The Furniture

“You can take the end tables,” I said to my parents. I started clearing them of their lamps, taking the coasters out of their drawers.

“But what about the lamps?  You’ll need light in the next week,” my mother said.

“Honestly, mom, the only light I ever turn on in this room is that one,” I said, pointing to the lamp next to my recliner.

“We’ll save these for you,” my father said, referring to the end table he just picked up.

“No!  Don’t save anything for me!  They’re your tables – I was just borrowing them.” I said.

Where some people stop at tourist sites and pick up souvenirs during their travels, my parents stop at antique shops and pick up furniture.  They have a completely furnished house, mind you.  Some pieces do manage to get into it.  Others they used to say were for the lake house they would one day buy.  In the meantime, they doled the pieces out to their children as needed.  They bought the aforementioned lake house six months ago – and it came completely furnished with antiques.  So those end tables will go up into the barn for storage.

“If you come back, you can–”

“Oh my gosh – dad – you don’t get it.”  I went on to, once again, explain that I don’t want anything “held onto” for me.

“Ok, ok,” he sighed as he left the apartment, table in hands.

When people here I’m giving up my apartment they often ask what I’ll do with all my furniture.  Well, there’s an easy answer to that.  Most of it belongs to my parents, so I will return it to them.  Coffee table, end tables, kitchen table and chairs, rocking chair, dresser, shelving unit – all are going back to the place they came from: Mom and Dad’s barn.  And no, I don’t want them saved for me.

What’s left? My piano.  Which will stay in the apartment.  My bed.  Which my sister is going to put in her guest room.  My couch.  Which I’m trying to sell on craigslist.  My recliner chair.  Will be stored in my parents barn.  The secretary that used to  belong to my grandmother.  None of my siblings has room for it, but none want it to be sold, so to the barn it will go.

Now I’m off to figure out what to do with all the other stuff I have left!

A Home for My Piano

“I’ve been thinking of moving to someplace cheaper,” my friend said.

“Well, my apartment will be available on July 15,” I told her.  She pondered this for a second, then asked the details.  Where was it?  How long would it take to get to the college from there?  How much was the rent?  The answers satisfied her and we decided she’d come see it that afternoon.

It wasn’t my job to find a new tenant for my apartment.  I’d decided to give it up completely and had told my landlord so.  But hey – if I could help him out by referring a reliable person to him, why not?

She liked the place.  Sitting on my couch she asked, “How’s the management company?”

“Management company!” I laughed.  “The guy who owns the deli downstairs is your landlord.  He’s a very good friend of the family.  You can just turn in your rent check at the deli.”  That sealed it.  Not having to deal with a management company?  She was in.  I gave her the landlord’s number so she could work out the details.

The next day she texted me to say the deal was sealed.  Half-jokingly I asked, “Are you interested in house-sitting a piano for a year?”

“Seriously?  That would be awesome!” she responded.  Turns out she used to play and would love to get back into it. And just like that my worries over what to do with my piano are gone.  It’s staying right where it is.  And it will probably get more use in the coming year than it did in the last five.

Letting Go

“What’s the sob sorry you keep telling over and over – to yourself, to your friends.  You know, the one about why your life isn’t working out the way you want it….”  I don’t remember his exact words, but everyone in the room knew what he meant.  We all had that story – running on repeat in our heads.  Mine was about a failed relationship.  Except I had this idea that maybe it could be redeemed. And that’s the story I told again and again.  I was in my early 20’s.  All my friends knew the story.

“Write down that story – pour it all out.  Like you were telling it to a friend,” he said.  We wrote.  Silently.  For pages and pages.  We were given all the time we needed to get the whole thing down.  When you finished, you took your story and left the room.  Eventually everyone was out of the room.  Then we were invited back in.

And this was where the magic happened.  We were given the opportunity to read what we wrote to someone who’s only response was to listen actively, maybe with a nod of the head.  We read our story over and over and over again.  The listeners rotated, and I kept reading my story.  Until eventually I started skipping parts.  Because they didn’t matter anymore.  Then, I skipped larger parts.  Other people left the room – I was unsure why at first.  I kept reading.  Then, I realized.  I was done.  I didn’t feel I had to read the story anymore.  I couldn’t quite explain why, but I got up and left.  And just like that, I got over my story.

