In February, when I had to tear my kitchen apart for six weeks, it seemed reasonable we’d manage to get through this project with as little pain as possible. Things went along just fine until it came time to put the dishes, pots, pans and various items used everyday for making meals back into the cabinets.
It seems there were not as many places to store things as in the previous arrangement of the room. I heard those dreaded words, “you’re gonna have to clean things out”. I’m not proud to admit I threw something of a hissy fit. I was absolutely convinced I needed every single item I had to prepare a decent meal. These items were precious, irreplaceable and necessary. We’d never eat well again if I was forced to discard any thing in those boxes we’d packed up several months before.
Then a funny thing happened, I started sorting through the various pans, dishes, and implements I thought I needed and realized that some things were still around just because I couldn’t seem to find the energy to get rid of them. I started to ask myself, “when was the last time you used this?” and by the time I finished, I had extra space in the new cabinets.
I realized I didn’t need all that excess baggage, and couldn’t believe how much better I felt just by getting rid of stuff. It made be begin to think about what I buy, why I buy it and how I could find ways to live a simpler, more sustainable lifestyle.
It reminded me of one of my Grandmother’s favorite sayings, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”. As a farmer’s wife in upstate New York, and the mother of thirteen children, that woman knew what she was talking about. She taught all her children and grandchildren how to be thrifty. It was time to review some of that knowledge.
As we moved through the house to put down wood floors, closet to closet, room to room, I discovered there was a lot of stuff I’d put away thinking I might need it, could use it, didn’t really want to throw it away. All good reasons for keeping things, but when you finally understand that you should keep only the things you really need, that are important to you or that are beautiful, there’s an incredible sense of freedom.
I started to think about the women who’d moved from the east to the west, searching for a new life, but finding it necessary to jettison the remnants of the old life along the way. I’ve considered the choices they had to make as they broke their lives down to the simple basics, and discarded the family heirlooms, coveted treasures and small luxuries of their old home to assume the basic austerity of the new, unknown future they faced at the end of the trail.
Have you faced a major life change in the past few years? How did you deal with it?
I think that’s what I’m in the midst of right now, as I search for the new territory of our closer to empty-nest home. I find the old haunts, like antique shops, thrift stores and flea markets no longer sing their siren song to me. I’m paring things down to the basics, and finding ways to shape a new life from the ashes of the old.
Change is hard, but change is also healthy and like a pioneer woman facing the unknown, I’ll be eager for the end of the trail, but also careful to enjoy the journey.
Deborah Schneider, RWA Librarian of the Year 2009
"Promise Me" coming January 2010, from The Wild Rose Press
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