IN PLANNING for our move into the new house, I’m trying to figure out what we really don’t need to bring with us from our current apartment into the new house. (Ahh, house. The word itself sounds so foreign, so unlikely to be used by either of us in the same sentence as the word “move.”)
Having a new house is the best excuse I’ve had yet to get rid of years of unwanted clutter. Let’s see: I’ve got the clothes I’ll never wear again, either because they just don’t look right anymore on my post-baby figure, or because I’ve held onto them for so long that they’re actually out of style now. I’ve got quite a few pairs of sexy high-heeled shoes that are completely impractical for my life as a mother living in Maine. (And, truth be told, I never wore them much anyway when I was single in New York City, because I always seemed to live about a half-mile from the subway and was usually too broke to take cabs to the fancy parties I rarely went to in the first place.)
Then I have the books. I’ve actually weeded out many of my books in the last two years: once, when I moved from NYC to Portland; again when Nick and I moved in together in Portland; and yet again when we moved together from one end of the Eastern Prom to the other. Even after all the weeding out of the books, I think I’ll probably get rid of even more of them. Books are hard to say goodbye to, but I’ve recently rediscovered the local library, and I’m loving it. It’s like shopping, but you don’t have to pay for anything when you leave. Then you finish the book and return it, and then you don’t have to find a place for it. (Then again, I do feel guilty bout the authors who aren’t getting royalties and the struggling publishing companies, but I won’t digress.)
I like to think that other than the clothes and the books, I don’t have a lot of other unnecessary objects, besides letters and photos and things like that that I will NEVER get rid of, because I want to look at the photos and re-read the letters when I’m 94 years old.
Nick, on the other hand, has hardly any clothes, or books, but he does have several plastic tubs filled with electronic gadgetry I can’t even begin to name. Cords, hard drives, important parts to computers, gizmos, radio scanners, eight-track cassette tape players, PixelVision video recorders, reel-to-reel tapes of live performances of his band, Sgt York, cassette tapes, mini-tapes, CDs, all manner of multimedia…I could go on and on but there’s more there I can’t even identify. That stuff, to him, is as important as my old letters and photos, so we’re keeping that, too.
HOWEVER, to our credit, we did attempt to get rid of some of our stuff. We held a yard sale. Then, when the yard sale wasn’t as productive as we’d hoped it would be, we donated a lot of the unsold yard sale goods to a church in our neighborhood that was holding its own yard sale the following weekend. I put some things up on our local Freecycle board, and they went instantly. We sold one or two things via Craigslist. I even dropped off some of the impractical shoes at a consignment store in the Old Port.
Despite all that, we still have some leftover stuff. Things that might fetch a pretty penny on eBay, like Nick’s old Star Wars figures. And maybe even his collection of Garbage Pail Kids’ cards, although Sadie has recently discovered those, and likes to carry them around, as if they are very important pieces of paper she absolutely must hold onto.
But there is still more stuff. Always more stuff.
So this weekend, and in the weekends to come before we move, we’ll be trying to cut through the clutter. I just read an article in Natural Home with a pretty handy checklist that I think I’ll print out and keep with me while I go through this process. In deciding what to eliminate, Natural Home suggests:
1. Things that don’t work
2. Things that annoy you (e.g., a rickety old file cabinet with a stubborn drawer)
3. Things you’re keeping because someone gave them to you
4. Things that bring up negative thoughts such as I was so stupid to buy it, but I paid a lot for it, so I’m keeping it.
5. Excessive amounts of freebies, such as all those pens you’ve collected.
The article also includes a passage from The Not So Big House, by architect Sarah Susanka, whose “Not So Big House” series of books (I checked out several from the library) have been a real inspiration to me in thinking about the design and layout of our renovation. Her basic premise: bigger is not better. Or, better is better than bigger. She advocates for living in and remodeling smaller houses as an antidote to the more hollow McMansion living that has defined the last couple of decades. Smaller, better-built spaces are more appealing, better for the environment, and better for our souls than large houses built quickly and with cheap materials. I’d also add that those qualities make a house inherently green, which is basically what we’re trying to do with our own remodel.