It’s slow going, but I’m on a mission to transform the barn from a repository of all the stuff I’ve ever owned to just stuff I love.
I’m never going to be a minimalist – cultural artifacts interest me far too much and I’m far too sentimental. I shocked myself when I began giving away and tossing stuff I’ve schlepped from house to house, city to city, and state to state during the nomadic period of my misspent youth. Out went the ugly side table I’ve hung onto from the early it-doesn’t-matter-how-ugly-it-is-if-it’s-cheap-enough days of home decorating. I’ve moved that thing 11 times because I might need it someday. Out went the jello molds. I don’t even like jello. Out went the bedspread that made me frown every time I crawled into bed. Out went the George Foreman grill that my son, now known as Chef Boy ‘R Mine, would be embarrassed about. He gave it to me for Christmas one year. I didn’t use it but kept it for sentimental reasons. Now that he’s into haute cuisine, I was able to keep the memory and KO George without hurt feelings. I did keep, and still treasure, the old Campbell’s soup can transformed into a pencil holder through the application of bits of tissue paper, glitter, and glue by Chef Boy ‘R Mine when he was a first-grader.
The hurt feeling thing’s a complicated issue. We’ve all got that stuff hanging around that we don’t like, don’t want, don’t use, but can’t get rid of because Great Aunt Gertrude will ask, on her next visit, “Where’s the plastic canvas needlepoint tissue holder I gave you last year?” I don’t have an answer to that except to say that I’m getting old enough now that the Great Aunt Gertrudes of my life are so old that visits involve my going to a personal care facility or seances. As for friends and their gifts, we’ve all seemed to reach this developmental stage at roughly the same time. And I do think it’s a developmental stage – at least for women. It seems to begin when the kids (or husbands) start leaving home. After a suitable mourning (or celebratory) period, we put our hands on our hips, survey the kingdom, and announce to ourselves “Well, that can go.” Sometimes it begins when we trip over the stupid cement goose that’s still decorated for Easter on the Fourth of July for the 85th time that day. (Not that I’ve ever owned a cement goose, but I know people.) I have a friend who every time someone brings something into her house, she makes them take something out. (I tried to take the candelabra that hangs over her dining room table, but evidently, not everything in her house is up for grabs.)
Once I got going on giving and pitching, I decided to continue until every single thing in my 2400 sq. ft. of home was here because I love it or use it. I was making great progress until I hit the Closets-I-Am-Afraid-Of.
When the barn was being remodeled, we built a closet 16 x 8 to compensate for not having an attic, basement or barn. We knew it was woefully inadequate from the start, but it was better than nothing. When that filled up, the coat/furnace closet was doubled in size. By the time that filled up, I had hit the developmental stage. I tackled the smaller coat closet early on, but a lot of the crap went into the other closet. I am now terrified to even open the door.
I can’t progress much further until I conquer this fear. There’s stuff in this house scattered about that I need or use, but am tired of tripping over that could go into that closet if the circa 1970 fan, algebra notebooks, broken lamps, cross stitch patterns, deflated basketball, threadbare sheets, egregious holiday ornaments, transistor radio, and other sheer junk was removed – not to mention the stuff that Has-Promise-And-I-Can-Do-Something-To-Which-Will-Involve-Great-Quantities-Of-Time-And-Effort-And-Money-That-I’m-Never-Going-To-Actually-Do. And that’s just the crap i can see. I haven’t seen the back of the closet since 1992.
If I ever do conquer that closet, I can start on the books – hundreds and hundreds of books. I still have not one, but two copies of my high school trig textbook as well as tomes that I wouldn’t read a second time even on a dare.