Tuesday, August 4, 2009

To Keep or To Purge - The Conflict in Efforts to Simplify

A messy counter, a stack of papers, an overloaded bookshelf of knickknacks, or a drawer stuffed with junk all drive me a bit loony! I like clean counters, sparsely furnished rooms, and just a smattering of select dishes. Some might label it as "Modernism" or my husband calls it "an unwelcoming house, not a home." Call it want you want, but that is how I like it.

Recently Dwell came out with an issue with examples of families who purged "stuff" down to the bare essentials. I would do that too, although I start missing a few of the items. Some items I just can't let go of because I bought it when I was overseas, or a dear friend gave it to me, or it brings up a special memory.

I have heard it said, that once you give it away, you will never regret it. I have regretted giving away a certain skirt that sat too high on my waist which could have been fixed at the tailors, a chair that did'nt look right in our last place has a perfect spot in our new place, and a book my youngest loved to read brings back memories and I wished I had kept those worn-torn pages.

When we moved into our beach home over a year ago, we dumped everything in the garage and slowly moved out items that we needed. Now that time has passed, whatever is still in the garage, I summarized, must mean that it is time to give it away or sell it.

Two weekends ago I pulled out two paintings of L'Avenue des Champs Elysées, a famous street in France, that we had bought at an art show and had hung them in our other place before we moved. It looked superb hanging on our purple, expansive walls, but did not go in our "beach home." We didn't need them anymore so no need to save them for another day. So I took photos of the paintings and was planning on putting them on E-bay to sell. In the meantime, I left them in our dining room instead of putting them back in the garage.

That Wednesday, a nanny came over to pick up my youngest for a playdate with her youngest of four that she takes care of. I wasn't there when she came by, but she saw the paintings leaning against the wall in the dining room and was sure her sister, who had decorated her house in a French theme, would love them. The nanny called me that day and inquired about the paintings and would tell her sister of their availibility.

That Friday night I received a text message that her and her sister would come over early the next morning to look at the paintings. They came and I had forgotten that she said she had an identical twin - a true spitt'n image of the other. I didn't know who to greet with a hug when I came into the room. They were on their way to the sister 2's wedding rehearsal and thought they would stop by (she was getting married the next day!). The bride-to-be said she couldn't make a decision without her soon to be husband, she would get back to me later.
To my dismay, that afternoon sister 1 called to see if it was okay if sister 2 and fiance' could stop by to look at the paintings again. They did, liked them, bought them with cash, and tried to fit them in their car. Didn't fit, so sister 1 and her husband came to pick up the paintings later that evening.

Funny thing about these paintings is that each sister bought one of the paintings to put over their beds in their new homes (sista 1 had recently gotten married too). The paintings were by the same artist and the view of the paintings were the same street although the view from each end of the avenue. The hurry to buy these paintings was (a bit obvious) because sista 2 was, well, getting married the next day and then going off on her honeymoon that Monday. Guess where they were going on their 10-day honeymoon? You got it. France. And they were planning to stroll down the famous L'Avenue des Champs Elysées.

After the paintings were taken to their new homes, the walls where they rested in our dining room looked empty and I was a bit sad because I actually really liked the paintings and my husband had picked them out himself and surprised me with them. But then, on the flip side, I was so happy because they would be in homes that would absolutely love and admire the paintings and they would have memories of the famous L'Avenue des Champs Elysées that they strolled down on their honeymoon and how they bought them the day before their wedding.

Have you ever given away something and regretted it? Do you freely purge or are you a "pack rat?" How do you simplify your house?

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  1. I am a true packrat! I form emotional attachments to things I've had for years. They have memories and a history. However, I am slowly getting better. Before we moved to Oregon we had to clean out a storage unit, our home and our garage. It was a huge job but so worth it. We purged so much JUNK! We hung on to several things thinking when we moved here we'd have a larger home. Well, that didn't happen...it is larger but only by about 180 sq. ft. Last fall we did a clean out and this fall need to do a more serious clean out. I finally have "almost" adequate storage in our new home, which is really wonderful. The one thing someone said to me once that really made me stop and think about all the "stuff" I have was "how will you feel when you die and your children have to deal with all of your stuff?" My husband, brothers and sisters-in-law are all scared of this when my mother-in-law passes away. She is a true hoarder!
    And yes, I have given away something I truly regretted. My dad found a wonderful arts and crafts lamp shade for a ceiling light several years ago. It made the one area where we could put it too dark so it sat in a box for years. I donated it to Goodwill and have regretted it ever since. I would love to have it for this home.
    ...and I agree with your husband...stark modern homes aren't "homey" unless done with warmth and character. I do, however, appreciate people who can live more simply than I do. All that clutter often clutters my brain and makes me crazy. I can deal with it until it gets to a place that I call "my point of no return". Once that happens I usually go on a crazy cleaning binge so I feel more in control of my life again. Hope this makes sense :-)
    Thanks again for a thought provoking blog!

  2. We just simplified our lives a step more recently by cleaning out our son's closet. That closet was screaming-- FIRE HAZARD!!!

    THREE large hefty black trash bags later (these bags were exploding!!!).... our son's closet is spic n' span. On the flip side all of his little baby clothes and even some of his first toys are gone with the bag! A little bit of sadness parting with my son's items.

    Regrets? Well, to be honest the only time I had a little bit of regret was when I had my best friend go thru the bags and when I saw what she retrieved a few of my heartstrings were pulled as I saw some of my ol' fave shirts of my son's, leave with her. The cool thing is I will get to enjoy those memories again sometime soon when I see her son wearing it. Way more than if I kept them in that dark closet, collecting dust! :)

    Overall, I like a good purge! :)

  3. I have a packing problem...there I said it. :) I also like homes that are minimal, but my own home is very cluttered with knicknacks that i just cant part with. But then I end up not really likely the way my home looks, but cant decide what goes. I've convinced myself that I'll simplify when we move..so we'll see.

    I do usually partake in a yearly closet cleaning (my husband has to help me part with some clothing items). I have clothes that I have not worn in over a year, but convince myself that I will wear them. My husband is good at helping me just get rid of stuff. So I load up trash bags of clothes and haul them off to good will. I always regret something that i gave away. One day I will be looking for the perfect top or dress and realize that I got rid of it. But if I dont get rid of old clothes, I can't get new ones!!! :)