Friday, October 10, 2008

Divesting the Heavy Load

When I was younger acquiring things had a magic all its own. Collections were amassed with great gusto and it all seemed very important and satisfying. As young newlyweds the Farmer and I were thrilled to find an antique oak ice box in pristine condition. It was soon followed by more antiques, books, porcelain dolls, rabbits and any number of other crazy collections.

Menopause brought on another chapter in life, one that I will title "Divesting the Heavy Load". As I aged it felt like all the stuff was weighing me down mentally, physically and emotionally. It was beginning to fry my brain even thinking about what was lurking in cabinets, closets, boxes and desks. My need to simplify my life took on an urgency and I became Goodwill's new best friend.

The antique ice box which once was a prized find had become a very, very heavy albatross. Divesting yourself of a lifetime of stuff is not an easy task. I swear this stuff breeds at night when I'm not looking. What else could explain 23 casserole dishes in the kitchen cabinets? I could be a one-woman pot luck dinner.

My task is made more difficult by the fact that I live with the Other Mother who has never gotten rid of anything. EVER. And I'm not kidding. She has the iron and ironing board that she received as a wedding shower gift almost 70 YEARS AGO!! And no, the iron does not work and the ironing board weighs 25 lbs.

The nice men who came to install the drywall in the basement must have thought I'd lost my mind when I started asking them whether they knew anyone who needed a few things. Hey, they had a truck and I needed it gone. They said yes and the next thing they knew their pickup truck was loaded to the gills with wing chairs, an old cedar chest, lamps and much more. They were thrilled and I was even more thrilled.

The divestiture (on my part) is going well. I'm feeling infinitely lighter in spirit. I've done well in all but two areas, books and fabric. It's impossible for me to part with a book, unless it's the Farmer's copy of U.S. Tax Codes from 1983. I didn't shed a tear over that one leaving the house.

Fabric is a priceless commodity to me. It represents possibilities. A single length of fabric can be transformed into any number of fabulous items. It's difficult for me to toss even the smallest piece of fabric into the trash because my mind is always thinking about what could be done with that little bit.

My fabric stash is pretty ridiculous. This is just a small portion that resides in my in-home studio.

My fabric stash overfloweth.

Every so often I take the time to neatly fold and colorize but the gremlins soon appear and mess it all up again. There's a large cabinet downstairs filled (two rows deep) with folded lengths of cloth.

These "Toile people" look way too happy.

Oh, and then there's the extra large plastic containers filled with more fabric.

A favorite antique reproduction print.

If I'm ever forced to live in a cardboard box it's going to be outfitted with a bookcase and a storage rack filled with fabric.

Are you divesting yourself of the dead weight? What's the one thing you'd never do without?

Halloween garland made from fabric scraps.

This garland can be made for any season. Make one for yourself.



chocolatechic said...

I am pretty much a non-pack rat.

Clutter drives me insane, and all that stuff = clutter to me.

Sadly, I do have one area that I have acquired more than necessary.

It is fabric, too.

I have 4 huge totes in my daughter's closet....and that is after I have donated 4 huge totes to a missionary who took the fabric overseas for teen girls learning how to sew so that they wouldn't be sold as sex slaves.

PS. I had 4 pair of Gingher scissors too....I have away 2 pair.

The Blue Ridge Gal said...

I adore fabric.... just looking at it in the store, however, I don't sew, so I don't buy it... sometimes it's tempting though. My weakness is 1950's pottery... I only have few pieces but will just never part with them. They hold childhood memories, snapshots of times past.

Lori said...

Amen! the older I get,the less stuff I want. I'm not a clutter person to start with. It drives me absolutely crazy! What has helped me immensely in purging some of the excess I do have is our quest to move to E. Tennessee in the next couple of years. As I pick things up, I ask myself, do I want to move this 700 miles? Many times the answer is a resounding NO.

Molly said...

Pack rat - check, inherited that from my fraternal grand-dad, my maternal grandmother and my mother. So I'm just going with it. I would have driven over for the wing chairs!

My grandmother and mother have some raging fabric collections, so you are not alone.

1983 tax code...tell me the Farmer is not an accountant! That's what I used to do.

FarmHouse Style said...

Well, hello there kindred spirit. I know exactly what you mean on both counts. I am currently in a major divesting movement but the one thing I absoulutely will not part with is my fabric or my vintage patterns. My husband laughs at me and tells me there is no way I will ever be able use all the patterns and fabrics that I currently have. To which I simply reply, "And your point is?"

I wandered over here from Robin's. Definately enjoyed my visit.


Jen said...

We live in a fairly small townhouse, and I have WAY too many hobbies. There is crap stuffed EVERYWHERE. Four years ago we had to move Grandma in on short notice, and I lost 1/6 of my space as the "junk/hobby room" was suddenly going to become her room. You have NO idea how cathartic it was to get rid of box after box of stuff. As a quilter I had always horded every tiny scrap. Suddenly 10 boxes of fabric went on Craigslist with nary a second thought. Grandma died earlier this year and we're going to turn "her" room into a playroom for my kids. Still, I find myself going through every little thing that we're planning on shifting in there. My goal is to get rid of 50% of our stuff by Christmas. It's WONDERFUL. Books and Fabric are still my downfall, but I'm much less hoard-y than I used to be...

arlene said...

