I didn't know this until I had kids and they were old enough to attend the school fairs and win goldfish at the pingpong toss (a prize they were excited about for a day or two before I had to take over their care), but it seems that goldfish will grow to the size of their bowl. The BIGGER the bowl, the BIGGER the fish!
Not that I'm a minimalist, mind you, I've spent years accumulating decorative cake plates and Stoneware pitchers at the flea market to artfully display on my kitchen shelves, but I'm always a little taken aback when I see how much "stuff" people hold on to, and just how quickly their storage spaces FILL UP. In my role as a Realtor, I've noticed the bigger the house, the more homeowners collect. . . .
Having spent the last three days continuing to clear out the cabin, I've come to the conclusion that as I age, I am growing into a small-bowl-kinda gal. A second go-round at our newly acquired refuge included the efforts of my mother and Jill digging in for a deeper dive than Cliff and I had previously attempted when he and I spent two full days tossing broken, filthy, and misbegotten items that had piled up through the last two decades.
With little time to spare, Jill and I got down to business the minute we arrived, eliminating the overabundance of plates, glasses, silverware, pots & pans, and continuing to "debear" the rest of the mountain house. Clearly the previous owners had a "wilderness theme" but you only have to look at the glorious scenery outside to understand you are in the woods and on a lake. Given that the cabin only sleeps eight comfortably, is there really a need for 48 wineglasses of all shapes and sizes? Does every rug, blanket and lamp shade need a reindeer reminder? (Not really.) We even put mom to work sorting a few of the drawers. (In my family, everybody works.)
But before heading up, I stopped at the Container Store in Walnut Creek to purchase organizing aids and was startled to find so many empty shelves, as well as a long line of customers at the cash register. It seems with so much time on our hands, I'm not the only one cleaning up and clearing out. Evidently, America is on an organizing tear (good for you; I hope I hold stock.)
However, too often, this chore of editing doesn't come about until it's time to sell, and then it's an overwhelming task to be sure, made more difficult by tight timelines and an impending move. While I'd like to tell you that there is plenty of time to sort through your children's precious artwork, your mother's China, and your Halloween decorations, by the time Sarah, Jill, and I have arrived on the scene, "time" is usually of the essence. Chop-chop!
But if you find yourself frozen and intractable, it's time to call in a professional. My friend, Amy McEachern is the founder of Creative Moving and is a professional packer and moving concierge. She arrives with a bag of tricks including "Post-It" notes with the words, "Save," "Donate," & "Toss" written across them, and then quickly walks you through the house forcing Sellers to make decisions in record time (a girl after my own heart). Her team then gets busy packing up the entire house, lock, stock and barrel! The important kitchen items go with Amy in her car, so she can get the Buyers situated the moment they move in. To top it all off, she sets up a Kraft table for the workers and the homeowners alike. Need a power bar? Check. Thirsty? She's got you covered.
But for those of us who are on our own and not planning on moving anytime too soon, my rule of thumb is to get rid of one old item for every new "find" I bring into the house (donating two is even better), hoping to at least achieve some equilibrium even as I accumulate more than I actually need. (In truth, we all have more than we need.)
Hey, just because we have room to spare doesn't mean every nook and cranny should be crammed to the gills. Like the proverbial fish, give yourself some breathing room. It's no wonder that order is something most of us our craving with newfound appreciation in a world that's seemingly gone mad. Consequently, the Container Store is doing booming business (as is Amy); we're outgrowing our bowls and organizing and clearing out are ways to make our homes both saner and roomier!
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Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.