A Moving Experience

Picture this: I’m driving my fifth carload of stuff from my rental place to my new home. I’m sweaty, tired, and sick of traffic. I ache all over. I’m so done with this whole process. And then my car signals me that one of my doors is ajar.

This is a 25 mile commute from one house to the other, entirely on the interstate, cutting right through the heart of Seattle. (If you haven’t experienced Seattle traffic, you are one lucky human being, indeed. There’s nothing quite like it.) And I was in the express lane, so there were no exits for miles. Suffice it to say there was no possible way for me to pull over and deal with my doors.

So there I was, hurtling down the interstate, with images of my door popping open and scattering my possessions all over the road, causing a 50 car pile-up.

It was not a fun drive.

And then I began thinking about those possessions. Assuming that I didn’t kill people in the process, would I miss them if I left them on the highway? To be honest, no. Not for the most part, anyway. I think I’d actually find it to be a relief if I had less stuff in my life.

I’ve been trying to eliminate things, and I definitely have a lot less than I did when I was in Florida. But I still have a lot. As I was packing, I’d ask myself if I had used that thing in the past year. Did I need it? Did it have sentimental value?

Maybe from now on I should ask myself if I’d be upset if each thing wound up sitting on the side of the interstate like that unexplained lone shoe that you encounter every now and then. Now that is a yardstick to measure things by.

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Do You Have a History of…

Packing for a move is always an interesting experience. It gives you an opportunity to really look at all of your stuff. I often encounter things I had forgotten I have. And that makes me wonder why I still have those things. If I could live without them for this long, why am I holding on to them? The pressure is even more intense since I’m moving to a much smaller place with very little storage.

With each item, I have to ask myself, will I ever read this, wear this or use this ever again? No? Then out it goes.

Some things have sentimental value. I do have a right to a certain amount of clutter after 52 years of living. At least that’s what I tell myself.

But the things I struggle with most are the “someday” things. For example, I’ve kept that bag of printed cloth because someday I want to make a quilt. And I’ve kept my pottery tools because someday I want to take up pottery again. And that box of cables, wires, and adapters… well, you never know when they’ll come in handy.

That’s when I have to get all adult-y and say to myself, “Barb, do you have a history of quilt making? Do you see yourself with immense amounts of spare time to all of a sudden take up new hobbies? Do you have enough of a burning need for cables that their storage would offset the expense if you ever had to buy one of these obscure items?”

Adult-y Barb has allowed me to donate a lot of things to Goodwill. But I only listen to her sporadically. If you saw some of the crap I have hauled across the continent just because… well… who knows why… you’d laugh.

I have no idea why this purging of the superfluous is such a struggle for me. I know for a fact that the less junk I have surrounding me, the better I feel. What I really need is a good flame thrower. But don’t tell my homeowner’s insurance agent that I said that. And don’t get any ideas, either.

I’m about to walk into my kitchen and get rid of every single gadget I haven’t used in the past year. Because, while I’d like to imagine myself as someone who will throw dinner parties… Not so much. Wish me luck.

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Kindly ignore the superfluous L.

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My Mall Dream

When I was little, I used to fantasize about being locked in a mall after closing time. Of course, for this to work, none of the individual stores would be locked and there would be no security whatsoever. I’d get to spend the night going from shop to shop, getting anything I wanted for free. Clothes, toys, books… I’d also be able to eat whatever I wanted, and in the end, I could sleep in the mattress section of the biggest department store. I never gave much thought to what would happen the next morning.

Funny. My idea of heaven on earth at age nine is my idea of hell on earth now. I avoid malls whenever possible. If I wind up in one more than once a year, something has gone seriously wrong in my world.

The older I get, the less interested I am in accumulation. I recently went to a craft fair and enjoyed myself immensely. I liked seeing the creativity and admiring the craftsmanship, but not once did I have even the slightest desire to buy anything.

Stuff just doesn’t appeal to me anymore. I don’t think I’ve shopped until I’ve dropped since my early 20’s. Part of that is, of course, because finances are tight. But mostly I look at objects as things that I will have to lug to wherever my next address will be, and after having moved across country with a ton of crap that I’ve since disposed of, I just don’t see the point. The mere contemplation of the sheer weight of it all makes me tired.

