Saturday, February 12, 2011

Change a-comin' - Time to De-Clutter

Change is inevitable... we can go kicking and screaming or laughing and dancing! I aspire to laughing and dancing, although I'm not immune to the FUDS - fear, unhappiness, doubt, and stress - acronym and concept thanks to Serge Kahili King. What to do, what to do, minge minge minge, whimper. There is always SOMETHING we can do. Some small thing, some action towards change, can make the turning difference.

If nothing else, you probably have a spot on your desk, an area in your purse, maybe even a whole shelf or a ROOM full of stuff that could be sorted out, cleaned up, filed, thrown away, or recycled. Robin Atkins has been writing about this over on Words Paint. and her thoughtful analysis of her resistance has me thinking about my own.

Grey polka dot fairy face, highly brightened. Paper was fragile and dark. Brighter orange spots on eyebrows are soggy and paper dissolved to white.

We all have our own reasons to hold on to stuff. I was the "keeper" in our family and kept a lot of our family treasures and memories. I loved having my grannie's manicure set after she died. She had the most beautiful nails, always beautifully polished and buffed. (I don't have beautiful nails.) I always kept every letter and most greeting cards, almost every gift given me, unless it was so ugly it broke itself immediately. It symbolized family and continuity for me.

At 23, I thought I might be staying in France for a while, maybe permanently, and one of the things I took with me in my carry-on was a specially made (by my brother Mark) wooden box holding a big porcelain darning egg, swaddled in excelsior. It was my great-grandmother's and I can remember my mom actually using it when I was a small kid, to darn my father's huge wool socks. I brought it home 6 weeks later. 23 years later I moved that same wooden box in my carry-on, and 5,000 pounds of other stuff in a big ship, across the ocean to Kaua'i.

I was leaving everyone and everything I knew and loved. Again. For the 2nd time in 2 years. After I'd just furnished a big apartment and had a more or less coordinated "theme" and furniture that actually matched, thanks to my sister Lola and Ikea. I wasn't being dramatic about it, or anything (not ME), but I really felt like I needed a nest I knew.

It all just kind of got out of hand when the shipper guys said I should make an inventory of my stuff and its value. If I couldn't replace it all for $5,000, then it was worth it to ship as much as I wanted, since it would still cost about $3,000 to insure, custom-crate and ship the art and framed tapestry and art supplies and books that I definitely wasn't leaving behind. For another $2,000 I could ship furniture and pretty much anything else I wanted to keep. Not only that, they'd pack it in Seattle, hold it on the dock for 3 weeks, ship it, and unpack it and take away the rubbish afterward in Hawaii.

That would give me the time I needed to find a place to live. I called it "The Princess Plan." I so loved my mover guys on both sides of the water.

My books - just the plum 300 of the 800 I had - valued out at $15,000. The art supplies, about $5,000 on their own, and I'd just spent almost $2,000 on furniture. You see the economics of it. It was grand. I shipped cases of my mom's home-made jelly, each jar bubble-wrapped individually. I may still have some of those jars! There was a lot of wheeling and dealing and giving away. I winnowed it down to 5,000 pounds - $1 per pound! - and arrived with enough furniture and linens to furnish a 2-bedroom condo on the beach, and enough art supplies to last for years.

I just didn't know how smart the whole thing was until I'd lived here for a while. Smart because there are limited shopping options on a small island in the middle of the sea, and sometimes the quality is poor. There is no Ikea. Repeat, there is no Ikea. Everything has to be shipped in, freight added, which is sometimes the same amount as the item. You have to really want something to pay twice the price for it.

There's another tall one like the one on the left, just around the corner in the hallway. The big one has been reinforced with a plywood back and some interior shelves, thanks to Matt. I'm sure this extended its life by many years.
I've been very grateful to have had my big Ikea bookshelves. We are still using them, 12 years later. We sold off many of them after the big fire, and I'm sure they are still in someone's garage in Wailua, doing yoeman duty. I still have about 150 books, and I married a man with books of his own. ("Must read" was an important requirement in a husband, but somehow I forgot to translate that in my mind into "Will have hundreds of books of his own. And papers, too.") We are always trying to winnow them down to "essentials."

Books are our friends, colleagues, and tools. I've always regarded them as such, and felt secure in them. People friends come and go, books endure. In the tropics, they also mold if you don't open them and enjoy their company.

Furniture moves around the island. I've had 3 sofas since I've been here, none of them more than $300 and all in good condition, and re-sold later after we'd used them for a while. I've had several big wooden tables - our current one cost $10 and we got it 2 houses down the street and walked it home.

Home is where the books are. The tall brown shelf on the right was new then, a gift from a client. Empty shelves, what a fleeting luxury.
I don't have a lot of the stuff I came with, including the giant tapestry or my parent's metal bed frame. I do still have a dresser my dad built. And more art supplies than ever, shipped in at great expense, or purchased on the mainland and brought back in luggage.

I like "little things." I live and work in a very small space, and it will never be Zen-like or probably even very clean. I just try to keep the clutter to a minimum, or at least well-organized. I work at little areas of it at a time. I don't judge myself when I just need to play dolls, or bead, instead.

And I ready myself for change when I do it, because making small changes creates ripples that make bigger changes. Clearing the clutter opens the way.

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