Editor's Letter: Getting Rid of What Doesn't Matter

Lesley Jane Seymour on getting rid of life's unneeded noise and clutter

by Lesley Jane Seymour
Photograph: Melanie Acevedo

One of the blessings of middle age is that you finally have enough self-knowledge to determine what no longer matters to you. At last you can look hard at that fabulous designer dress you used to wear in your forties, the one that still hangs in the back of your closet hoping for a second act. Though the dress is still heartbreakingly gorgeous and has oodles of memories wafting from it like a favorite old perfume (you wore it to that wonderful going-away party thrown for a boss you loved), you know deep in your heart that was another place, another time, another you. Oh, and another body. Yes, you can still squeeze the dress over your head, but the seams strain and the buttons pull. It hurts to say good-bye to the dress (and the former life it represents), but you drop it off at the consignment shop. Now your closet is one item less cluttered, one bit easier to navigate. And your mind is that much more focused on the present—and the future.

This is the same unsentimental eye that lets you look at the wall of cookbooks you’ve been collecting in the living room and know that it’s time to dispense with all those beginner tomes you’ll never use again. Even your kids won’t want—sigh—the fabulous Lee Bailey’s Country Weekends. To our eye today, the ’80s photos make the food look gray and inedible; the tabletop aesthetic is also out of date. To the curb with it.

Knowing what doesn’t matter has meant changing my morning routine as well. An admitted news junkie, I would roll out of bed and turn on the TV, listening to all the chattering heads while I drank my coffee. This was especially true after 9/11—I simply couldn’t turn off the news because, as Carrie Mathison says on Homeland, “I might miss something.” But now it’s 2014, and middle age has delivered this insight: I’m not a CIA agent trying to catch terrorists! The morning-news jabber just cranks my adrenaline and makes me anxious for hours. So I do a quick scan of online news—and relish the silence in which I now really welcome my day.

What are you doing to get rid of extraneous noise and clutter in your life? Share in the comments below.

Next: Editor's Letter: Reinventing Myself by the Decade

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First published in the March 2014 issue

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