We are moving. Again. Including our anticipated move this summer, I will have moved eight times in the past nine years. As with everything, practice begets expertise. I’ve become an expert in weeding out–selling or donating–material items that are no longer used or useful. With each successive move, I’ve become more aggressive in eliminating stuff we no longer use on a regular basis, be it clothing, electronics, books or furniture. Indeed, I can count on one hand items kept “just in case” that we’ve actually unpacked and used move after move.
Despite my best efforts, there remain, of course, more than a few boxes of keepsakes. In those boxes–currently in our garage, unopened–sit sentimental mementos with which my husband or I are unable to part. There is the sturdy shoebox, lovingly packed with paper and too much bubble wrap, housing an eclectic herd of elephants–porcelain and carved wood and stone–hand-picked by my Grandmother as she traveled throughout Africa and Asia. I can’t let it go. My husband’s boxes contain beer steins bought in Germany, sake sets purchased in Japan and alma mater stamped washcloths. And I have chopsticks from Korea, alpaca sweaters from Peru and a Paddington Bear from London. I get it. These items remind us of times and places from years past. Proof that we were there. Evidence that we traveled, took chances, and were up for an adventure. Reminders of who we were and who we are.
Reducing clutter–any kind of clutter–is fashionable these days. Articles abound about decluttering, be it house clutter, smartphone clutter or, even, wallet clutter. Marie Kondo and Peter Walsh have made names for themselves by helping the masses organize and slim down belongings. And cottage industries, such as the small house movement, have popped up leveraging our distaste for too many material belongings. Yet ridding one’s home from all that is unused remains illusory at best.
Nearly a decade ago I left New York City. Being an international move, I sold most of my material possessions, including my bedroom suite, bookcase, coffee table, bar stools, living room furniture, television . . . er, you get the picture. Movers packed the scant remains–clothing, kitchen stuff, artwork, pictures, books and, of course, selected keepsakes. It was still a lot. Nearly 100 boxes of stuff was shipped overseas.
Upon arrival, I clearly recall opening wardrobe boxes and unpacking beautiful–mostly winter–mostly Armani suits, jackets, skirts, pants and underpinnings. I carefully placed them in the spare bedroom closet, knowing that I would have no use for them. I was, after all, living job-free in Grand Cayman. Since then, I have repacked and unpacked those same designer pieces seven times. I have worn a skirt here and a top there, but the suits have largely remained untouched, decoratively hanging in various closets, in various states, in various countries, for too many years.
Earlier this week I opened my closet and was greeted yet again by gorgeous fabrics in varying shades of grey and black. The clothes are a size two–a size I outgrew several moves ago. For a split second I wondered when and where I would donate them. Before my next move, of course, no? It will be another international move to another tropical climate, ill-suited for such designer duds. I wondered why it’s taken me so long to jettison my one-time uniforms. Then I remembered. They too are remnants of my past life. A life of spending long hours in a large office with a perfect view of the Chrysler Building. A life where an after work scotch at the Oak Room was routine. A life where cocktails at the Four Seasons were common. A life where black-tie events were attended much too frequently. (Yes, I still have those dresses as well.) A life where dining at fashionable eateries was de rigueur. They prove once I could afford what I now consider to be ridiculously expensive clothing. They evidence that once upon a time I was stylish. They prove I once was thin. They remind me of who I once was.
She was great. Trust me–really great. Confident, bold and unapologetic for living the life others envied. But as I was reminded this week, she also was single, lonely, desperately seeking her life partner and wanting a family. As I walked Blue and my daughter around the neighborhood this morning, a sight to be seen in my now uniform–baggy yoga pants, t-shirt, baseball cap and sneakers–befitting my status as the primary caregiver to our 10-month old daughter, I wondered how my husband was. At that moment I was reminded of all the reasons I’m so thankful those suits hang in my closet untouched.
Finally, I’m ready to let them go.