Wednesday, May 15, 2013


The last week and a half I've been wandering through my house trying to figure out what to pack away and what to leave for my unknown tenant. Sometimes I wander physically and some days its more of a mental exercise.

In the dead of the afternoon, that wasteland of time called 4:00, when my brain doesn't work and the kids are being shuffled here and there I pack boxes and make decisions.

We've all been asked the question, 'What would you take with you if the house was on fire?' Now I'm asking myself the same question with a tweak. 'What could you never replace?'

I'm in the process of discovering most of the things in my home are replaceable. Of course, I've packed away my Great-Grandma Ruth's china and the photograph albums that predate digital pictures uploaded online. There's a chair that's very important to my husband. I've had to take down all the photographs in the upstairs hallway and my bedroom, which makes sense. Even though my children have great smiles, I can't blame my future tenant for not wanting to wake up to them.

What's more interesting is the stuff I'm not taking. My Grandma Peggy's china...didn't make the cut.

I should feel bad, I suppose. But I don't. Even now, as I write this post from my dining room, I can feel it glaring at me with accusations of neglect. The truth is I've never loved it and if a piece gets broken, my heart will remain intact.

The handsome antique clock on the mantelpiece; my parents gave it to us. It's sentimental, but I think it's going to stay and not keep time for my tenants. They too, can be amused when dinner party guests panic at its false advertisements of the lateness of the hour.

All this cleaning out and putting away makes me long for the days when I could move everything I owned in one or two carloads. I hate the way all these possessions press down on me. Sometimes when I'm making my mental tallies at two in the morning, I swear I can feel the physical weight of all the things in this house.

This weekend I packed two large boxes full of my children's possessions; things I think they'll want, but won't miss.

After that I filled two garbage bags with things they'll never know are gone. Just in case I'm keeping the garbage bags in the garage for a while, but the lightness I felt after I went through those things made me want to pare down even more.

Maybe our new house will be sparse and minimalistic!

Maybe we'll be able to control that human impulse to gather things, like squirrels gathering nuts for a long winter.

It's this size!
In the basement, lying in a crumple, is an enormous museum banner advertising 'French Impressionist Masters at the Morgan Library'.

It was a gift to my husband from a family friend. It's cover-the-front-of-the-house enormous with no practical use. It's been in our attic a long time and I'm wondering if it's recent appearance in the basement next to my overpriced pink flats that give me blisters means we're both ready to acknowledge the limited use of certain items and let go.


Beylit said...

I always want to let go of useless stuff that is gathering dust in closets, and yet the hoarder in me can never let things go.

Every summer when I do my post faire clean I make it a point to throw away as much as I can while I am too annoyed with clutter to be overly sentimental. I have yet to even remember I threw something out, so it is working so far.

Maybe this year I will make a bigger dent than in years past.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I've never been big on possessions, so I'd enjoy getting rid of stuff like that.
Funny about the clock!

Barbara Watson said...

We last moved eight years ago, and I minimalized for that move. Then I decided to live minimally ever since then. Not to the extreme you are now, but I donate things we don't use, have outgrown, or don't need at regular intervals. It is very freeing. Best to you as you continue.

(And your sentence about that wasteland that is 4:00...that's exactly how I feel about that hour!)

Rachel Schieffelbein said...

I tend to get sentimental over things. This would be hard for me. But, in comparison to the other members of my family I'm not so bad! I come from a long line of pack rats. :)

jaybird said...

In the past every time I've tried to throw things away, they magically appeared back in the house. It took me some time to realize The Husband who I like to refer to as a "Stage One Hoarder" was bringing it back in. Now, I try to throw stuff away while he's at work and the garbage men are on the way. But shhhh! Don't tell him that.

Joanne Noragon said...

Life was simpler when there were far fewer possessions. Since those times will never return without grim resolution on our part, you must sort and pack. Or leave it to its fate.

Johanna Garth said...

Beylit, maybe you could come talk to my daughter, you know, one semi-hoarder to another ;)

Alex, I think I need to make it a new resolution. No acquisitions!

Barbara, what is it about 4:00?

Rachel, I'm losing sentimentality fast.

Jaybird, that's my kids! They dig through the recycling bins!

Joanne, I'm opting for a combo of sorting, packing and fate.

Jan Morrison said...

Oh Johanna - between the end of August and the end of January we moved into three homes! Gah! I love getting rid of stuff - we don't own it - it owns us. And it accumulates with or without us! Good on you for dealing with it now.

Annalisa Crawford said...

There are very few things I'd want to keep, actually. I don't seem to have sentimental attachment to a lot of my possessions - certainly nothing handed down from generation to generation. I think, just quickly, I've narrowed it down to five paintings, a sword, and a very tiny cat figurine aside from the photos etc.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Oh lord, I hate packing. It's amazing how many donation garbage bags I've filled.

My sister has a great rule of thumb, if you haven't used it in a year what good is it? Of course that doesn't apply to sentimental things but curiously, even some of those things went by wayside--especially when I only kept them because of who gave them to me and not because I liked them. *shrugs


Unknown said...

When we move, hubby is hiring a company that picks up junk and get to clear out the basement. Lucky them. :P

Lovely clock!!!

M Pax said...

I've gotten rid of so much every time we've moved. Yet I still end up with boxes of stuff that never get unpacked...

Chuck said...

Johanna, you're not going to believe this but that exact clock is somewhere in my family, sister, cousin...someone has that clock. It used to belong to my grandmother.

Maybe it is fate that I read your post today...I have a desire a couple times a month to pile up everything in the house outside and set it on fire. I am so tired of all the crap my wife and I have collected and held on to. I get the true minimalist urge quite often.

Sadly the business I am in involves self-storage locations and I personally have TWO 10 x 15 rooms of stuff in addition to our 2500 sq ft apartment. Is that unbelievable??

On the plus side, this human gene that causing all manifestations of the hoarding syndrome in the population, keeps me employed!!

Chuck at Apocalypse Now

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Johanna,

I have been possession possessed for YEARS, but I am now finally downsizing. My collectables/ collections meant so much to me in the past, but now I obsess only over the really important things. Now it books ... LOL.

Julie Flanders said...

I'm like Mary, I throw away tons of stuff when I move, yet somehow I still end up with boxes of junk I never touch. I have lived in my condo for 10 years now and have several boxes in my storage unit that have been untouched since the day I moved in. I don't know what made me think whatever is in them was a treasure I couldn't part with when I moved!

Jenny S. Morris said...

I don't hoard at all because my parents always had too much stuff and I hated it. Good luck with the packing. :)

Neurotic Workaholic said...

I think the fact that I am slowly running out of floor space is proof that I need to clean out my apartment. So I can relate to the difficulty of figuring out what to keep and what to let go of. I just keep holding onto certain things for sentimental reasons, like a paper I wrote for my high school English class that I still like.