Monday, August 27, 2007


Depths of garage

I'm sitting in my living room, laptop perched rather lopsidedly on one thigh, the last inch of coffee in the bottom of a thrift store tea cup sitting in the middle of a thrift store saucer, perched precariously on the not-quite-large-enough space still left between the lamp and a stack of papers and magazines on the end table beside me. As soon as I finish typing this post, in theory, I'm going to get up and start opening boxes of books and knicknacks that are currently stacked all over the room in front of me. I'm going to sort through them deciding what will be passed on and what will stay in this new environment I've created. Am creating.

I love THINGS. I love feathering my nest. In fact, one of the reasons I think I've been in a slump lately is because all my things are boxed up, out of sight and out of place. When ever I've moved, which hasn't been in a long while, but I've still done my share of moving in my lifetime, I never feel at home until two things happen - my books are shelved and my paintings are on the wall. Although I haven't moved location, this summer qualifies as an emotional move for me and right now I feel about where one is when the truck has unloaded but you can't find your box of silverware and you just figured out your washer/dryer don't fit where you thought they'd fit.

Someone down the street is moving out of a big house. This morning I drove by and saw people, like a line of ants, moving boxes and bulky belongings down the front steps, through the front gate, and into the back of the truck where someone was attempting somewhat unsuccessfully to fit a few more things on the very top of the back layer.

One of my dearest friends spent the weekend helping her adult daughter pack up her life so she can go to graduate school two long states away. They rented a trailer to be pulled behind the car but eventually had to give in and replace it with a 12 foot rental truck. Apparently everything but the boyfriend fit in the truck and tonight they start out on the long drive.

I'm lost in thought at the idea of all my belongings fitting into one small 12 foot truck. There was a time, long ago, when they did. Before I owned furniture. Before I had children. When it was just my first husband and I, in a series of moves our belongings grew, each U-Haul needed to be a few feet longer. Eventually, when it was me and the two kids moving after the divorce, I barely fit everything into a 26 foot truck, the largest size you can rent. For the last twenty years, my husband, five kids, dogs, cats..... our moves have been either local circuses with both a rental truck and numerous back and forth loads in extra vehicles, or long distance events paid for by husband's employee and handled by a moving company with a big rig.

We're less people again now, down to two adults and one teen. Shouldn't what we own be less too? But there's a difference in what we own now from in the past. Long ago most of what I cherished were a few books and mementos - not enough to fill the back of my old Pinto. (yes, I drove a Pinto - hatchback, puke yellow color.) I didn't own much beyond that - some clothing and a stereo, a few records. Our belongings grew for decades not because we owned more cherished items but because we owned more things needed for each stage of life - furniture and toys and sports equipment for kids. Camping gear, tricycles, bicycles, extra cars for teens. Lawn mowers and bookshelves and kitchen appliances and, when we moved here to the mountains, winter wardrobes and snow shovels and boots and storage supplies. None of those things were of much sentimental value. They were useful. They've come and they've gone. Some of it we still have because we still use it. But it's not personal.

It's only been in the last ten years or so that the amount of things I want to hold onto for sentimental purposes have grown into a bulky burden. We can finally afford things worth keeping. Furniture or pots and pans in my youth were always hand-me-downs or it-will-do's. Now I finally have furniture I want to keep, pots that cost a pretty penny because they aren't dinged and scratched. I have art work, handmade quilts, art supplies, family heirlooms, music, collections, books - let's not even talk about books! A hundred things I wished for, I envied, when I was younger and now have the luxury of owning. And the responsibility of owning.

Maybe it would be easier if we really physically moving. Everything looks different in the light of a new location. Nothing has a place and so each decision is free, or at least more free, of past expectations of where things go and what you use and what is just sitting around gathering dust. I might have new paint on the wall, new bookcases, but I'm stuck with the same expectations rolling around in the shadows of the room, like dust bunnies that escaped the general clean out by hiding under the furniture when I rolled it back and forth.

I want my THINGS back in place, but I also want less THINGS. I want to feather my nest but I also want to be able to walk across the room without stepping on them or having them fly up in my face.

I think there's a happy medium. I'm just at the overwhelmed point where the environment has so little order that I can't find it. I look at all these boxes and the thought of opening them up makes me think of the scene in Harry Potter when Gilderoy Lockhart thinks it's a good idea to open up the cage of Cornish Pixies, letting them loose to run amuck in what had been a peaceful classroom. If I open up my boxes, take everything out and set it about in categories and piles, I have to figure out what to do with it all when it all seems as unruly and unwilling to be tamed as Harry's pixies.

I swore I'd get up and get started on it all yesterday, whether I felt like I was prepared to deal with it all or not. Unfortunately, or fortunately if you're wanting to avoid the inevitable, the day filled up with more immediate concerns like helping with school work and taxi service for the family, and laundry and cooking, and a thirsty garden. It took all day to catch up to a reasonable level of clean clothes, available food, pumpkin plants that didn't wilt in the sun. Sadly, today I have run out of legitimate excuses and it's time to face my cardboard foes or admit (to you all, since now I'm telling you all this) another day of defeat.

I'll let you know tomorrow how it works out.

Maybe I need to go to the supermarket.....


Blogger Tanya Brown said...

Argh, yes. We have lots of possessions, and aren't we lucky, but at some point they start owning us instead of the reverse. And then it feels oppressive and it's hard to breathe and think.

I hope to emulate you in a couple of years when my kid is in school. I think one thing I'm going to do is photograph the stuff as it goes out the door. That way I'll be less likely to use the excuse of missing it to not get rid of it - if I ever want to see it again, I can go look at the picture.

7:10 PM  
Blogger Belita Rose said...

I love that stuff. I wish I was there to help. All I have to do in the way of projects around here is my quilt and I'm still battling with my child's incredible fear of being eaten by the sewing machine. It might have something to do with the fact that everytime I turn it on, she decides to lean on the peddle and then scream because of the loud noise. I of course am laughing because I can't get her off the pedal but she won't stop screaming long enough for me to convince her to move. Oh well, I will just come help you!

8:53 PM  

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