My Hope Chest

I recently started a trousseau. No, I am not about to take a bridal leap with my possessions. But I’d like to fly into a new perch and so I’m preparing.

I don’t love my current home and want to move within the next year. In order to not feel stuck and to find a home that is right for me, it helps me to visualize it. I imagine and focus on location, layout, light. I see the entrance and the rooms – and I furnish them too. Coaster 1Where will my couch and bookcase go? Should I trade in for scaled-down models? Will my new interest in mid-century modern translate into a newer, more streamlined living space? Should I get rid of my seldom-used dining table and bring my office to the forefront? Should I go for a mid-century modern theme in other rooms?

Without realizing it, I already have some of that look and it wouldn’t take much to zap it up. My grandmother, who was ahead of her time, left me a Danish modern teak sideboard and some small tables and my mother someCoaster 2 Metlox pottery pieces, which were made in our hometown of Manhattan Beach and where I worked while going to college.

Now when I’m out browsing, I keep my eyes open for these nostalgic pieces – old but ready for a new home, or new but with a decades-old design. For ideas, I’m visiting San Diego stores like The Atomic Bazaar and Boomerang for Modern. So far, I’ve purchased a set of coasters.

This is what I mean by a trousseau. Possessions for a new home. Visualizing and decorating. My hope chest. A symbol of meeting challenges and changes while still appreciating what I have and where I am.Coaster 3

As a bride, I didn’t have a hope chest. The idea for one occurred to me many years later, when I found myself in an unhappy relationship. I had moved in with a man too quickly and by the time I realized I’d made a mistake, I was stuck, at least for awhile until I could save money to leave. I began to visualize where I wanted to live. One day while out looking for something else, I fell in love with a kettle – bright iridescent red, green and yellow with a wood handle and space-age shape. I bought it and brought it home and tucked it away, gradually adding towels, spatulas, salt and pepper shakers in all the bright colors I imagined my new kitchen would radiate. (My boyfriend preferred black.)Coaster 4

It may seem like a silly thing, but gazing at that non-black kettle got me through some dark days until I moved it into my new home filled with light and ocean air and put the kettle on for a cup of tea.

More Thoughts on Spring Cleaning – Part 2

I’m nearing the end of my 40/40 Project – the challenge to get rid of 40 bags of “stuff” in 40 days. I thought it would be 40/50, that is, take me 50 days, but it’s turning out to be more like 30/40. I don’t have enough extra possessions to fill 40 bags!

Moving here last summer forced me to bring my stored boxes and bins indoors, since I have no garage, just a carport. They didn’t fill my garage before (I liked to park in there), but now they fill my office closet and I’m already anticipating having less space when I downsize next year. So this project has turned out to be a motivating curse/blessing. I can easily see what I have to sort through – no out of sight, no respite for me.

Overall, I probably have less than many people, since I’ve moved every few years and lived alone for 15. As a writer, my area of clutter lies mostly in files, folders, boxes and baskets of projects and in notebooks filled with ideas, plans, plots, notes, marketing logs, research. And writing, of course. A writer can never have too many notebooks! Except when there’s no place to put them.

In a few weeks of diligent paring down, I’ve burned out my shredder, so I turned to my fireplace to burn more confidential information, such as the tax records showing I earned poverty-level wages during my journalism career. Would anyone want to steal that identity? I doubt it, but I shred/burn anyway. As for my raw, half-baked writing, I don’t care if people see it in trash or recycle bins. Maybe they will laugh or recycle the ideas?

As I wrote before, this 40/40 Project requires 20/20 vision. It also requires courage, a lot of courage, to confront old dreams, ghosts that still haunt us, taunt us, when we open yet another box.

Just which ones do we let go, watch crumble in flames, fill our chimneys with soot? Which dreams do we let drift off and be released into the night sky? Is anything left to rise from the ashes or just a sooty aftertaste in our mouths, lungs and hearts?

The ashy smell lingers for days, but the old boxes are empty and light, leaving room for new dreams and the courage to embrace them.Shred and Burn

Spring Cleaning on Fast Foward

Some nut job with nothing better to do has dreamed up a new challenge for those of us who have enough to do already, thank you very much.

Her challenge is: get rid of 40 bags of stuff in 40 days. Since her idea appeared around March 5, the 40-day timeframe probably corresponds to Lent this year (Easter is on April 20). Giving up something. And what better time than Spring? Renewal, rebirth. You don’t have to be religious to appreciate that.

