5.30.2015

NESTING AND WEEDING OUT THE BOOKS

There's nothing like home-related matters to take my mind off climate change--which I am obsessing about nearly nonstop. More on gardens and stuff below. For those of you following Moms Clean Air Force, I'm pleased to tell you we now have half a million members, and we're just wrapping up summits in state capitols around the country. And we now have an official ice cream: Ben and Jerry's Save Our Swirled. Need I say more?

Yes. If you haven't already, tell your senator to protect America's Clean Power Plan. Right now it is the only thing going in D.C. to cut carbon emissions and address greenhouse gas pollution.

However, that doesn't mean I can't find time to look at gardening books; one of my favorite assignments is a seasonal roundup for the New York Times. Ever since I read the book about bugs, I have an entirely new appreciation for the tiniest creatures in what passes for my garden. Barely.

I also got a rant on about what some people might call clutter, but I call treasure. I'm for divestment of fossil fuel stocks--but not divestment of those beloved possessions with which we line our nests. I'm done with guilt about stuff. Hope you enjoy.

21 comments:

Hmeserve said...

Thank you for your article in the NYTimes on guilt about stuff (treasures). If you came to my house, you would know why my favorite quote is from Thomas Jefferson, "That which we surround ourselves with becomes the museum of our soul and the archives of our experiences."

Que said...

I needed to read today's article as I have been conflicted with "to throw or not to throw"in the "throes" of moving. I'm keeping it all-thanks for a reality check. 50 years of great stuff reflecting my life!

virtualameda . said...

I also enjoyed today's Times article, but also rings up a story of de-cluttering:
In 2008, we moved from a 2400-sqft house to an urban duplex half that size. We had to get rid of stuff, but it was mostly big things needed for a mountain rural life.
We were in that duplex for 3 years, but the next move was onto a sailboat. We would live in about 300 square feet; any other stuff had to go into a Public Storage. ALL the furniture went; lots of kitchen things; nearly all our books, CDs and DVDs.
The name of our new floating home was BUOYANT. She was named by her first owner and it was a surprise when we suddenly felt that "buoancy"--we were, literally, a thousand pounds lighter than before.
Over the next two years, we gradually whittled down the stuff in storage in preparation for our final move--this time to Mexico. Everything would have to be either shipped or disposed of; stuff went to Goodwill, friends, consignment recycling or disposal. The One Final Yard Sale cleared out a ton.
By the time we finished, everything left fit in 48 boxes, filling 3 pallets. It got shipped by truck to Florida and in a container to Mexico, then with 3 guys in a small truck to our home.
But here's why I love your article: in ALL THAT DOWNSIZING, about a third of the boxes are those intensely personal items that really define our history. The beautiful pottery given from friends (not a single one chipped!), certificates earned, and several boxes of photos, letters and cards going back a couple of generations. We're a long way from our hometowns now, and that stuff--moved so many times with so much care--is a huge part of this house being a home.

Judith said...

You do make me feel better about my stuff -- though I don't have that much -- mostly art work, letters, family photos, kids' papers and concert programs that I'd never want to part with. Too bad my father didn't understand the value of holding onto things. My grandparents had a treasure trove, including a grandfather clock that still shows up in my dreams, that he sold off or left on the curb. He said the clock was broken and couldn't be repaired -- but really I didn't want to keep it for its function, I wanted it because of all the emotions it represented -- way too many to recount here.

Lately, as a family we have tended more to give each other "experiences" as gifts. For example, older son who lives in Brooklyn gave me a weekend at a lovely BnB in Prospect Heights. The long and far-ranging conversations we had with him over that weekend were the best gifts ever -- the kind of stuff I hope he will hold onto. I know I will.

Ann said...

Your article brought tears to my eyes! Good job, excellent perspective.

Richard Childs said...

Re: A Seasonal Garden, The Plant Lover's Guide to Ferns
fern lyre coil tendrils
unfurling, stretching, reaching
for woods dappled beams

la Contessa said...

I had two friends send me your article on THINGS!I totally agree with YOU.I feel like framing it!

Lori reynolds said...

Greatest column about STUFF ever! Thank you.

Joanne Wong said...

I read your wonderful article on celebrating clutter and had to msg you to tell you how much it resonates with me. not many people get the clutter the "meaningless" odds and ends accumulated on my shelves and in boxes, on hangers and hooks :) thanks for the wonderful article. happy collecting and cherishing.

Stefan Hurray said...

That book about bugs sounds fascinating. And as I said on facebook I just adored your article. I'm tired of being guilted by minimalists for my love of objects! One man's clutter is another man's treasure cove.

Sheryl Finley said...

So happy to read your post and your article. I might have to have the bug book to add to my treasures! : ) Blessings and even more happiness to you! Sheryl Finley in WA State

William said...

