Apr 16, 2009


When you move from one home to another, do you ever seize the opportunity to get rid of all the stuff you no longer need, items that clutter your closets and drawers and gather dust in the basement or garage? Are you overcome with the urge to lighten your load and possibly clear a bit of space in your brain as well?

Yeah, me either.

Each time I move, I vow to not bring with me anything I haven't used in the last year, anything I can't identify, or anything broken that I will never get fixed. Sometimes my intentions are lofty enough that I imagine a pile for garbage, a pile for recyclables, a pile to bring to Goodwill and a pile of items I might be able to sell. Sounds easy enough, but I'm tormented by the notion that one day I will realize I'm missing a part to something and remember, "AH HA! I KNEW I SHOULD HAVE KEPT THAT." So each time I unpack, I find myself wondering what possessed me to keep the extra paper tray to a printer I no longer own. Or an ancient cordless phone that doesn't work. (I blame my father for this; he's never gotten rid of a cordless phone. I swear they have dozens of them.) Or a pair of shoes that hasn't fit since my feet grew wider during my pregnancy.

Ah, shoes. I have seventeen pairs of black shoes, including boots. Ten pairs of black pants, if you count leather and denim. Eight black sweaters. Seventeen black T-shirts/tops. And black coats? I don't know, because some are still at the other house. Then there's all the charcoal grey and light grey and khaki... I do have some lovely clothes, many that were ridiculously expensive. But on any given day, I will be in uniform: jeans and a T-shirt, a sweater if it's cold, and a pair of comfy shoes — rarely black. I do laundry infrequently, because I tend to wear the same few things until I run out of clean underwear. I used to dress for parties, wanting to look fashionable. (Unfortunately, photos where I may have looked fabulous are marred somewhat by the presence of a cigarette in my drunken fingers. The good old days.) Now I'm happy to reconnect with friends at a party, and I know they don't give a shit what I'm wearing.

I bring this up because of our recent move from a 1700-square-foot house (small) to a 900-square-foot-house (micro). The clothes are just the tip of the iceberg. I also have a box of barware (pilsners, water goblets, champagne flutes, wine glasses, etc.) that I never bothered to unpack after the last two moves, reminders of times when I loved to entertain. Books (non-fiction) that never made it out of their boxes at the last house, because I never got around to building bookshelves. And projects, endless projects, involving old and new family photos and scrapbooks and Gracie's artwork. The most telling uncompleted project? Wedding photos. I've printed and framed ONE PHOTO from my wedding day, and never managed to create an album or send photos to family and friends.

I love the art that I've collected because most of the artists are friends or family, so paintings and photos and sculptures are usually the first to make an appearance in a new home. Grace's room has been meticulously replicated for the fourth time, because I feel so guilty about uprooting her repeatedly. And I never feel settled until the bathrooms are in order, which was brilliant this time because we have only ONE BATHROOM. The rest? It's in the garage, and I don't miss it. I couldn't even tell you what's out there, except the saddle I used as a child and some of Grace's outdoor toys. And my beloved dining room table and chairs, which will be fostered by a good friend until we have room for them again.

Over time, I've developed strict criteria for making new purchases. It's a complicated equation involving affordability, necessity, and disposability. In other words: Do we have the money? Do we really need this? When I realize we don't need it, how will I get rid of it? I consider this part of my transition from yuppie to financially challenged; consumer to human being. I will always have a weakness for shoes and handbags (thanks, Ella), and clothes for Grace. But these are manageable vices and, most important, don't take up much room.

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