by Nancy Werking Poling
author of OUT OF THE PUMPKIN SHELL
I’ve gotten rid of STUFF. Multiple times.
In 2007 my husband, Jim, and I sold our condo in the Chicago area, had two yard sales, listed most of our furniture on Craigslist, and made multiple trips to the Goodwill bins. We stored the possessions that remained, most of them items we had sentimental attachment to, in a 10 by 10 climate-controlled unit, where they stayed for a year and a half. Many friends said they envied us, not because we were going to travel for a year, but because we were getting rid of STUFF.
It was a great year and a half. Two weeks in Poland, four months in Southern California, four months in Seoul, South Korea, with the rest divided between Atlanta, the Chicago area, and visits with family. During that time we had no responsibilities for maintaining our apartments and wasted little time shopping. Anything we were tempted to buy would have to fit inside our VW Jetta when we left (or in the case of Korea, our suitcase). In California I bought a swatch of fabric to add color to the table setting; in Korea I regularly bought flowers to brighten our efficiency apartment. How freeing it was not to be accumulating STUFF.
A month ago, after living in a small ranch-style house for a year and a half, we moved four blocks to our new home. Jim had found the blueprints on line; we had come across a remarkable young environmentalist builder (who’s also a great guy); we had made the thousands of decisions that accompany building a house (many of them hammered out through arguing). Though a fairly modest home, with three bedrooms and a bonus room upstairs, it is spacious compared to where we’ve spent the past three years.
Yet we find we have too much STUFF. We need more shelves for books and mementoes we’ve gathered in our travels. Though we’re retired and have few occasions for wearing anything other than jeans or grubby shorts, we need more closet space. Where should I put my collection of fans from around the world? Where should we store old files we can’t let go of? Our photo albums?
And the wedding gifts. We still have eight place settings of not-so-fine China, white with rings of blue and platinum, which have to be washed by hand, and silver-plated flatware, which requires polishing, and a crystal bowl with a silver ring. I’ve not used any of these in the past fifteen years and doubt that I ever will. I’m sure our children don’t want them. Why keep them? Because they were wedding gifts.
With all this extra STUFF, what did I do yesterday? I went shopping for STUFF that organizes STUFF.
There’s a message here, which I’m sure the reader can figure out.
Note to my regular readers: I’m back. Building a house, moving, and getting a new book to the publisher have consumed all of my time in recent months.