My desk in Charlottesville, VA

The final editing of a book -- sometimes called "killing your baby" -- is indeed a ruthless process. That phrase you love? Cut it. The cozy word which adds really nothing to your sentence? Delete.

My recent radical downsizing before moving from a big house tin Lexington, Virginia to a small one over the Blue Ridge in Charlottesville, was like being my own big red pencil. I slashed through stuff as my Knopf editor whacks away at my prose. "Think harder!" he says.
I thought harder about each and every book in the house, selling about half of them to a used bookstore in Charlottesville (Heartwood Books). Kept: all the old Elizabeth and Her German Garden hardcovers from my Irish grandmother's library. Sold: any title that had no persuasive reason to be there. I looked hard, too, at each piece of furniture and asked myself: do I love this? What is its meaning to me? Things got existential fast.

Initially I thought I'd get rid of my California grandfather's desk in the photo above; it's so big and heavy and brown. But it had been in his office at UCLA, then in his library in Westwood down the street from the campus, and then in my uncle's office at the Institute for Governmental Studies at Berkeley. So much good history.

The cane armchair to the right of the desk? It was on the left as you entered the Los Angeles library. It had to come, too. The desk and the chair are best friends forever and must stay together.

Now: the Eastlake table in Charlottesville

The Eastlake table of the California grandparents above was an easy YES. That was where their copies of The New Yorker were kept. My sister and I sat for hours on the floor, laughing at the cartoons. The table got repurposed from my old living room to the new bedroom. The painting of Goshen Pass in Rockbridge County, VA went from the old bedroom to the new. 

And so it went, through more furniture, kitchen stuff, tools, appliances. OK, I did get a storage space for the overflow that would not fit in the new townhouse -- and am already thinking I don't need most of that stuff, either.  

What happened was that not only did I get rid of my life's excess baggage, what was left looks so fresh in its new home. The desk is perfect and I wonder how I could ever have thought of leaving it behind. 

A friend told me that what she loved about my Lexington house was that everything had a story behind it. Now it's time to put the most important things together to make a new narrative. 

Like a well-edited book in which the spaces between the words that are left shimmer on the page with implied meaning -- less is definitely more.

Before: The Eastlake table in Lexington (me in the mirror)

Instant Gratification: 

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