Now I’d much rather collect digital photographs of my life experiences. I prefer to remember living rather than bury myself in a mound of possessions. I also pity the poor schmuck (likely my sister) who will have to sort through and dispose of all this junk when I shuffle off this cluttered mortal coil, so for her sake, I try to keep it to a minimum.

As I sit here, I can’t think of a single thing I want or need besides groceries. Because of that, I am more generous with myself when it comes to food. I try to buy local and organic whenever possible and cost be damned. I look forward to when my farmer’s market reopens for the season. I look at these purchases as gifts to myself, for my well-being. And the better I feel, the less I look to inanimate objects for my happiness. So it comes full circle.

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Your Stool is Worth HOW Much?

My doctor was running late. (Aren’t they always?) So I found myself sitting in a waiting room with nothing good to read. Out of pure desperation, I began flipping through a fashion and style magazine. I figured that would be good for a laugh, and I was right.

It never ceases to amaze me how much people are willing to spend (read: waste) to be on the cutting edge of fashion. I’m sorry, but there are really only so many ways to make pants and shirts and shoes. It’s all been done before. A famous label added to a time-honored tradition of clothing doesn’t render it superior. You can pay a fortune for clothes, unless, like me, your priorities lie elsewhere.

To a certain extent, I feel sorry for people who think “stuff” is important. I inwardly chuckle at people who say, “He who has the most toys wins.” Actually, no. He who has the most toys has less money to spend on life experiences.

Life experience. That’s what’s really valuable. Making memories with people that you love. Seeing new places. Doing new things. Learning. Helping others. Making the world a better place. These things may not take up space in your closet, but they are priceless.

Stuff, on the other hand, wears out, gets outgrown, falls out of favor, takes up space, and will become one more thing to add to the Goodwill bag when the people who survive you are left with the unpleasant task of sorting through your mounds of crap.

While skimming that magazine, I was thinking that I pity those people with their priorities skewed toward accumulation. But then I flipped the page and saw an advertisement for a 3 footed stool. Granted, it was a beautiful stool, but it costs $1,900.00.

That’s when I nearly lost it, right there in the waiting room. In what world must you be living that you think a foot stool is worth throwing away 1,900 US dollars to obtain? It’s. A. Stool. A stool! Come on, people!

How can you be that selfish? How can you buy a stool like that when people are sleeping in the streets? How can you say to yourself, “I know that many children only avoid total starvation because they participate in a school lunch program, but hey, I need a stool.”

And when all is said and done, that stool will wind up in the same place your other stool does: in a landfill somewhere. Let’s face it: you can’t take it with you. That’s all stuff is, really: garbage that just hasn’t reached its final destination yet.

Wake up, people. Please. I’m begging you.

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Glutton Free

Since I’ve come to Seattle, I’ve noticed that a lot of people here are quite dedicated to having a gluten free diet. I’m not here to discuss the pros and cons of such a decision, but I do give kudos to people who take their health seriously. I’m not quite to that gluten free stage yet. Baby steps.

I’m still focused on becoming glutton free. I try to avoid buffets, because I generally overeat in an attempt to get my money’s worth, and then I leave there feeling slightly sick. This is not self-kindness. (But every now and then I can’t resist going to the Chinese buffet down the street to graze like a bovine. Rules were meant to be broken.)

I also tend to eat my anger. Piss me off and I can go through an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s Triple Caramel Chunk in one sitting. And before sending out for pizza, I need to learn to check in with myself and figure out if I’m fuming. I don’t know why I think that punishing my body is the best way to deal with my fury at an external source, but there you have it.

I must say that I am doing a lot better than I once did. I rarely have fast food. I do go for organic and local food whenever possible. Even though I tend to pinch pennies at the grocery store, I have given myself a free ride when it comes to fruits and vegetables. Money is no object in the produce section, and farmers’ markets are the one place in my world where I don’t even second guess my urges. The healthier the better, and prices be damned.

I’ve also moved more toward vegetarianism. I’d say that my “meatless Mondays” happen about 4 days a week now. But I must admit I still love a good burger every once in a while.

In terms of gluttony in other areas of my life, I think I’m doing better with each passing year. I really have very little desire to accumulate “stuff” anymore. In fact, I’m making great strides in getting rid of things. This is primarily because I’m sick of lugging all my junk from pillar to post. What good does it do me?

I’m much more interested in experiences these days, rather than possessions. A good memory means much more to me than a tchotchke. I chafe at the idea of even one more item that requires dusting.