Yep, it is soooo easy to collect/hoard and I am soooo guilty. But hubby and I are now trying to weed out some of the surplus. Funny, I've always loved some of the old stuff but now, due to the deaths of our parents, we have WAY too much. I am now looking for serenity. The garage is filling with boxes for Good Will so maybe there is hope for us.

...but, my vintage fabric and my painting supplies will remain.

martina said...

Thankfully I don't sew so no fabric library here. It takes a lot of willpower not to bring treasures home from garage sales and store. I've cleared an extreme amount of stuff out in the last five years. It feels great to not have so many things to take care of. Putting unwanted and/or unneeded items out on the curb with a free sign is very liberating. So long as you don't see things on your neighbor's curb that you take home.

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

You're doing great work of unloading. There's an old Victrola sitting in my garage. Its former home was my porch where my new addition now sits. I don't have room for it, but it belonged to my grandfather and I'm loathe to part with it. Hmmmm, perhaps one of the kids wants it. I'd feel great offloading a cumbersome hunk of furniture off on one of them. :D

Fabric...I don't want to become one of you fabric stashers, but it may already be too late.

Dishes...finally cleared out everything that needed to go making my cupboards functional once more. I did not need umpteen mixing bowls and umpteen extra serving bowls.

lifeinredshoes said...

I also tend to keep to much of the things I love. But after visiting my Aunt I look at it differently , so much of it is just stuff. I found myself buying totes to store it all in, the package was worth more than the contents.I feel the same way you do, it has become almost like a ball and chain, a constant reminder of projects that will never come to pass. When we moved here, with only a few weeks to get ready, we donated several truckloads to the Deseret Industries, the LDS church's Goodwill. I'm certain that we restocked the shelves, and now someone else is able to use what I could not.

J'Ollie Primitives said...

Our house rule is "if something new comes in, something old must leave."

Books, fabric and pets are exempt.

BittersweetPunkin said...

Oh I love all your fabric...lucky you!!! I think I may have my own collecting under control...I can't stand clutter and try NOT to go there...sometimes it does happen though.

Chris said...

Thanks for the rag garland pattern Suzanne! I have plenty of scraps too!

I am probably not ever going to divest! I love my stuff and keep collecting more...sigh. When I finally check out, somone's going to have fun(?) disposing of all of it!

Anne Marie said...

I could never do without my camera...oh, and maybe antique linens....and uh, my gardening gloves........and my coffee.

Mary said...

Seriously? I can't do without books, and I'm not sure I could give up too many dishes, either... I have a mahogany breakfront that belonged to my aunt. It needs to be refinished, and sits in my garage because I can't bear to get rid of it... The list goes on and on...
Your fabric looks like a nice obsession, Suzanne.

Anonymous said...

I had the same problem after my mom passed away. We had combined our 2 homes and when I asked her if we could de-clutter a little, she said it would be like "saying good-bye to old friends". When I had the estate sale later, no one wanted to buy those old friends.

Books, I keep them if they are non-fiction and I have an impressive antique cookbook trove passed down from several generations. If I have read any work of fiction, I pass it on, or tear it up, for the next reader's benefit.
The majority of the fabric was passed on to a large group of hospital workers who get together times a year to make quilts for the needy.
If you choose where you want the item to go and you know that it will be repurposed and not collect dust, it helps a lot. The item I would not part with would be my handed down, well seasoned, 55 year old cast iron skillet. I also do not like clutter, life with my family is messy enough.

StitchinByTheLake said...

I used to keep every single book I bought but over time I figured out that was wasteful - someone could be enjoying them instead of me looking at them gathering dust on a shelf. So now I let them go unless they're really special to me. Not that it takes a lot to be special.... I also have a lot of fabric but I comfort myself with the thought that if our economy gets really, really bad I can buy some thread and sew for the next 10 years off that fabric! blessings, marlene

Thirkellgirl said...

I *think I could get rid of everything other than my photos. I *think. My mother sewed and had a bumper sticker that read "she who dies with the most fabric wins" tacked to the wall above her ironing board. She won. I've got rubbermaid tubs full of chintz and Pendleton wool and more polyester than the 70s. I lost. I'd love to give it to "a good home," but that's the trick, isn't it?

Karen said...

I was a certifiable pack rat also, before menopause struck. My spare bedroom is testimony to that.

I've been slowly giving stuff away. No, I really do not want to take a large box of plastic picnicware to NZ with me !!! What was I thinking ??

There are a couple of categories that are non-negotiable and would accompany me to that 'cardboard box'....

Like you, my fabric stash and my books.


My yarn stash and knitting books, needles and other paraphanalia needed for turning out knitted garments, etc.

My cookbooks - a small bookcase full plus two boxes already packed !!

My DVD collection - Four shelves of a bookcase plus two boxes already packed.

My Christmas, Halloween, Fall, Easter, etc, decorations. There are numerous boxes of them !!

Oh, and my Longaberger pie plates!!

So apart from the fact that my 'cardboard box' would be the best decorated one for the holidays ... I'd also be entertained, knit plenty of sweaters to keep warm, and bake some mean pies while arrayed in colourful aprons, etc.