Two years ago, my wife and I both retired. I left a career of teaching high school English, (I’m pulling my hair out just thinking about that.) and she a management position with a large national delivery company. (I won’t divulge the company’s name, but its initials include a U, a P, and an S). We had both worked almost forever, and it was just time to stop.
Also, the last of our five children had recently left the nest, and here the two of us were, in a big ol,’ multi-story, four-bedroom Vermont home that we loved, but one that also was just boiling over with all the ‘stuff’ accumulated over the previous thirty or so years we have been here.
Whew! Mementos of trips, ‘collectibles,’ old clothes, older books, and other assorted things seemed to be literally everywhere. (Everything is collectible, you know. That doesn’t make it valuable. Right?) My wife had always been a collector, and it would be easy for me to blame her for our house being weighted down with all that ‘junque,’ but I also had my share of stupid stuff. (My definition of ‘stupid’ stuff is stuff that you keep for some reason but can’t for the life of you remember where it came from or who gave it to you, or for what occasion.) That kind of stuff probably brings no actual fond memories if you don’t even know how it got on that shelf in your room that it’s been on for a decade or two.
So, my wife and I produced a plan, although that took the first year or so to work up to. To our credit, we cleaned out the attic that first year. To begin the second of our retirement years, we would do some hoeing out at home, starting with our bedroom. Here is sort of, but not exactly, how we did it.
When our kids were young, they had a book with the title of “What to Do When Mom or Dad Tells You to Clean Your Room.” The crux of this little self-help for Weebles, (Remember Weebles?) was to pick up everything that was on your bedroom floor and put it all on your bed. Then, pick up one thing at a time from the bed and don’t put it down again until it was put away where it goes.
Our adaptation of that ‘What to Do’ book was this: Firstly, we decided to move into another of the bedrooms. Our daughter had moved out and her room was completely empty. We chose that one. Next, I used about a gallon of spackle, patching all the nail and shelf bracket holes from years of teen-age trinket displaying and picture and poster hanging. Then I sanded it all and painted the ceiling and walls.
Now, here’s the key. This is important, so pay attention. Next, my wife and I went to our original bedroom and moved ONLY things we WANTED to be in the new room, into the room. Remember, it was ONLY those things that got moved. No exceptions. That was a fantastic exercise, and we were both shocked at the number of things we owned and were surrounded by each night, that we cared nothing about. (The local Salvation Army store made out very well that week, and we also got a nice clean guest room in the process.)
We completed our new bedroom and installed a new king-sized bed. (Those things are HUGE! I think my wife wanted to try a long-distance relationship. Oh well.) There was plenty of room for the big bed, as we put simple shelving in the corner closet, and now have lots of space for the clothes we actually wear without the hassle of dressers and drawers. The walls of the new room have a large mirror and two great paintings that we picked out and LIKE, and the only collectibles are a few things with meaning, now atop my wife’s roll-top desk in the corner.
Honestly, and I know everyone does not feel this way, there is something totally soothing to me about an uncluttered space. It doesn’t have to be an EMPTY space, just one containing fewer of the same old ‘things’ I have looked at for many years. Thankfully, my wife now seems to agree that less is often more, especially when it comes to dusting, straightening, and rearranging.
It’s strange to know we hadn’t realized something before; that being that not every inch of every shelf must be covered with things. In fact, as we found, you might even want to remove the shelf completely. Give it a try. And then relax.
For Great Winter Reading: Don’t forget to check out George’s novels at Amazon.com. “A Corner Café”, “The Smoke and Mirrors Effect”, and “Cemetery Bridge” are all available in Kindle and paperback versions. THANKS!