I remember when I moved to this tiny condominium from a fairly large duplex. Before that, I lived in a three-bedroom house with only two people to spread out and do all kinds of projects. I cut down considerably for the duplex, and then I came to Hot Winds, the town where all blather blows. Rents and mortgages are sky-high and floor plans are low in square feet.
When I moved, it was the first time I hired a professional mover. If I am smart, I will never do that again. It cost the moon, and they wrecked one file cabinet, my sewing machine, and double-dinged my sofa. Plus I slept on the floor for two weeks because they warehoused my load instead of bringing it on. In my own truck I had a cat, a box of pans and toiletries, another box of cleaning supplies, a yard chair, and a pair of binoculars that somehow got left out of a box. When I unpacked, I felt like Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window, with a soupcon of the Joads added in.
But before that, I had to cut down.
I did it by math. I was moving from 1500 to 500 square feet, so every category had to be cut by two-thirds. That was 1. large furniture, 2. occasional furniture, 3. memorabilia, 4. financial records, 5. books, and 6. kitchen/bath. And art supplies, sewing supplies, scrapbooks, etc etc.
I never did succeed in cutting down the books two-thirds. At that time I had about 3,000 volumes. But I spent a long majority of time on this. RiverTown had eight used bookstores. I would cull down and take boxes in for trade. One day I had twelve cartons to trade. The first store took five of them and in exchange I took three books. What a deal!
I took the rejected seven boxes to the next store, and then on and on. The eight-times-rejected last two boxes went to Goodwill. In the meantime, I had garnered a huge box of New Books. The only one I remember for sure getting from that trade-a-thon is An Encyclopedia of Georgian England, which I still have. It's a great book. And I got it down to about 1500 volumes, which I thought was pretty good.
Financial records can only be pared down so much. But I threw out, sold, gave away, and traded around a bunch of items. One person at my bookstore had become an amateur carpenter. I gave away the table he had made me as a gift. But I was afraid he'd find it elsewhere. I drove out of town and left it at a Goodwill in another region of Louisiana.
I find that much of what I own still has out-sized identifiers on it. I watched a friend of mine go through a hell of grief--both her parents died, and her sister committed suicide. She was drowning in old possessions to either sell or keep or real estate that needed serious rehab. My book trade-a-thon was a small piece of what she was trying to do. When my husband died, I determined I wouldn't get stuck as she did. Plus I had to sell a bunch of it in order to keep going for awhile.
Most of what is in the closet is not clothes. It is old memories. I threw out so many pictures when I moved, but I still had eight small albums of them (still do). I have files on everything I've ever studied, including the best artist postcard collection you've ever seen. I have tin boxes from a great-grandmother I never met and china cats from a grandmother that passed away--my other grandmother's bread knife and my grandfather's bow tie, gloves and pitchers and silver trays I never used even in the day and who knows what all?
All of these things could be valued and valuable to my life. But at what point do they hinder the growth of new life? Part of the reason I have been taking so long is that it is hard to figure out what would be a representative collection. Because I do not want to be buried along with the dead people in my life. I want to move forward. But I don't want to forget them either.
It's not that I love the possessions, or couldn't live without them. I love the people, and I love the history. But too much personal history is not conducive to personal movement. It does me no good to save Christmas ornaments if there's no place to put a tree, for instance. So, either the ornaments go, or something else leaves that makes room for a tree, and a Christmas party--a joyous celebration in the middle of winter. Determining between those two is easy. But then there are follow-up choices that have to be made. Each of them requires some painstaking thinking.
I got rid of the dinged-up couch months ago and have yet to find a replacement. The two dress forms are going to go--place for a Christmas tree if I want one. The photo albums are staying and so is my grandfather's bow tie. The silver Elegant-Ware is out the door someday soon.
For some people, these will look like the wrong choices. For me, they will be the right ones.