That was more than ten years ago.  I don’t recall the details of that story, but what sticks with me is how well it worked.  Last week, I sat in my bed and wrote another one of those stories.  Yes, about another relationship.  Then I read it out loud to myself over and over and over.  But I didn’t feel the same effect.  I thought it was because there was no one there to listen.

But this morning, I realized it DID work.  I hadn’t thought about him since I wrote it.  People had asked about him, and there wasn’t anything left to say.  I went back this morning and I read what I wrote, and it had no hold on me anymore.

This morning I wrote and read another one.  I have two more in my head that will go through the process in the coming weeks.  I spent the last six months getting rid of my physical “stuff” in order to live on the road for a year.  Now I’m working on all the other “stuff.”  And it’s working:)

Found: One Passport Photo

“So what other places do I have to clean out?” I asked myself.  I have been on a mission to pare down my belongings and I try to do something towards that goal each day.  I opened a cabinet.  Besides being the storage space for my pajamas (which I wasn’t interested in paring down at the moment) I knew the other things in there needed to be sorted through. And that’s when I spotted it.  The burgundy photo box I thought was stored somewhere in my parents barn.  Turns out, it was in my house all along.

Why is this photo box so important?  Yes, it holds all sorts of moments captured on film.  But memories are not what I’ve been seeking.  I was on the hunt for a passport-sized photo.  You know how you only need one for your passport, but when you go to have the picture taken they give you at least four?  I hung onto those extras figuring I’d need them at some point.  And I was right.  To apply for the list of Italian farms that are looking for volunteers, I need to send a passport-sized photo.  On my long list of steps to get to Italy was to apply for that list.   But to get any task accomplished, one must break it down into its individual steps.  So my first step was to find that burgundy photo box.

Upon finding it, it took me no time at all to apply for the list.  I filled out the on-line application, paid the membership fee, and then scanned and sent my photo.  Isn’t wonderful we can do all of this electronically?

So there it is.  Another in a long list of steps checked off.  Within four days I will have access to a list of over 200 Italian farms looking for volunteers.  The next task?  To figure out on what kind of farm I’d like to work.  Do I want there to be animals?  Or just vegetables?  Or olives?  Or grapes? What other tasks do I want to be a part of?  And the bigger question – the one I still have no answer to:  In which part of Italy would I like to spend March and April, 2012?  (Suggestions welcome.)

Farming & Facebook

Today, I found a good use for Facebook.  I know, I know – there are lots of you out there who can’t imagine living without it.  I’m not one of them.  I’ve often wondered what I’d miss if I closed my facebook account.  I can’t say the list was too long.

I would not miss Farmville for sure.  I couldn’t care less about the crops on your fictional farm.  Probably because when I have an interest in farming, I go volunteer on an actual real-live one. I know plenty of you don’t care to do that, or don’t think you could.  To each her own.  But a fictional farm just doesn’t do it for me.  That’s why I’m feeding my farm fix by WWOOFing in Italy next spring.

For those of you that don’t know, I’m getting rid of most of what I own and living “on the road” for a year as of 7/7/11.  Part of my year will be spent in Italy working on organic farms in exchange for room and board.  That’s why I spent a week at Sisters Hill Farm this past summer – to see if I could hack farm work. Well, turns out I can.

Here’s the first dilemma: where in Italy do I want to farm?  The country has over 200 farms that take WWOOFers.  By joining WWOOF Italy, I get a list of these places with a short description of the farm, the work, and the accommodations.  But how much can you really know about a place just on a short description?  You don’t pick a surgeon by his bio on the internet.  Nor do you pick a farm this way.  In both cases, you want personal recommendations.  But how do I get those when most everyone in my life never heard of WWOOFing until I told them about it?

This is where facebook comes in.  Today I found a page for those of us that are planning to WWOOF in Italy! On this page, I can say when I’m going and what I’d like to do, and other WWOOFers can recommend farms I might like.  Here I thought I’d have to spend hours searching the internet for people’s WWOOFing experiences, but with facebook I now have access to over 500 people who can help me find just what I’m looking for.  Thank you, facebook.  I’ll be keeping my account.

On My Way!