So, I’m working really hard on the sin of gluttony. Next, I probably should tackle the sin of sloth.

Nah. Maybe tomorrow.

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Georg Emanuel Opiz der Voller, 1804

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Emotional Spring Cleaning

Yes, it’s the first day of summer, I get that. But it’s never too late to do some spring cleaning. Spring is a state of mind; a time for things to be fresh, vital, and new.

I’ve been getting rid of a lot of stuff lately. My last relocation, of 3100 miles, pretty much burned me out on the whole concept of lugging crap from pillar to post. I want to travel light.

With each load of junk that I drag to Goodwill, I feel as though I’ve lifted the equivalent amount of weight off my shoulders. And the truth is, it’s a rare occasion when I miss something after it’s gone. I hope to buy a house again eventually, and when that time comes, I want to have as little as possible to haul. That’s one of the reasons I refuse to buy a couch. It doesn’t make for comfortable social interactions, but the future me will be grateful.

Letting things go is important, and it isn’t strictly relegated to things material. It’s important to do emotional spring cleaning as well. End toxic relationships. Release grudges and resentments. Stop listening to that inner voice that is telling you that you can’t do something, and dust off those old talents that you haven’t used in a while!

Also, get rid of old e-mails that you no longer need. Delete those unfocused photographs. Remove contacts from your contact list that you know you’ll never contact again.

Lighten your load, people! You won’t regret it.

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When I’ll Know I’ve Arrived

I’m a painfully frugal individual. I’ve had to be, simply to survive. I would never have gotten this far if I hadn’t learned how to delay gratification and resist impulse buys. I’ve given up imagining that I’ll ever have even one room full of furniture that matches. I’m more of the found-on-the-side-of-the-road school of decorating.

For the most part that’s fine. I’ve long since learned that it’s not things that make me happy. I get more joy from the people I love, and my dogs, and writing this blog, and having a job that I look forward to going to, and exploring this world.

But I have to say that there’s one thing that I want like it’s killing me. There’s a shop called Earthenworks Gallery, and in it they include furniture by an artist named Sarah Grant. She makes tables and benches and headboards and trunks… all manner of furniture, and it’s absolutely delightful, colorful and thought provoking.

I want one of her dining tables. Not only are they stunning and whimsical, but all along the outer edge are sayings that make me smile. “Tell your story.” “Believe.” “Live life to the fullest.” “Enjoy the changing seasons.” Those are just a few of her pearls of wisdom.

When I’m able to buy one of these tables, I’ll know I’m a success. I say this not just because I can’t imagine ever being able to treat myself to a 3,000 dollar splurge, but also because to own a table like this, one needs to have a lovely room to put it in, and wonderful people to sit at it with. One would also have to have the confidence to know that things were going so well that there would be no regrets in buying such a wonderful work of art, and enough space to never feel the need to cover its beauty with clutter. I crave all of those things.

And then, of course, with a table like that you’d need some really nice chairs. Oh, and I also want one of her trunks, and a grandfather clock, and I’d love to sleep in one of those beds, and those benches are really cool…  It never ends, does it?

When Luxuries Become Necessities

I don’t own a clothes dryer, and I don’t particularly miss having one. It’s really not that inconvenient to hang things on a rack to dry. It takes about as long as it would to load the dryer. And I save on electricity and repair bills and space.

I also don’t own a hair dryer. Haven’t had one of those in decades. I’ve yet to be arrested by the fashion police. It takes a lot less time to get ready, and there’s less to pack when I travel.

I also don’t have a TV or an I-phone or a couch. Less stuff to lug from pillar to post. Fewer bills. Less to break down. I keep my kitchen gadgets to a minimum and I don’t collect stuff if I can help it.

I see it all the time. People get a nifty new little thingamajig, and it starts off as a luxury or a convenience or a time-saving device, and it quickly turns into this master/slave relationship, with the thing as the master. When you get something, you become responsible for it, and you also learn to depend upon it. People lose their doohickeys and they freak right out. How on earth are they going to survive without their whatchamacallit?

Stuff just weighs you down, dude. Simplify. You’ll be amazed how liberated you feel.

Having said that, get between me and my laptop or my washing machine and you’ll pull back a bloody stump.

