Thursday, December 03, 2009


A copy of this painting, Sugaring Off, by Grandma Moses, hung in our living room back home from the time I was a child until the old homestead was sold off in 1996. My mother, who was born in Connecticut and raised in Vermont, was a true New Englander in her tastes and her thrifty ways, and she got this painting for free, somehow. I don't remember if it was some kind of prize she earned on one of her forays into selling Avon or Stanley Home products, but nevertheless, this print became one of my mother's favorite possessions. So presiding over the drama and the comedy of our family life was the cheery scene of everyday people of a bygone day, making maple syrup.

Like I said, Mom was a true New Englander. She loved simple maple furniture and unpretentious decorating, and was a fan of pastoral themes and snow scenes. You could not pay her enough to have a painting on her wall of a seascape. She said that scenes of the ocean seemed lonely and depressing. Although her parents came straight from Italy, she never appreciated the more typically Mediterranean style of using bold colors, ornate furnishings, statuary, or window treatments and bedding made of rich fabrics. She liked pastels and understatement.

I must admit that she imprinted her aesthetics on me, but unlike her, I have been unable to just say no to a lot of things that are currently in my home which do not please me, and actually make my nerves all a-jangle.

My problem, or at least one of them, is that I do not possess that wonderful sense of proportion that my mother had, at least not consistently, and so when I think something is good, I sometimes think that having more of that good thing is even better. This is not a wise or accurate way to think; after all poison is in the dose.

For instance, when my youngest child was three and half years old, I thought that it might now be a good time to get a cat. (I never had animals when my children were babies, and that is a subject for another, perhaps lengthy post.) So we got a cat. And now I have four. And a dog. And expensive vet bills, prescription cat food, dog food, licenses, etc. Without the financial means, nowadays, to take all this in stride.

I don't mean to pick on the poor animals, whom I love dearly. There are so many other examples of my trying to grab all the gusto I could, or else not setting limits on others' gusto-grabbing.

What kinds of things am I talking about? Well, here is where it gets interesting, because our modern way of living has pushed much of this on me, and not just me.

I grew up in a cozy cottage that was less than half the size of my current home. We had one bath tub, two toilets, and three sinks. I now have three bath tubs, three toilets, and seven sinks. They had one television until about the last ten years of my mother's life, when they got a small TV for their bedroom. On this Christmas day, we will have five running, three of which are the larger, big screen types. We have four computers here. And thousands of dollars worth of video game systems and video games. We also have enough Christmas decorations indoors and out, to open our own store. Thankfully, common sense combined with laziness has prevailed this year and we are not decorating outside, and I am not going to put all my inside-the-house stuff out either.

Now granted, we recently had two of our adult children move back in with us, so there are six people living here currently. They brought a lot of their stuff, so we do have more than a small family would, but my point is that we do not need all of this, and in fact, it is a liability, at least to my mental health. I know I am not alone in all this, because everybody it seems, lives in bigger houses than than their parents did, and they have more stuff, and do more stuff. Are they feeling as crazy and out of control as I am?

Even though I inherited, and didn't buy at least half of these, I have way too much furniture, knick knacks, books, wall hangings, and heaven knows what else. Oh yes, I know what else: food.

Guess what? We cannot afford all this. And I cannot keep up with keeping it all clean and orderly. I am ready to revolt. More about that tomorrow.


  1. My husband and I have never had too much stuff, at least that is what we thought. After moving to Colorado and living in a rental for a year with a lot of our stuff unpacked, we thought we'd buy a smaller home than we're used to. We moved into our new house 6 months ago and I still have sorted everything out. Now that everything is unpacked, we are spilling over in places, especially the kitchen and basement. We have four Sterlite containers of Christmas decor and my inlaws who just moved to town have been more than generous in bestowing family heirlooms upon us which of course I simply cannot say no to.

    I have no time for anything other than food and general home upkeep and honestly, I'm going nuts!!! The disorganization is growing, the cabinets are barely closing, and I'm at my wits end.

    I cannot wait to hear about your revolt.

  2. That should be "still have not sorted..."

  3. Dear Jenny, if I could offer a suggestion, perhaps you could for now just keep out 1 to 3 things that your in laws gave you. Make them things that you really like. Or that your husband loves. And pack the rest away. That way you are not throwing them out, but merely getting them out of the way. Out of sight, out of mind. And perhaps down the line, you might be able to bless someone else with at least some of these things. The same goes for your other stuff; if you don't absolutely love it and or need it, just give it away, throw it away, or at least pack it up and let it set for awhile and see if you miss it. Let me know what you think.

  4. Your tips are wonderful! Thank you very much. For a while I have struggled with only having out a few things; I'd rather show all my treasures all the time simply because I love looking at them. Since moving into this house, I've been having to rotate my things. It was a difficult adjustment, but after a few weeks it started to feel normal.

    Your tip about packing things away to see if one can live without it is a good one, too.

    Thanks so much.


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