I had a purely joyful day cleaning out a closet yesterday.  I know this is not normal.  But neither am I.

As many of you know, I love to declutter.  What do I love more than decluttering my own life?  Helping other people declutter theirs.  But yesterday it was on my home turf.

It all started with a mistake: buying my Christmas tree from Home Depot instead of cutting it down myself.  That poor tree drank hardly any water from the day I brought it home.  So though I usually leave the tree up until the Epiphany, this one was so brittle it just had to come down.  My sister was up the road having breakfast with a friend, and when she offered that I should meet this new guy I said, “Sure – you guys can come over and help me get my tree out of my apartment.”  Men like showing off their manliness.  I like giving them opportunities to do so.  This guy was no exception.  And they’re still in the early dating stages, so of course he would say yes.

The tree was gone, but now I was left with a large pile of needles where the tree once stood and a trail of them out the door and down the stairs.  I lived with the needles for a couple days – cleaning is not my favorite thing.  But yesterday I finally lugged my vacuum out of the closet – only to find it had hardly any suction.  It picked up the needles when I moved it forward, but when I pulled it back it dropped them all down again.  It was one of those temperamental days of mine so this nearly put me over the edge.  Here I was, ready to clean, and my vacuum was useless.  Ugh.  I wished I had a husband or boyfriend who could fix it or run out and buy a new one, but I’m on my own.  I allowed myself a few tears over my inability to attract a mate and then got down to business: I called Grandma.  (Mom and Dad weren’t home – they’re usually my first call for help.)

I got dressed and went to Gram’s to borrow her vacuum.  Then, I came back home and pulled most everything out of the living room so I could vacuum.  And it was then that I decided to deal with the pile of crap I had hidden in the corner behind my recliner chair.  It was crap that had seeped out of the corner closet, so I decided to deal with that too.

This closet is not one I frequent and in helping people declutter I often recommend we start in a place where they don’t have a lot of things they use often as those are easier to recognize as no longer needed and therefore easier to get rid of.

What was in this closet of mine?  Mostly yarn, candles, gift bags, and tissue paper.  I dealt with the yarn first. It was overflowing out of its cardboard box so my first thought was: it needs a bigger box.  Then I thought better of it.  If I’m going to sell or get rid of all my stuff by 7/7/11, I need to get hopping.  How many times had I moved all this yarn from place to place?  Was I really ever going to use it?

So I sorted.  I was easily able to part with most of it – with the exception of a small shopping bag of expensive yarn that I just felt I needed to hang onto for a little longer.   But what to do with it all?  My knitting and crochet group at the library had loved my idea of a yarn swap in January, but now I realized I didn’t want to swap.  I wanted to be rid of this stuff!  So I bundled most of it up and called my schoolteacher friend.  “Oh, the teachers would love it!” she said.  I have found that schools will take a lot of things.  Not just books and arts and crafts supplies, but bookshelves, small furniture, remnant carpets.  Got something you no longer use but not sure where it should go?  Call a local school.

My front hall had become my staging area for items ready to leave my apartment.  Usually it was just a can or bottle to deposit in the recycling bin downstairs.  But today you could hardly get through the space.  When I undecorated, I had also managed to get my Christmas decorations down from five boxes to just two, so I had a couple empty plastic bins to return to Mom and Dad’s.  I won’t get into all the other outgoing stuff.  But let’s just say I wanted that yarn out of there! So I decided to drive the half hour to my schoolteacher friend’s house to give her the yarn.   I also put all my tissue paper and gift bags together and decided I don’t need most of that either. I was going to bring the tissue paper to the new consignment shop – they said they would use it to wrap breakables.  But I told my schoolteacher friend about it and she said the art teachers would love that too.  And the gift bags.

So I’m well on my way to minimizing my belongings.  Appropriately enough, I was listening to Nina Yau’s free e-book Minimalist Freedom while doing some of this work.  Very apropos and inspirational.

Next?  Well, I loved my living room when it had hardly any furniture in it.  So though I’m still six months away from moving out, I think it might be time to get rid of most of it.  Most of it belongs to my mother, so that shouldn’t be so difficult.  Didn’t sell my couch yet – posted it on craigslist, but no real takers.  But am ready to put my favorite recliner chair on there next!