As I type this on Monday morning, it’s -5F with the wind chill. The whole house shakes with each gust. I’m grateful I don’t have to go anywhere, as it’s a holiday. I’m pretty sure my car wouldn’t start in this cold anyway. Respect to those of you who deal with extreme cold regularly; I’m in the US mid-Atlantic, which means it’s forecast to be 50F on Wednesday. Cold visits here, but it doesn’t settle in for a long stay. We’ve had snow on the ground for a week, and soon it will be gone.
I have 16-year-old twins, one of whom doesn’t use his dresser. He has a system: he hauls his clean clothes up from the basement in two large laundry baskets. After he wears them, he drops them on the floor. When all his clothes are on the floor, it’s time to do laundry. Since I don’t do their laundry, and haven’t in years, and it’s his room, I keep my complaining about it to a minimum. Mostly, I force him a couple times a year (spring and fall) to hand over whatever he’s outgrown so I can bag it up for the thrift store and replace as necessary.
Anyway, he’s making some changes in his life. He’s gotten sick of his messy room in general, and his clothing situation in particular. We’ve spent much of the weekend tidying up and reorganizing, and I see how hard it is for him. Whatever executive-function skills you need to clean a room in logical order just doesn’t come easily to him. When I suggest that he, say, wipe the awful dust piles off those empty bookshelves before he moves the books onto them, and then take the other, now-empty bookshelves to the hall blah blah blah it’s all just too much.
We were packing up multiple boxes of stuff they were ready to part with – music boxes, children’s books, toys, etc. – and I watched them exploring their emotions. What to keep and what to give away? They stand in front of each other holding some object and say, sarcastically, “Does this spark joy?” And then they snicker. Marie Kondo has reached all corners of the universe, apparently. I watched an episode of her new show on Netflix (it’s inspired loads of people to jettison piles of stuff) and…. I take back all the crappy things I’ve said about her. She makes people happy, and I appreciate her whole meditation on gratitude as part of the process. We could all use more of that. I still think she’s a bit of a nutjob; she organizes kitchen utensils by size (!) and then there’s the story about how she broke her favorite ruler trying to tighten a bolt, because she’d gotten rid of her screwdriver (not joy-sparking enough). We’re different folks. I have an entire toolbox on the first floor behind a door and it sparks joy every time I reach into it, which is pretty regularly.
My house is clean and relatively tidy, but as anyone who’s visited can tell you, I am not a minimalist. It’s charmingly cluttered, the way I want it to be. It’s a cottage feel; old fashioned, with books on the shelves and tons of artwork and mini tableaux on the horizontal surfaces. Anita visited awhile back and commented on the staging. And it’s true – it’s a stage for me. It’s a movie set for my life, and I’m particular about the details. Looking at the individual items, though? They’re not fraught with meaning. They spark joy collectively. It’s cozy, and I want it that way. But if you snapped your fingers and everything downstairs was gone, I wouldn’t be heartbroken. Sure, I’d need more dishes and furniture and whatnot, but I wouldn’t grieve the loss of any particular piece of it.
In my former life I had an elegant home. Now it’s the cozy cottage. There’s a game I like to play in my head called What’s Next. At some point I’ll leave this place, cozy as it is. I imagine I’m moving to Santa Fe, to a little casita just for me. I won’t need my fancy dress clothes, so jettison those. I’ll have to pay to move my possessions, so what would I bring? The thought of packing a few things in my car and walking away from all the rest of it gives me such a rush. I’d take my books (and thus the shelves), and most of my kitchen stuff, and my Bose stereo, and the tchotchkes that legit spark joy like my Kuan Yin statues and some paintings, and maaaaaybe my dad’s coffee table which I took and repaired after he died. (It had collapsed under the weight of all his reading material.) And my perfume collection, of course. I mean, I haven’t lost my mind.
The rest of it? Eh. I’d hire one of those estate sale companies to come in and deal with it. Clean it out and send me the check.
And in my mind’s eye, my new place would be more minimalist. The kind of warm, still minimalism of a small house in the high desert. Just a few pieces of furniture in muted tones. My books. My music collection. I’d go all in with the local nature-scavenge – feathers and jackrabbit skulls on the windowsill, gleaned from long walks in the dry arroyos, and nothing on the adobe walls. It will be wonderful.
What about you? Is your home a stage for your life? Have you had dramatic changes in the staging? Do you picture something different in the future?