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It’s about time!

In the past few weeks, I’ve ditched a whole pile ‘o stuff I’ve been hanging on to — for 20 years.

Books I never opened netted me $70 from a used book store. I’m planning to open up an Etsy site to sell antique and vintage items, many of which I’ve collected and want to get rid of.

I love the word that museums use — de-accessioning — for the necessary process of pruning and, if you’re able to, upgrading the quality of what you own. So much more elegant than “dumping stuff.”

I moved to New York 22 years ago, filled with ambition and hope and excitement about finally coming to the place my mother was born, the center of my industry — journalism and publishing — certain there was a place for me here. It’s been a sobering experience, and success proved much tougher to achieve than I could possibly have imagined. Three recessions didn’t help!

And, having been single, self-employed and penurious for six years after my divorce, (before meeting my now-husband, who moved in with me), I clung to the things I owned, not at all sure when, or if, I would ever be able to replace them. As Jose compassionately noted, I was in survival mode. Letting go of my things, no matter how old or worn out, I admit with embarrassment, isn’t easy.

But 20 years is a really long time to cling to a look or style or set of beliefs that worked for me (if they really did), in 1992, the year I got married to my first husband (who was out the door two years later.)

I’ve been blond for 20 years. Now I’m a redhead; new headshot soon to come.

In our one-bedroom apartment, we’ve ditched two deep, heavy armchairs, a folding screen, a corner unit holding media equipment. I’ve re-painted a low bookcase a pale yellow (from deep olive green) and bought a new tiny glass-base lamp from West Elm to add a bit of gleam.

I want more air and light in here. Ages ago, in a fit of DIY design, I had a piece of glass cut, beveled and frosted to use as a console table. I never put it together, but now it’s time.

It takes confidence in the future, and optimism about what will happen there, to let go of the old, making physical and psychic room for the new.

What changes are you planning to make in your home or life for 2012?

10 thoughts on “Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes!

  1. I understand your thoughts so well on this topic. I had a houseful of books, rugs, furniture and all kinds of things that I thought I could never live without until I met my husband and had to decide what to ship to the UK and what to let go. As soon as I said I was moving, friends and family began to offer me good money for my things and sometimes when I visit them now, I get a strange feeling seeing things in their home that once belonged to me. It was as I was sorting though my books that I thought, ” Well, this is one of the gifts of this journey … learning how to let go of things that have meant so much to me.” That thought stayed with me and I used it as a name for my blog when decided to give it a try. Freeing myself of things allowed me to travel lighter and explore a new life and in four years, I’ve never regretted it.

  2. Thanks! I think it’s a real challenge for some of us to let go of our things as they hold our identity, history and taste. But it’s also exciting to make room for the new.

    I found an 18th century armoire at a regional auction and bought it today, bidding by phone. I’m really looking forward to a totally new (ancient) addition to our home.

  3. Claudia, good to know. The irony is that all my furniture is stuff I’ve bought, so there are no sentimental family ties to any of it. Art, yes. But it’s easy to manage. Our priorities tend to be visual (i.e. photos and art, often those we’ve created) rather than furniture. We live in a one-bedroom apartment so there is simply very little room.

  4. loubelcher

    I love that word “pruning.” It seems perfect for this process. I’ve tried several times to divest myself of the majority of the things I seems to hang onto. I chip away at it and often make the resolution to carry out a box of give-away items per day. Yet, here I am and it looks as if I haven’t made a dent in the process. 2012 is my year to purge…. Thanks for the nudge.


    1. I don’t think it’s easy, but if you have a quick way to get rid of things, that helps..We have a thrift shop in town and a Goodwill just down the road. If I want to get ambitious, I know of a consignment shop where I can try to sell stuff as well. It helps to set aside an hour a day or it completely becomes overwhelming.

      Jose and I had to spend FOUR eight-hour days to finally get rid of most of the stuff in our storage locker, but we still haven’t done it all. 😦

  5. To me there is an obvious link between personality, character, and that perennial issue ‘what do I do with my stuff’. Is the possession of material goods a device for memory? Is it something that gives comfort and a sense of place? Or is it an encumbrance, a clutter? Is there a balance? These are not rhetorical questions, exactly, and there is no single answer because the truth will vary for the individual.

    Me? My problem is I’m a sucker for books and for music. This has led to the house being filled up with books and CD’s. I do purge them from time to time. My wife, on the other hand, collects all. sorts of memorabilia – stuff, particularly, from when she lived in Java. The house consequently has its barongs, its leather punch-out puppets, dance masks and so forth. Plus the stuff we’ve bought together on our travels – masks from Thai markets and so forth. Some of this stuff has seen better days. Some of it really does need to go to that great landfill in the sky. Will it? Probably not…

    Matthew Wright

    1. All great questions and all, as you say, unanswerable…I live in a one-bedroom that I share and work in, so I have to be very careful about clutter, mess and accumulation. There is literally no room for it! I sort of like that discipline, as it force me to make choices…but fewer and better works for me.

      I still have vinyl! Talk about taking up space. My turntable died years ago but there’s no way I’m giving up all my records.

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