July 13, 2015

Beautiful and useful

As Stan and I prepare to enter our senior year of our degrees, the fact that we're going to be done in less than a year has started to be a bit loomy. And yes, we think/fret/pray about things like getting jobs after -- but more on my mind these days is the fact that we'll be moving again. In ten months or so we'll be putting all of our worldly goods on a truck and driving off to parts unknown. When we moved here we filled a 14-foot u-haul pretty much all the way.... and of course, we've been accumulating things since then. This is the longest I've lived in one place since I moved out of my parents house and so I haven't had to declutter as regularly as I have in the past.

I do not want to be driving a 17-foot truck if we can help it... never mind anything larger! And as we've watched some friends of ours prepare to move to the Arctic (sea lift and all) I have been hit by a major decluttering bug. Out, possessions! Out, out, out! This morning the VVA came by and picked up two bags and one box of sundry goods -- at least half of which were baby blankets -- as well as a large and horrifying toy box. The itch to divest myself of stuff was at least momentarily scratched -- though I'm already looking around to see what else can go out with the next pickup.

This sort of thing was not always so easy for me. I am a packrat by nature, and I come from a long and distinguished line of packrats. Those of you who know me may also know that I tend to anthropomorphize objects. When putting clean dishes away I always put the clean ones on the bottom, so that everything gets used evenly and nobody's feelings get hurt. Truth. And my mother will recall the bitter tears shed when we got rid of the toothbruth holder that I had known and loved all of the (ten) years of my life. I'm sentimental. This is just my baseline; and I'm definitely not against owning things. We're not minimalists -- just look at our bookshelves.

But I think where things have shifted for me is that I'm tired of owning things I don't like. Or don't use. Or wouldn't have in my house at all except for the fact that it carries some sort of sentimental connotation or psychic debt. (Like the wedding present it took me four tries to get rid of, because I love the person who gave it to me, even though the present itself was something I didn't like and would never use.) I am finally starting to be ruthless with my possessions.

Now, I finally agree with William Morris: "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful."

We're not there yet. But we're getting closer. Today we went to see said Arctic-moving friends, who are selling off everything they weren't able to put on the sea lift. We got a few books (ie, useful objects), but we also got a painting. A big painting! A big, impractical, lovely, happy-making painting that I know to be beautiful. And it is useful, too, taking our living room focal point from this:

Generic Ikea print left over from Stan's bachelor days (now in exile on floor in hallway)
to this:

Beautiful seascape, plus bonus accidental shadow from my hand
Le sigh. Le prrrr. I would like to have fewer things in my house, true -- but those that are left, I would like to be beautiful and/or (preferably and) useful. Today was a win in that regard.

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