But to undertake the 40/40 Project, you have to be zealous to some extent. Just like a missionary knocking on every door to find converts. Closet doors, cupboard doors, cabinet doors, garage doors where the lapsed possessions lurk. They don’t need to be saved since they already are, but they yearn for salvation, new life in new location, Salvation Army filled with Good Will.

Since I’m on a path to create a simpler life, to downsize, I decided this 40/40 Project is perfect for me. I’ve been wanting to pare down for awhile. If I grab a few bags and open a door a week and a drawer or file box a day, I can do it!

Letting things go is not easy. It requires 20/20 vision – the ability to see ourselves and our lives clearly and to make decisions quickly. Will we ever wear the pin-striped power suit again? The purple dress? The turquoise pants with black blotches that seemed fine at one time?

Will we ever throw that Christmas party we’ve been planning for 20 years? All those silky green and red lanterns, napkins, glassware, recipes. The invitation I hand-lettered after I took a calligraphy class.Zoe on File Box

Will we write the mystery novel we filed away? Will we need the papers we slaved over in high school and college on the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, Shakespearian character development, politics in Germany between world wars? Will we re-read the once-timely articles we saved, the issue of Time magazine dated September 11, 2001? Some decision are easier than others. There’s no longer any need to save what we can find on our computers or the Internet.

Some items with sentimental value are difficult or impossible to discard. My grandmother’s Scottish cookbook and recipe cards, even though they are falling apart. A few pieces of my mother’s china and silver. My collection of old letters from relatives long dead, husband long-ago divorced, boyfriends, other friends. I used to fantasize about sitting in a rocking chair on a front porch in old age and reading them all with good memories. But the closer I get to rocking chair age, the less appealing it sounds. I’d rather read something current and be in the now and carry my memories inside.

Zoe in BoxI am soon in the 40/40 flow! Motivated to move forward! I fill little bags, big bags, count an old suitcase as a “bag,” add items here and there to my trash bags. I hang on to a few family items and will gradually hand them over to my sons and daughter-in-law. My file folders are lean and functional, containing only what I’m working on now and a few ideas. My clothes have room to breathe. I feel more ready to make my next move to a smaller home. If there’s a 40-day flood here (and we are in tsunami territory), there’ll be less floating around.

Truthfully, it’s 40 bags in 50 to 60 days for me, since I took a vacation and some days have said “Screw It.” But as the inventor of this project said, it’s the spirit that matters and I’m sorry I called her a nut job. She saved me from having to pay for a professional purger and from having to lug and store more than I need to my next home.

My Ugly Out Back, Taming the Last Frontier

I’m almost all settled into my new place now. Everything’s unpacked, put away, hung up or enjoying a second life at the Good Will.

The only unsettled area is what I’m calling My Last Frontier and what an artistic friend of mine dubbed The Ghetto.

For two months, the patio and gravel area behind it were my junkyard. Anything I couldn’t find a place for went out into the ugly beyond – shoe racks, shelf units, bulletin boards, old towels, plastic bins full of who knows what.

According to feng shui, this area corresponds to my romance sector. Now I don’t really believe in feng shui, but if I did, I’d be in big trouble out here. Lots of old junk. Many discards. True, I also have living and flowering plants scattered around, but many are of the arid climate variety with prickly spikes. Ouch.

Finally, with my pre-move energy returning, I go out to tackle the Last Frontier Ghetto. I make piles. Keep. Foist off on family. Good Will. I stuff all the GW items into my car and the faux heirlooms into a closet.Last Frontier

This improves my view somewhat. I now see there are two distinct areas – the concrete patio with an overhang, and the outer Siberia hinterlands, a combination of gravel, round and square stepping stones in no particular order or design, ugly green carpet, tall, dead plants someone left behind in plastic pots, electric meters, and the wall of the carport with my car peeking through. There is no bamboo tall enough to block all that, not within 10 years or my budget anyway.

I can, however, banish Siberia from view with bamboo blinds. I’ll hang them from the patio overhang. Enclose the patio and focus on that for now. Add soft curtains, more artfully arranged plants and flowers, and maybe a love seat and candles?

My next door neighbor has blinds hanging around her patio, so I walk up close and examine how they are hung. Then I take a quick peek around the blinds into the patio. I had already imagined she had a cute little table and matching chairs and I’ve heard her out there enjoying wine or beer with her boyfriend. But there is no table or chair. There are just piles and piles of junk! Boxes, old furniture, various pieces of machinery. It’s a junkyard. This is what happens when we don’t have garages. And even with a feng shui no-no of a junkyard in her romance sector, she has a boyfriend. At least for now.