Saturday, September 19, 2009

Less is More

I just got off the phone with my husband. His last words to me were, "remember, less is more". I chuckled. Women get the bad reputation of being the pack-rat, but in our household I think Rob is equally to blame. His statement to me though was about his mother. He and his brother and brother's wife are all in Columbia packing up my mother-in-law who has only been in assisted living there since January when she and my father-in-law moved in right after he was diagnosed with cancer. When we moved them in we took mainly their bedroom furniture, a couple of chairs, clothing and toiletries. A few weeks after they moved in my father-in-law had his desk/cabinet combination moved up to their apartment there at the assisted living so I'm sure Rob is dealing with getting that moved out (which by the way he wants to move into this house).

In the subsequent months after my father-in-law died Rob and I have gone down nearly twice a month working on getting their main house packed up and things donated, distributed, sold.
Besides just being emotional going through over 60 years worth of things packed into a house they have lived in for the last 25 years and trying to decide what to do next it has become somewhat frustrating. You see, we moved into our new home in December of 2008 and hadn't unpacked when we found out Rob's dad was dying. So when they moved into their assisted living we suddenly found ourselves bringing some of the items they wanted us to have into our new home. Our garage looks like it could be a used furniture and appliance store - albeit some nice furniture since one piece is my mother-in-law's china cabinet she wants Laura to have and another piece is an antique maple secretary; and then there's the bonus room of our house - I can barely stand to go up there and that's what I did this morning for a while - yikes! When did we accumulate so much - STUFF!

The problem with our STUFF is that Rob and I find ourselves somewhat sentimentally attached to pieces of furniture. I have this buffet and china cabinet and two corner pieces that belonged to my Aunt Bertha (my grandfather's sister) - in 1984 after she died her grandson didn't want them and sold all four pieces to us for a song. I love those pieces because they are solidly built (sort of like Aunt Bertha was) and date back to probably the mid-1940's. The pieces were made in Alamance County, NC and that means something to me since most new pieces are now made in China or some other foreign country and not made as well. But the thing I like the most is that on the corner of my buffet where you would really have to look hard I can see my cousin Drew's name etched into the wood. I imagine he was a little boy learning to write and either wrote on the buffet (he was precocious) or he bore down hard on a piece of paper while printing his name.

We also have Rob's parents maple bed that they started their housekeeping with in 1946 and one day it will go to Laura. When we got it from them some years ago I had it refinished and when we got it back it was beautiful. Will's bedroom suit is from his great-grandparents and that furniture dates back to the mid-1920's.

The oddest piece of furniture though that Rob and I can't seem to part with and is rather silly of us too: it's a 1978 Lazy Boy recliner. Yep, I'm ashamed to admit that I just can't part with the darn thing. The chair belonged to Rob's Uncle and when it was new it had that 70's gold and orange plaid thing going on so we did re-upholster it in 1994 - it's a lovely (I'm kidding) dark green corduroy - in my defense that was a nice fabric when I selected it in 1994. Rob's uncle loved that chair and honestly it works perfectly and is still comfortable, but I do long for a more stream-lined less Archie Bunkerish style chair that doesn't take up much room and is more "modern"! At some point we'll put it up in the bonus room because eventually that will be "Rob's Man Room". Don't ask - and don't imagine too much either!

But - back to Less is More. I really did well with not accumulating too much, but when our relatives started downsizing and dying we seemed to get stuck - I mean - inherit these pieces of furniture. When we moved from our home in Greensboro to this one we promised that we would get rid of excess stuff and we did to a point, but I can't give up the kids stuffed animals which are now stuffed into Rubbermaid or the children's books - I love children's books and someday hope to be reading them to grandchildren -then there is my Terry Competition solid mahogany water ski, the 1970 something coke machine, the 400 pound butcher block table (that by golly will get moved into my kitchen at some point), the two beautiful sinks Rob brought back from Mexico but refused to install in our house in Greensboro because we might move and build a house one day - okay - get the picture! Please don't even email me about Craig's list and eBay - not going to happen. Been there done that - hate it.

I figure Rob and I have about 25 years to really pare down our belongings and I am determined to do so. I plan to do as our relatives did - give it to my children! I have threatened everyone I know telling them to please not buy me anything that is a nick-knack. You know what I mean - those cute little "things" that sit on shelves, dressers, or are stuffed into cabinets. Seriously, what was with people of my mother-in-law's generation and collecting things. I don't mind pieces that integrate with the decor, but to have pieces just sitting around collecting dust - no thanks. I like useful objects, practical things. They can be pretty, but they must be functional. Okay I can hear people who know me saying, "what about all your books". That's different. Seriously though - I get it - less is more - but when it comes to getting rid of STUFF - who's STUFF are we going to get rid of? I vote Rob's STUFF! (Just kidding dear!)

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