An End and A Beginning

This time last year I took two weeks to drive from Hyde Park, NY to Brasstown, NC.  It was the start of my self-imposed sabbatical year.    My destination was the John C. Campbell Folk School.  There I would spend four months as a Student Host doing a work-exchange program that allowed me to take fifteen classes in everything from writing and cooking to woodworking and blacksmithing.  The drive between my hometown and the Folk School would normally take twelve hours.  But when you decide to visit nearly every friend you have on the East Coast on the way, it takes a little longer.

Today I find myself doing a very-much-abbreviated version of that trip.  I left Wednesday from Hyde Park, NY to head to North Carolina.  However, my destination this time is Asheville.  And it’s not temporary.

Why Asheville?  I like it there.  That’s the simple answer, and enough of a reason if you know me.  I like the people, the culture, the landscape, the community, the feeling I get when I’m there.  Did you ever go to a place and just have a sense that it’s where you belong?  That’s what I get when I’m in Asheville.  Dining there in February a waitress said to me, “Asheville is the kind of place that tells you when to come and when to go.”  It was telling me to come, so here I go answering the call.

I wanted to move to Asheville back in 1999.  I had just completed an internship in nearby Hendersonville and fell in love with the area.    What stopped me from going then?  A friend who lived there.  She said, “If you want to meet a man, you’re not going to do it here.  So if you want to get married, don’t come here yet.  Go meet your husband and then move down with him.”

At the time, meeting my future husband was something I was hoping would happen in short order.  I didn’t want to foul up my chances by moving to a place with a shortage of eligible bachelors.  The advice-giver was knowledgable on this subject.  This was before on-line dating existed and she had tried everything else to meet someone.  From personals to eight-minute-dates to joining hiking clubs and book clubs – she did everything every book advised and still had no luck.

So I moved instead to Boston.  The aforementioned friend came up to visit shortly thereafter and was stunned by the plethora of young single men.  Guess what she did?  Sold her house, quit her job, and moved to Boston.  While there, she met a guy, married him, and now they live happily ever after in Asheville.

I, on the other hand, did not find my husband in Boston.  Nor in Bethesda.  Nor in Hyde Park, Milton, Staatsburg, Italy or Spain.   But just like I never let lack of company keep me from traveling solo, nor am I going to let lack of a husband keep me from moving to Asheville.

So today is the day.  Arrival in Asheville.  Not as a visitor, but as a person discovering the place she’s decided to call home.

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 Tiny House…and A Garden?

“I just can’t see you driving a truck,” said my mother the other day during our discussion about the possibility of me buying or building a Tumbleweed Tiny House.  What’s a Tumbleweed Tiny House?  Well, basically it’s a hundred (or so) square foot house you tow around and plop down wherever you want to live.  Then, when you want to move, you hitch it up to your truck and move.  As in, you move your entire house.  Which is not that difficult when it’s only a hundred square feet and on wheels.

I was thinking this might be the solution to my always-wanting-to-live-somewhere-new problem.  Instead of renting apartments all over the place, I just own a very tiny house that I can tow around.  I can be visiting friends in Lancaster, PA, visiting family in Charlotte, NC, or spending a couple months out west working at a National Park, and no matter where I am I can always sleep in my own bed every night!

What I love about my mother (among many things) is that she didn’t bat an eye at the tiny house idea.  She just got into the practicalities of it.  This is what she does: she never shoots down my ideas anymore, just asks questions to 1) satisfy her own curiosity and 2) make sure I’ve thought it all through.

Mom was right (which doesn’t surprise me so much anymore).  I’m not the truck-driving type.  But it looks like only a truck or an SUV can tow my 5700 pound house.

I wasn’t too thrilled about becoming the owner of a truck, but then I heard a story on NPR that got me thinking it might work out quite well.  They were interviewing a guy who lived in NYC.  He had a pick-up truck.  And you know what he put in the back of it?  A garden.  Yup.  Isn’t that fabulous?  So now, not only could I move all over the country but I could even have the garden I’ve always wanted!

Now I need to take a step back here…and figure out if I can really live in 130 square feet.  So my goal (hopefully before the end of the month) is to go see one of these tiny houses in Bike Town, OH.   Then I’ll have the answer to that question.  I’ll keep you posted.

You Get What You Ask For

For years I have wanted to become a professional organizer.  Friends and family have heard me talk with great excitement about helping people declutter their houses to the point that one, each time I bring it up, says, “Do you hear how excited you are talking about this?  Get out there and do it!”  For a girl who usually just “gets out and does” a lot more things in a year than most do in a lifetime, it was a mystery to me why this one was so hard to tackle.  I knew it was fear, on some level.  But fear of what?  And then a couple years ago a spiritual director I was seeing got it out of me.  It was a fear of failure.

I don’t mind “failing” in general.  In fact, I see it as part of life.  To the point where, when people ask about my failures, I struggle to think of any as I view them all as what was meant to happen.  I view them from an angle at which I can see that, without them, I wouldn’t be where I am.  Failure has such a negative connotation, so I don’t use it that much.  Things others would consider “failures” I don’t see very negatively at all.

But when it came to starting an organizing business, the idea of failure paralyzed me.  Here’s why:  I had been dreaming of doing this for years.  If I failed at it, what would I do then? I would have no more “What I really want to do….” because I would have tried it and failed.  This idea had always been on the horizon.  If I failed at it, what would be on my horizon now?  This is really a poor argument from a girl who finds new things to do nearly every month, if not every day.  My spiritual director then wondered if I fill my life with all this variety in order to avoid doing that which I’d really love to do.  Hmm.  It’s a thought, but honestly I think the variety is just who I am.  And this organizing idea could fit right into it.

The idea for this business didn’t just come out of the blue.  I’ve moved ten times in ten years and my favorite part is getting rid of all the stuff I don’t need anymore before I move.  I also absolutely love helping other people pack and unpack, figuring out what they need to take with them to the new place and, once they get there, where to put it all so they can find it again.  My closest friends call me with their move date knowing what joy it brings me to help them.  But it’s not just friends and family I like helping.  I can walk into a strangers house and if they happen to mention in conversation something about a spare room that’s unusable because it’s a collection spot for who knows what, my first reaction is to go in there and help them clean it out.

There’s always more to learn.  I’ve read about the psychology behind why we keep what we keep, the processes by which one is able (or not) to part with things.  I’ve watched the organizing shows on the home channels and I want to be the one going in there to help those folks!

So I’ve been in a limbo state with this idea for quite some time.  The entire plan sits in my head.  And if someone asks me about it – how much would you charge, how would you find customers, could this idea really work – I’ve got all the answers.

I’ve said before that some of my ideas I act on immediately, and some percolate for a while.  This one percolated and sometimes the idea would bubble to the surface and I would take some sort of action.  Well, those actions finally got somewhere.  And that’s what I’ll be writing about over the next couple of posts.

(For those of you wanting to know the rest of the “How I Got Here” story, I’ll get back to it sometime!)