Monday, February 23, 2015

Living With the Things You Use

My goodness, it has been some time since I have put my thoughts in any order, never mind writing them down!

The last time I took a moment to write, I was strolling down memory lane amid piles and boxes, mementos and gee-gaws.  I found a poem from my childhood...discovered long lost letters from my mom...sorted through the myriad of stuff accumulated over 30+ years as a homeowner.

It is funny how we surround ourselves with stuff...the stuff of legends (in our own minds)...the stuff others give us...and sometimes the right stuff...the stuff that puts the polish on one's character and nature.

As I began the process of organizing and plotting our downsizing, anticipating a move into Boston, a funny thing happened,  I stopped needing so much stuff...not just emptying a nest...but a real sense of need versus husband said it best recently, "Live with the the things you use."

For nearly three months now, we find ourselves in a very nice rental apartment on Beacon Hill...2 bedrooms, an office...a serviceable kitchen and a parking spot...yay!  We still have a bit too much stuff, but as we live in a smaller space and look for a new property to purchase, we are learning about what we need...what we like.  For example, being who we are, we each have our favorite coffee mug...mine is a roundish black and green mug from Duck Donuts that I picked up a couple of years ago from a happy little doughnut place in Duck, NC.  It is just the right size and fits my hand well...I like the roundness of it...I can wrap my hands around it...take in a deep breath of fresh brewed aroma...warm my is just what I need for my morning coffee..I wash it out after each use so it is ready for the next cup later in the why in heaven's name did we have roughly 100...yes you read that correctly...100 mugs packed away in boxes in the attic?  I'd say that 95 of them were gifts from thoughtful folks...they didn't know that other people had given Bill and me each, a pithy mug...mugs that said thanks in multiple mugs...floral mugs...mugs with mice ...cartoons...sports logos...corporate logos...who doesn't need a mug, right?  As a former teacher, PTA volunteer and CCD teacher, I got mugs...and candles...and tea towels...see where this is going!?!  Now please don't get me wrong.  I loved the thought behind each gift.  I appreciated the validation that I somehow made an impact in someone's life...and I will always own that...the experience has shaped me...directed me to who I am and where I am today...and God willing, I will always know that...I don't need a trinket to remind me...that intersection of our lives has moved me down a path of a life well lived and loved...hopefully with many more miles to go...but now I hope the markers of that journey are not in things accumulated, but in the direction others go along their life's journey...that each encounter leaves someone happier, smarter, affirmed...a kind act, word or smile suffices to cement our connection in my being...but if you come over for coffee...fear not, I still have a lovely mug or china cup for you too!

I have had the same discussion with many people as of do you can you cleanse yourself of the things that you've owned for a lifetime?  Won't you miss this or that?  Won't you forget?  For me, the answer is that although an item might bring to mind a doesn't own the memory...that has and always shall live in me.  Bill and I have come to a point in our lives where we'd like to see our stuff build lives and memories for others.

As we sorted through our stuff, it became necessary to designate our piles...keep...donate...sell...recycle...and I did my research for each of these designations.  One resource/outreach service that brought joy to our goal was HGRM in Acton.  We were able to donate much of our furniture...all of which we offered to family first with no takers, wah, this organization that affords families transitioning from homeless shelters into new housing furniture and household goods.  Clients of HGRM could "shop" for items that would make a new space their home...and I feel certain that the history and essence of a happy family that surrounds our stuff will fuel the memories of the new owners...and we find great comfort, happiness and purpose in that as we let go.

I'm looking around the dining room, where I've plunked down to write this post...and I see tulips in a vase I bought in favorite vase...the only on I need.  In my china cabinet, I see the Limoges dessert set that was my mother's and her mother's before her...I use it almost every day now...I have owned it for 26 years...but have only now started using with it...some cute champagne flutes from Sayda...I use these to celebrate Champagne Thursday... a crystal bowl from my maid of honor...I use it as a side dish for dinner...every day!  Many of the items I have around me, have been in my possession for a long time...but now, I use them...I live with them...they have new life as we embark on a new chapter of our lives...I guess what I am saying is...these are the things I need, and to some extent...they connect my history to my day to day life...spelling out more history I guess.

Now, just so you don't promote me to sainthood yet...with a few exceptions, most of the stuff that surrounds us now will not be moving to our next home!  I'll keep the Limoges...and a few of the other fine things accumulated over the years...those things yearning to be unpacked to be used in our future lives...but after thirty two years, my husband and I are different creatures...we are older, wiser, snootier empty nesters...we do not need a serviceable couch ...I'd like something that says something about who we are NOW...I don't want the kitschy lamp set that we could just barely afford from JC Penney's 20 years ago...I want something that sets the stage for the next act...that details and reflects us...the new us...ok...what I am about to share is corny...but it seems appropriate...I guess this rental apartment on Beacon Hill is our chrysalis...and in a few months, we will transition into our new place surrounded by the things we want and need to live each day...but that highlight who we are, where we came from and most importantly...who we hope to be as we find new purpose and adventure in this stage of our lives!