by Sally Ann McLean

But there is a big difference between having choices and making a choice– declaring what is essential — creates a framework for a life that eliminates many choices but gives meaning to what remains. (Sue Bender, Plain and Simple)


declutter organize

It is a curious thing, isn’t it, what we choose to keep and what we choose to throw away?

I have kept a particular letter from Dad for 27 years, safe in a drawer in a roll-top desk in the bedroom.  I am certain I have cleaned out that drawer several times over those years and evidently I have chosen always to keep that particular letter. This letter, a short note really, is less than a hundred words long but represents a two-fold challenge Dad took on.

I had sent him a magazine clipping offering the reader an exercise in cryptography which associated apparently random letters with the necessary code-breaking letters, giving this as the solution’s only clue:  On average, the most commonly-used letter in English is E, followed by T, O, A, N, I, R, S, H, D, L, U, C, M, P, F, Y,W, G, B, V, K, J, X, Z, and finally, Q. Try to identify the most common letters first, then fill in the rest by context.

The coded, 70-word message turned out to be about a lipogram by Ernest Vincent Wright who had written a full-length novel titled Gadsby without using the letter E. . . . To appreciate Wright’s achievement, try writing a note to a friend without using the letter E.  {A lipogram, in case you haven’t figured it out, is a literary work that omits a particular letter or word.}

Mr. Wright has been out done by Geroges Perec’s La Disparition, translated from the French to The Void by Gilbert Adair. Both French and English versions are e-less.  If you lose the ‘e’ in French, you lose two-thirds of the articles, many useful verbs and half of the nouns. In English, you’d be hard pressed to conjugate verbs, use comparative or superlative adjectives or to pluralize nouns ending in ‘y’.

All this is to prod you to unclutter the storage places in your lives, to declare what is essential, to keep that letter from your dad and to hang on to the letter ‘e’ – you never know when you’ll wish you had it.


Happy New Year!