that proves it.

What was compelling me to keep them?

I told my shrink my pants felt too snug.

Her sage advice: “Buy bigger pants.”

Two hours of passing judgment later, my drawers were neatly organized.

My endorphins had kicked in. It was a welcome respite from feeling isolated and depressed-lite. Even Call My Agent! had failed to amuse.

I laser-focused on my kitchen-table files.

Filled with writing workshop submissions.

I cringed reading hard copies of my bad poetry.

Why was I holding on to duplicate travel and spa magazines I contributed to?

It was a no-brainer to toss them.

Like weeding our Greenlawn garden.

I next turned to my overflowing pile of books.

My bedside table was awash in favorite memoirs, from Tovah Feldshuh’s Lilyville to Anne Lamott’s new Dusk Night Dawn.


Allie Brosh’s oversized graphic novel, Solutions and Other Problems, commandeered prime real estate.

The hardwood floor was equally swamped by a motley assortment of nonfiction and plays.

Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women, Michael Pollan’s How to Change Your Mind, and slim historical pamphlets from Sundance Resort, Sundance Written Word were piled under a lamp.

Something had to give.

Three Tall Women is a solid joy-resonator.

I witnessed Marian Seldes mesmerize Broadway audiences three times. Then interviewed the theater legend in her dressing room.

The first time we met she held my face in her hands.

She was a great hugger.

Hugs from Marian Seldes is a blessed memory.

The Sundance stories are souvenirs from a press trip to Robert Redford’s Sundance Resort.


A washed-out brown college-dorm-y bookcase was Mudville territory.

Soon to be replaced by a knotty-pine, hand-crafted purple and orange bookcase from Wisconsin.

Many books and the bookcase were duly disposed of. I joyously gave them the shaft.

Kondo’s philosophy had rooted.

I poked behind the file cabinet and discovered Ben’s Bar Mitzvah memento.

His three-foot tall green testament to Hebrew school torture.

A coming-of-age relic autographed by friends’ black Sharpie wisecracks and performance critiques.

It had been toted across country, bunking with us since Ben had become a man at 13, in Jewish tradition.

Ben obviously had no attachment to it. Why should we keep it? Maybe it was time to recycle the posterboard.

If Ben didn’t pine for it, why not? I took a few photos and texted them for his final decision.

His response:

“Would you take pictures of the back?

I know kids wrote things there, too.”

It still gave him joy.

When he visits, he’ll find it prominently displayed.


Naomi Serviss is a New York-based award-winning journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Highroads (AAA magazine), in-flight publications, spa and travel magazines and websites, including



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