The More Things Change, the More Things Stay the Same…

Portrait of Elayne P. Bernstein by Sol Schwartz

Elayne Polly Bernstein, author of "Breakfast at Bernstein's." (Portrait by Sol Schwartz).

Nothing’s more satisfying than working with a client who is truly ready to make a change.
Two Novembers ago, I got a call from of those “ready to make a change” clients.
From the moment she introduced herself, I knew we’d work well together. Her objective was clear and her tone determined: “My name is Elayne Bernstein. I’m 85, and I have recently decided to simplify my life.”
Now, nearly two years later, I can report that Elayne’s simplification process is well underway. At least, her paper files are simplified. (Her schedule? Well, we haven’t tackled simplifying that yet. Stay tuned.)
While technically Elayne is “retired” from her teaching career at Queens College, her Sarasota days are filled with charitable projects, educational programs, tap dancing (yes, tap dancing), and a constant flow of guests. Then she’s off to New York city in May, and next to the Berkshires for the summer performing arts season…where she’s even busier as a passionate supporter of Shakespeare & Co. in Lenox, Massachusetts.
Our focus in Sarasota has been overhauling Elayne’s home office file system. Our organizing sessions are always productive – and also funny, enlightening and educational. We’re discovering hidden gems as we go through the older reference files that have accumulated through Elayne’s long and busy life. Family recipes, historic news clippings, book reviews, letters, theatre programs from great moments at Shakespeare & Company—it’s a pleasure to uncover these nuggets and hear their stories as we go along.
My favorite “find” from Elayne’s file project is “Breakfast at Bernstein’s,”© a short story she wrote as an undergraduate student at Queens College. I’m posting it today to remind us that “organized” is in the eyes of the beholder. It’s is about saving things, getting rid of things, and the art of reconciliation in a world where one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.
Though written nearly twenty-five years ago, Elayne’s theme rings just as true today as it did in 1987.
If you’ve ever shared a space, take five minutes to read this now— you’ll see yourself somewhere in “Breakfast at Bernstein’s.”
(Special thanks to Elayne Polly Bernstein for permission to re-print “Breakfast at Bernstein’s – With the Odd Couple”. © Elayne Polly Bernstein. Thanks to Elayne’s husband, artist Sol Schwartz, for permission to publish his portrait of Elayne.)
Published with permission from the author. Copyright 1987 Elayne P. Bernstein. All rights reserved.

Comments (3)

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  1. Kate,

    Thanks so much for sharing Elayne’s story. I think we can all see a little of ourselves in both Elayne and Abbey.

    Kudos to you for working with Elayne in a way that honors her “things” as she simplifies her life.

  2. Alex Stafford says:


  3. Lesley says:

    Loved reading your article as well as Elayne’s timeless piece. Beautiful!

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