This year it’s spring clearing rather than spring cleaning in our house. Since the beginning of March, I’ve been working in earnest on our house clearing project, with Peter’s help, before the spring weather is too nice to stay inside. The task is enormous as I’ve lived in this seven-room condo for thirty-one years now and have more than filled the rooms and the storage rooms in the basement. My first year of retirement I didn’t want to spend too much time sorting through old paper and things, but now I have to face it–if not now, then when? We are considering moving, and we will be completely stopped in our tracks unless we can deal with the stuff. I want to be free of it–in order to move to Maine or Cape Ann or just to enjoy our space more if we stay here.
Most of the rooms are actually quite organized and tidy, if a bit over full. I’m actually very good at organizing, when I’m not overwhelmed with too many items for the existing space. The bedroom, for example, is always calm and orderly, and I regularly give away clothing to the thrift shop, not being too sentimental about clothes. The kitchen, since our renovation ten years ago, is organized and functions very well, though it’s a small, urban kitchen.
I have a great deal of china, but all of it has a home, and I use it and enjoy it every day.
I’m lucky to have two large pantries. This building was built about 1910, a gracious era, and it amazes me that they would include a butler’s pantry, another walk-in pantry, and a huge built-in china cabinet in an apartment in those days. Last year I devoted time and energy to de-accessioning some of my less favorite china, so the butler’s pantry is quite neat now.
There’s really only one bad room in our condo, the “back room” as we generally call it. This is the dining room in the original design of the apartment. It can be accessed through the swinging door from the butler’s pantry, and it has a built-in china cabinet across one entire wall. Back in the 80s and early 90s, when I was making quilts, this was my quilting room. I kept my fabric stacked by colors on the shelves of the glassed-in china cabinet. Later, in the early 2000s, a computer and printers moved in, along with file cabinets, bookshelves, and masses of books and papers, and the room became a study. Later still, when we did renovations to the front of the condo, the contents of whole rooms were emptied into the quilt room/study/back room. That is how the room became overwhelmed. I’m not going to show a photo of the chaos in there. In order to start emptying out the room, we are working on clearing space in our basement storage room.
We’ve been descending to the basement for two-hour sessions every week or two and have so far given about twelve bags of good stuff to the thrift shop! I had boxes and boxes of household items and china packed away, good things but from the 1970s and 80s, my taste when I was young, mostly things I moved here from Rockport in 1985. I still like them, but I haven’t used them in years, so it’s definitely time to pass them along to other people who might use and enjoy them. I took pictures of the items because having a record of them helps me let them go, and the digital photos don’t take up any space at all.
After each basement session we immediately carried the bags to the thrift shop three blocks away and left unencumbered to go walk around the Pond and shake off the dust and breathe fresh air. I felt exuberant each time we did this; it really lightened my spirit as it lightened my load. We Americans have too much stuff, and it needs to stop. Almost everyone I know of my age group feels burdened by an excess of stuff. I am determined to pare it down to the things I love and use and the important memorabilia.