Things on My Kitchen Table

In my email in-box, these lines from Toni Morrison’s Paris Review interview appear:

I have an ideal writing routine that I’ve never experienced, which is to have, say, nine uninterrupted days when I wouldn’t have to leave the house or take phone calls. And to have the space—a space where I have huge tables. I end up with this much space [she indicates a small square spot on her desk] everywhere I am, and I can’t beat my way out of it. I am reminded of that tiny desk that Emily Dickinson wrote on and I chuckle when I think, Sweet thing, there she was. But that is all any of us have: just this small space and no matter what the filing system or how often you clear it out—life, documents, letters, requests, invitations, invoices just keep going back in.

For a single mother who often works at home, clutter is a major issue — and I don’t mean the Marie Kondo kind of clutter with too many piles of perfectly fine clothes or an overstocked kitchen.

I simply mean the clutter of living. On our kitchen table when I came home from work yesterday were bowls of just picked blueberries and green beans, a full coffee thermos I had forgotten, opened mail including a jury summons and a pay stub, a tube of hand lotion, an unopened packet of spinach seeds I intended to plant that evening, a $5 bill, a list I wrote for the 14-year-old (mostly checked off), what appeared to me as a random assortment of dates on a scrap piece of paper, a wildflower identification book, a half-eaten cucumber surrounded by a sprinkling of salt. And a fingernail clippers.

My daughters were cooking dinner, and the dining room table was set and (mostly) cleared of clutter. Life without clutter would be sterility, boredom, an emptied-out house. Or so I tell myself.


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