'Clutter' is fine, just as long as one is mindful that a big mess and 'clutter' are not the same thing. There is no way living in a big mess is good for the personal psychology.

Jane said...

Bravo! I loved your article. Downsizing is all we hear these days and it is overrated. I think it is important to sort and edit every so often but not throw out ruthlessly. Thanks for giving us permission not to feel guilt over keeping our treasures.

Heather said...

I'm sad that you get the impression that professional organizers are there to make clients feel guilty about their stuff. Each client and person is different and those of us who are passionate about helping people organize are usually trying to help those who WANT to be helped. Most of us follow ethics that very much frown upon someone else hiring us to work with a family member or friend (best of intentions can lead to much psychological damage),I would never do it! I find the idea of organizing and stuff very subjective, in fact so much so that I blog about how organizing (and that looks different for everyone-not like the pages of certain magazine spreads) affects the creative process. Like you I agree with the idea that minimalism is being "oversold" but I've walked into many a clients homes who are frustrated and overwhelmed about all the stuff they do not cherish, but don't know what to do with. As long as you are not a slave to "Stuff" that you do not love, want etc then why keep it? I hope you are leaving a sizable inheritance to your children to maintain your warehouse of stuff indefinitely, better yet donate it to the Smithsonian archive...I'm sure they would love that!

Mary said...

If your stuff makes you happy, that's terrific. It's a very easy way to stay happy. But your article seems to imply that you intend to decorate (haunt?) your children's homes, too. That's scarily controlling.

Lauren said...

Dominique, I found your article recently via a discussion thread through my Professional Organizing Association and wanted to stop by and tell you how much I enjoyed it. I am both a Professional Organizer & Designer, so my life revolves around helping people to make their homes the best reflection of themselves. I liked your analogy about weight and the ways each of us is "gaited to carry a certain amount of weight in possessions." I wrote a similar reflection recently on my own blog about materialism and my goals when working with organizing clients, which is to help get them to a place where they are still surrounded by the things that they love, but in a balanced way that reflects their true selves and enables them to achieve their life's true goals. Many times, our clients have reached a point where they are no longer able to accomplish simple tasks like pay bills and cook in the kitchen for the amount of stuff that has entered their lives. If you would like to read my reflection, you can find it here: http://www.circlegdesigns.com/blog/2015/4/8/no-offense


Thanks again for sharing.

S. Thomas said...

The art of clutter is an appealing conceit, but "clutter" suggests a mass of stuff placed messily and haphazardly. The accumulation of things doesn't necessarily result in clutter.

G. Thomas said...

Let's stop using the judgmental term "clutter". Every object has its history, its associations, even its own voice (and if not, it deserves to be packed off to the yard sale). I have accumulated many things over the years. I would happily give them away - to appreciative recipients. But who wants the "brown furniture", the heirloom linen, the silver candlesticks or porcelain coffee cups? The mid-century ethos has sidelined so much that gave warmth and variety to the life of previous generations.

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JGJim Graham said...

I loved your eloquent column in the NYT (obviously I agreed with it!)

I would just add this wonderful language about MOLE END from Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows which captures human feelings for loved objects--

"We others, who have long lost the more subtle of the physical senses, have not even proper terms to express an animal's inter- communications with his surroundings, living or otherwise, and have only the word `smell,' for instance, to include the whole range of delicate thrills which murmur in the nose of the animal night and day, summoning, warning? inciting, repelling. It was one of these mysterious fairy calls from out the void that suddenly reached Mole in the darkness, making him tingle through and through with its very familiar appeal, even while yet he could not clearly remember what it was...

"Home! That was what they meant, those caressing appeals, those soft touches wafted through the air, those invisible little hands pulling and tugging, all one way!

"....Now, with a rush of old memories, how clearly it stood up before him, in the darkness! Shabby indeed, and small and poorly furnished, and yet his, the home he had made for himself, the home he had been so happy to get back to after his day's work. And the home had been happy with him, too, evidently, and was missing him, and wanted him back, and was telling him so, through his nose, sorrowfully, reproachfully, but with no bitterness or anger; only with plaintive reminder that it was there, and wanted him

******

"...it was good to think he had this to come back to; this place which was all his own, these things which were so glad to see him again and could always be counted upon for the same simple welcome."

Kim said...

Hi Dominque, I am a Professional Organizer and am Mental Health Worker - I loved your article about clutter because it is my clients. I think it totally depicts how an individual thinks about their belongings when they struggle with "stuff" I just wrote a blog post and I added your link - I hope you are okay with this http://spaceforyou.ca/2015/07/08/who-defines-how-we-live-our-lives/ thank you for your inspiration :)