“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
Two weeks ago, Jason and I moved into a new house. We decided to weed through our belongings on the back side of the move, in the new house, when we would have time to carefully decide what we really needed/wanted/loved, and what was just taking up space.
It’s easier said than done.
Complicating this process are the contents of a 10 x 10 storage unit that I rented in 2006 when I moved here from Alabama. The plan was to rent a small apartment with then-husband until he got a job and we found something we wanted to buy. This was supposed to take a few months. After a year, then-husband still didn’t have a job and I had moved out. I bought a small house, a life raft which would keep me afloat for a few years. It was only 1195 square feet (plus a garage), and didn’t have space for things like my grandmother’s dining room table or a bunch of photo albums and books from college courses. So I waited. Hard truth no. 1 – waiting sucks. One third of my personal belongings waited in a climate controlled storage unit that I called the Time Capsule.
To be fair, 90% of the “stuff” that waits to be sorted belongs to me. Jason and I already went through our books – we had three or four copies of “The Catcher in the Rye” between us, which is what happens When English Majors Intermarry. Beyond that, he didn’t bring much besides clothes. Hard truth no. 2 – divorce makes you a refugee of sorts, picking up the pieces from the implosion of your marriage. You may end up with single shoes, half of a photograph, someone else’s spare car key.
I’ve found that the hardest things for me to part with are books and gifts. I found myself hanging onto a lot of books from college, because I felt that they made me look smart. “Look! I read the History of the Peloponnesian War one time! There it is, nestled between the Agricola and the Res Gestae! Please take me seriously!” Hard truth no. 3 – no one cares what I read in college. Hard truth no. 4 – my bookshelf is not an indication of my intelligence. It’s a lazy shorthand.
Gifts are also difficult to part with. I have uncovered stationary with my maiden name monogram, gifts from old boyfriends, gifts that were given thoughtlessly. Gifts whose giver I cannot recall. Hard truth no. 5 – when a gift becomes a burden, it is no longer a gift.
This new house is a clean slate. It’s neutral territory. And while there is plenty of space for the kids and the animals, there is no room for ghosts. Jason and I are taking this step forward together, to build a home that is ours through-and-through, and to create a space where the children can be happy and safe as we continue to figure out how to be a family. Hard truth no. 6 – families don’t just happen, they have to be built. This is especially true if you’re building from scraps, and not new materials.
I don’t know if I mentioned this, but I TOTALLY FREAKING LOVE the house. Obvious? Perhaps.