Guinevere Gets Sober

Recovery news, reviews and stories, by Jennifer Matesa.

Taking Inventory: Reorganization.

Most of us live with too much stuff. Going through stuff, and getting rid of what we don’t need, is about taking inventory. It’s a real, concrete and useful way of experiencing Step 10.

I bloody hate doing it. Why is it so hard to let go of stuff, even stuff I don’t need, stuff that doesn’t do me any good? There’s this voice in the back of my head that says, You might need this someday. I was raised in a family that had a Depression-era attitude. When we moved my grandmother to a nursing home, we found boxes containing bits of string, ends of pencils, tiny erasers, pieces of chalk, stubs of candles. Stuff no one would ever use. Same when my father died.

Meanwhile, there were things in his house that needed fixing that didn’t get attention.

Yesterday I finally finished building the shelves in my study—the ones whose construction was interrupted back in August when I found drugs.

I also bloody hate spending money and time, especially on myself, but it feels right to have put the shelves up. To have spent the money and time to get them put up.

I’m getting rid of stuff, and reorganizing the stuff I want to keep. It takes time. It takes effort. I have to Decide: Do I Want This? … I’ve been avoiding it. It’s good practice, deciding what I want. It’s an amends to myself. It’s a good time of year to do it—I can donate the stuff I don’t need to others who might need it.

It keeps me on my toes. Reorganizing makes things new for me.

Of those of you who have been sober a long time, I want to ask: How do you keep your recovery new? If you have 5, 10, 20, 30 years, how do you refresh the work?


Here’s what’s on some of my new shelves. Tell me what’s on your shelves. Comment here if you want, or connect with me anonymously.

Click photos for full size.




Recent reads. What are you reading?


A few journals and sketchbooks, and my compact OED, which you can now put on your phone. I like having the paper one.


Charlee took this photo of me when I was five months pregnant. My son is behind my navel. Also: his first hiking boots, given to him the day he was born by his godmother.

One of my nieces, next to a Buddha picked up in a London market. Sitting on a Japanese mat my brother brought me from Tokyo.



  1. on my shleves…recovery books, books on my chosen spirituality, novels of every ilk, a stuffed toy alligator, coin boxes, snow globes.
    I did a purge when I set up my apartment for my self upstairs and moved my mum downstairs. (I purged her stuff too…she hasn’t mentioned it.)
    My chosen religion has a *giving stuff away* part to the summer solstice. Nice. I still know where my winter things are then and I’ve unpacked my summer stuff so I can go through it all. I need to keep a constant vigil on my stuff or it gets out of hand. Plus, I tend toward cluttered. Chaos theory and all.

    I haven’t needed to keep it *fresh* lately. The Multiverse has taken care of that for me.

  2. omg – I think I sometimes I’m on the verge of hoarding. My parents, too, kept and saved EVERYTHING! And now, I’m spending my time going through it all (my dad lived until age 94, my mother is still living @ 94) I get angry – that my mother never organized – just shoved things in drawers and went off to play golf or bridge, tra-la-la. (Actually, she also was a very active community leader – so her time wasn’t totally devoted to ‘trivial’ pursuits.) My father saved all of his mother and father’s archives/papers/photos, and copies of every typed letter he ever sent – – – and received! And receipts, and appliance manuals (even ones he no longer owned), etc. Every thing of his was highly organized and filed – but there are ROOMS of these files to go through. And yes, I am going through every folder and piece of paper – and, learning more about my father than I thought was possible. It has been fascinating – and will probably take me years to complete.
    It’s fun seeing what books and memorabilia are on your shelves. I recognize many of the books. That would be a fun post to read – what books do you love, and why?

  3. I’ve recently celebrated my 23’d sober year , and I’m as much as a pack rat as ever, yes my parents were depression era. I was a disorganised slob drunk, and still same sober, you musings remind me that as much as I hate it change is often a good thing. Procrastination is my best friend.

  4. I’ve got too many books, Peggy. At the same time I’m always collecting more. Have started using the library more, and willingly pay fines as a way of supporting it. The truth is, however, that even though I’ve put up these shelves, I need even more shelves in this study. The books are just everywhere. And I like having them there. I also own eBooks, but they’re not quite the same (although you can do things with eBooks that you can’t do with paper books, such as search the text digitally and search your own notes)…

    I am the archivist for the family and have all my parents’ papers and photos. They’re sitting upstairs and bear down on my psyche with their weight. Emotional weight, not just their physical presence, though the physical part is significant. It’s time to start the next book. /G

  5. Great post, Guinevere. I’m going through something similar; Phase 1, which is nearly complete, is unpacking boxes from all my other moves — this is the first time I’ve actually been unpacked, with every book on a bookshelf and all my CDs in the same place, since 1999. Phase 2 will be sorting stuff in the remaining boxes that have old papers, mementos, etc. My goal is to get rid of anything that wouldn’t interest my daughter.

    How do I keep it fresh? Different ways. A change in meetings sometimes, or recommitting to 90 in 90, or getting involved in service work. Getting a new sponsor has worked in the past, as well. I guess it depends on why it’s not fresh anymore.

    On my bookshelves: lots of books. a jewelry box. A paper schulpture done by my daughter. And a Librarian Action Figure.

  6. Congratulations on 23 years sober!

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