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[Image credit: simpleIjustdo.com]

Giving

A well thought out gift will always say, “I cared about you enough to take the time to really think about what would make you smile.” What could be more special than the gift of caring? That’s why we say it’s the thought that counts. You took the time to know me, know what interests me, know what my favorite color is and what size I am, what I wish for, what I need. You took an interest. We don’t make that sort of effort for just anyone.

Today many people in the world will exchange gifts. Some of those gifts will gather dust on a back shelf, or be relegated to the “regift” pile. That’s so unnecessary. Those gifts were usually exchanged out of some sense of obligation. The ugly sweater that doesn’t fit from the distant relative. The coffee mug from the coworker who has overlooked the fact that you don’t drink coffee. Don’t even get me started on the inedible fruitcake. And the frustrating thing about these types of presents is that the giver and the receiver usually both know what a waste they are.

The world is already full of more stuff than we need. Why add to that mix stuff that won’t be used or appreciated? In recent years, when I have felt the need to give a gift to someone who isn’t in my most intimate circle of friends or relatives, I have given a microloan to Kiva.org or a donation to Heifer International in their names. That way someone who really needs help to help themselves will benefit, and you can share in that warm feeling with the recipient of that gift. You can’t go wrong like that, because I guarantee you that the life of someone, somewhere will be improved by your generosity.

Always remember the most basic reason for giving someone a gift. It’s a way to show love. In the end, that’s all that really matters. If you are not sincerely putting love into the process, the least you can do is send some care and consideration out into the wider world.

Happy holidays, dear readers.

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[Image credit: fanpop.com

Out I Shall Get

The minute my boyfriend passed away, my landlady decided that even though I only rent 1/3rd the square footage (and now presumably would be using much less electricity), I should now pay 2/3rds of the electric bill. When I said that this was unfair, she told me that maybe someday I’d grow up (I’m 49) and realize that luxuries had to be paid for. Luxury, in this instance, is apparently setting one’s thermostat anything below 79 degrees. I was also informed that because I did not socialize with her, I led a hermit lifestyle. I was asked to leave.

Then, at 4 o’clock in the morning, I got a text message from her unemployed, ex-convict son who at the age of 50 lives with his mother, and delights in leaving cigarette butts on my doorstep. He informed me that I was “born to be miserable,” and that he couldn’t wait for me to leave. You haven’t lived until someone of that high quality weighs you, measures you, and finds you wanting.

Then the rental search began, and as has always been the case in this town, the only affordable places were one step up from a cardboard box and/or right next door to a crack den. I was really starting to panic. Images of having to give up my dogs and sleep in my car. But eventually I found a place and will be moving in at the first of the month. I can’t wait, as things are now understandably tense around here.

Setting aside the fact that now that I’ve paid an application fee, a pet fee, and a security deposit, I haven’t a clue where I’m going to come up with the first month’s rent, let’s now focus on the stress of packing my stuff for the fourth time in as many years, and since this, too, will be a rental, there will be another move in my future.

Ugh. I long to be a homeowner one last time. I’d move all my crap in and never, ever, ever leave again. Ever. Gone are the days when I could move everything in one or two carloads. Now I require trailers and long-suffering friends. Why, oh why do I always move during the hottest month of the year? And why do I have all this junk? Most of it never got unpacked from the last few moves. These things are nothing but a packing box shaped albatross around my neck. I ought to just pile all this stuff up and set it afire. Preferably in my old apartment as I drive away for the last time. It’s not like she’s going to give me back my security deposit anyway, right?

On a lighter note, I’m actually excited about this new place. It has a bathtub. When I saw that, I nearly burst into tears. It’s been so long since I’ve rented a place with a bathtub that my body cannot remember what it’s like to be submerged in water. And it’s much closer to one of the bridges where I work. Also, unlike my current residence, it doesn’t have wall to wall dark green shag carpet that is nothing but a dog hair magnet, and the owner won’t be hoarding rusting piles of debris in the back yard. And best of all, I won’t share a wall with anyone, with or without a prison record. When you work graveyard shifts, you appreciate that quality above all others.

Having a better place to look forward to kind of takes the sting off of the weeks of packing in my future. It will also take me out of the neighborhood that is full of nothing but painful memories of my late boyfriend. And heaven knows the utility bill will be lower.

At times, even when you realize deep down that change is needed, it takes a little bit of a push to get you started. Sometimes it takes a hostile shove. But who cares, as long as you land in a soft place? So if you want me to get out, dear lady, out I shall most definitely get.

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