When my husband and I first started dating 20 years ago, I was very excited when he invited me over to his apartment for the first time for dinner. Looking around his mini one-bedroom place, which bore mostly the remnants of his college days, I quickly realized he was a minimalist. His bedroom furniture consisted of a one-man futon, a “table” that was actually an old electric cable spool and a typewriter table to hold his turtle tank. His living room held an old desk chair and arm chair from his parents’ house and his tv sat on his childhood nightstand. And in the kitchen was a two-man table from Ikea and an ironing board. “I never want to own more than I can fit into my Honda Civic because you never know where an opportunity may take you, or when,” he said. I had to laugh. By 23, I already had a storage unit, having moved from my apartment back in with my parents so I could go back to college. I thought to myself, "Well, this attitude is going to change!" And sure enough, it did.
When we moved in together, we discovered a joint love of flea marketing. He now loved to collect vintage radios and televisions (didn’t matter that none of them worked, they all looked cool). And I felt the need to recreate the comfort zone of a tortured childhood: my grandparents kitchen. As our now two-bedroom apartment filled up with my old furniture, old RCAs and every 1940s utensil we could get our hands on, it started to feel like a home…a very cluttered home. When we got married, rented a tiny house and had our first son, we felt the natural need to nest. “Nest” coming from the Latin word meaning “to collect crap.” We became very sentimental and whenever a relative was going to give away some item from our childhoods, we felt the need to become its caretakers. Dining room set, dressers, desks, paintings, books…we were doing our lineage a service by minding the mess.
When we bought our own home and had our second son, this naturally progressed. We have more rooms! Look at all the cabinet and closet space! Let’s fill ‘em! Aunt Mildred’s gone. Sure, I’ll take the bureau and sofabed. Grandma’s gone. Sure, I’ll take the dressers. Ooooo, look at that 1950s oven! It’s just like Grandma’s! Bring it on! When both of our parents downsized their houses, guess who took a lot of the overflow.
Now, something in me has either clicked or snapped (the verb depends on if you’re an optimist or a pessimist). Recently I began feeling the urge. The urge to purge. In the month since I’ve been back from my last trip to Los Angeles, I’ve purged probably half of my personal belongings. Clothes, shoes, jewelry, books…if I didn’t wear, walk in or read it in the past year, it's outta here. Same with the kids’ room. And this morning, since I’m childless for the rest of the week, I decided to tackle my “hot spot.” The kitchen. I started writing this blog in my head after I pulled my third fondue set from a cabinet. This is not 1974. There are no fondue-based key parties in my future. Bye-bye skewers and pots. Why the hell do I have seven pie plates? I have never baked more than three pies at one time, even on my biggest Thanksgiving. So long 9” Pyrexes. There are only four of us in this house. Why do I have 11 coffee mugs? Three crockpots? I have never made homemade French onion soup. And yet I have the crocks. I have the internet, I don’t need 12 cookbooks (at one time I had over 40, so only having 12 now is already impressive but I’m only keeping three). I think I now have two Honda Civic’s worth of crap to get out of this kitchen. If you’re looking for a gravy boat or vintage cake plate, better call me before my husband gets back from work!
I admit that when under stress, when I’m feeling a lack of control, I have the tendency to rearrange the proverbial deck chairs. I have arranged the furniture in this house in every possible configuration at one point or another, short of putting the only-semi-functional 1950s Norge oven in the living room. But as my next September birthday looms, I’m feeling a deep need to lighten loads, metaphorically and physically. I’m obsessed with shedding weight, shedding clutter, shedding stress. So far, I’m two-for-three.
I have a dear friend named Christina, a kindred spirit whom I’ve never actually met. She recently turned 30 and I’ve sometimes made fun of her for becoming overly reflective and worried about her life’s direction so early. And I really shouldn’t have. It’s never too early to reflect. Never too early to start sorting through your life. Whenever you’re facing transition, whether it’s a milestone age, a career change or some personal drama…it’s never too early to want to do something about it and think about where you’ve been and where you’re going. Sorry Christina. Keep on thinking and doing something about it. And let me know if you need a fondue set.