Joe and I once lost the contents of our basement storage in a house flood. Come to think of it, we ended up losing the house, too. It was supposed to have been swooped up in a short sale back in October of 2008, so we moved into a rental just weeks before our second son was born. He was almost two months old when we tried to end our lease and return home that unseasonably warm January day in Virginia. Little did we know, the pipes had burst.
It was an ironic twist for me – kind of an unfortunate déjà vu. I had lost an entire apartment full of brand new clothes and furnishings in a similar fashion years earlier when the main building of the military boarding school where I taught and lived, containing all of the administrative offices, boys dormitory and several faculty apartments, caught fire and an entire floor and a half was consumed on one side. Everything was ruined on the lower floors, though, by flooding from the firemen’s hoses. Back then, I told my mother “throw all of it away” when she tried to salvage my clothes. It was because I was emotionally attached to these things that I couldn’t bear to see them again. Twelve years later, I had to ask myself “If we left it in the basement of the old house for the entire time we lived there, then left it for ‘safe keeping’ when we moved, do we really need it?” In the end, some things were salvageable and important enough, some were not. After returning, defeated, to our rental that sad day, we set to downsizing for a move to California for Joe’s grad-school years. We sold clothes, furniture we loved- this really great plush arm chair we had bought for a few hundred at a La-Z-Boy tent sale -the first brand new piece we’d ever bought- we let go for maybe $20.00. I still miss that chair.
(I was so surprised to find a picture of the chair today in my Facebook album commemorating the old house! It’s been five years since I made that album.)
But somehow we still ended up paying five times the moving quote to some sheister moving company who stole one of the only things of real value – my grandmother’s mirror – and left us financially devastated. “Why didn’t we just give it all away and start over?” we lamented.
I didn’t realize it then, but all of these experiences were shaping my ideas- my value of things, even my aesthetic. There, in our grad student/ family housing upstairs flat in California, – much downsized from the two story Virginia colonial house, I felt, for the first time, thankful for a small space; for less things, less ornate things, less fussy things.
Tomorrow, I’ll share the rest of our “less things” journey until now, and what I’ve come to think about the things in my life.