When you replace people with possessions…

I have spent the weekend denuding a room. I emptied the room of all its contents minus the large furniture and the closeted items, and then painted the trim and walls a beautiful satin, silky white. When I finished the painting, I admired my handiwork and felt sick at the thought of moving a lot of unused, unneeded but so-hard-to-give-away-or-throw-away gems into this pristine, blank slate of a room.

Less is more, they say. Less clutter, more room, I say. Less to dust, more to enjoy. Less sneezing, more unused tissues. I see savings in there somewhere. What’s not to love?

So today I intend to go through the closet and the bureau and the desk and the filing cabinet and rid the room of everything I possibly can. Is anyone having a garage sale soon? I will have stuff to donate. Right now the lot of unused, unneeded but so hard-to-give-away-or-throw-away junk is filling the corners of my own bedroom and the middle of my living room. It is not welcome after today.

I have my work cut out for me. Mentally, I imagine myself filling boxes of “throw away” and “give away” boxes and carefully finding a home in that bedroom only for the absolutely essential. I should have purchased some boxes. (I also should have taken a picture of the room before the denuding. I thought about it, but didn’t. The room was vomiting excess unused, unneeded but so hard-to-give-away-or-throw-away junk onto the desk, chair, bed, and middle of the floor. A beautiful picture indeed. Not. But a mental reminder of what I don’t want this room to be.)

It seems that as my children have left the nest, I’ve replaced people with possessions. (More likely, I’ve simply developed a homeowner’s version of the middle-age spread. Still I have too much stuff.)

One of the joys of vacation for me is living for a week in a non-cluttered, pristine condo or cabin. I remove items from the confines of my luggage and take over closets and empty dressers in an attempt to keep this non-cluttered view. It’s like playing house instead of keeping house. This blank slate of a bedroom is an opportunity to create such a getaway bedroom for my guests. I want a bureau with empty drawers and shelves to hold my guests’ belongings while they are here. A desk that holds only the essentials. A closet with space in it. And decor that won’t collect dust.

Crazy, right?

I spent years as a teacher — hoarding, it seems. When I left my teaching position, I left behind a classroom fully stocked for my replacement, but I forgot how much I’d accumulated in my house. Books galore and a variety of teaching tools. I spent a few years as a student — hoarding textbooks I’ll never open again. I spent more years as a parent to schoolchildren — hoarding the excesses of school supply lists filled with items never needed. I literally have 20 packages of college-ruled notebook paper filling the bottom drawer of a filing cabinet; plastic containers of pens and pencils, markers and glue sticks that have dehydrated into nothingness; cute little gadget drawers stuffed with paperclips and staples that have broken from their neat rows; and even cups of coins I used when teaching math to my own children, remnants of our homeschooling days.

And did I mention that I scrapbook? Well, did. Though I have neat, creative scrapbooks filled with artistically designed layouts of family photos, I am more than 10 years behind. I have boxes of photos that have yet to make it into an album or are merely duplicates and the colored papers and stickers and tools to use should I muster the energy to scrapbook again. How do you get rid of old photos or the hope of ordering them into books?

2015-11-08 08.29.37
A sample of Adam’s artwork. This I must keep. And that one. And that other one…

Most worrisome, however, are the paintings my youngest son created in grammar school art class and old framed family photos and treasured pieces that have donned the walls in years past. I have the caricature of my father leaving for Florida, signed by the coworkers he was leaving behind in New Jersey, my first needlework (“Friendship is a sheltering tree”), and some random belongings of my mother. What is a sentimental girl to do? (Seriously, I need answers.)

What I need today is my old roommate Barb, who graciously and efficiently handled my sentimental self as I languished with boxes filled with my deceased husband’s treasured belongings. I’d carted those items and my widowed self to the apartment I began to share with Barb, and they became a permanent presence in a third bedroom we shared as an office. When we later moved into a four-bedroom house (so we could each have a bedroom and an office), the boxes came with us — and likely would have remained had not Barb helped me whittle them down to nothing.

Hello, my friends, please shelter me from purging this room...
Hello, my friends, please shelter me from purging this room…

My daughter is like Barb. Able to cut through the emotion of things and see them as things instead of hanging onto them as if possessions really could replace people.

But I today I am alone with my motivation to keep a clean slate of a room uncluttered and welcoming. My mother-in-love fondly referred to her cherished items as “something else for the estate sale” but managed to scale down when she moved from her large family home into a pristine condo. I can do this. I know possessions cannot replace people, but to me those possessions represent people and places and the past…

And that is what makes purging a room so difficult.

NaBloPoMo_1115_465x287_THEMEPosts for NaBloPoMo 2015:

  1. Why I love my hairstylist…
  2. To NaBloPoMo or not to NaBloPoMo? That is the question…
  3. No AC November…
  4. That dubious gift of an hour…
  5. I can’t wait to be discovered…
  6. Once an English teacher, always an English teacher…
  7. Of mice and men (or when you give a mouse a cookie)…
  8. When you replace people with possessions…

2 thoughts on “When you replace people with possessions…

  1. Looks like you are accomplishing a real job of re-locating all your “stuff”. Have to admist it’s hard to get rid of the “stuff”, but after a while, you forget you ever had it…….just sayin’……

    Liked by 1 person

I'd love to hear from you! Leave a comment.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s