|[Our former living room]|
This is a picture of the living room of the house I lived in for nearly 26 years. When I moved into that house, the floor was covered with a dog-stained gray carpet and the walls were light blue. The fireplace was surrounded with shiny gray bathroom tiles. My daughters were 15 and 17.
When I moved out 17 days ago, the floor was hardwood, the walls were Benjamin Moore's Manchester Tan, and the fireplace was surrounded with marble tiles and a hand-crafted oak mantle. My grandchildren are 15, 17, almost 19--and two-and-a-half.
Benedictines use the word threshold a lot. They say it's a good idea not to plunge directly from one experience into another, but rather to pause, recollect, and gather strength before moving on. A threshhold allows each situation to be what it is. It gives a person space to take a deep breath and let go.
We are now living in a threshold apartment while we look for a more permanent place.
In our liminal lodging we don't have a lot of space, but that's OK because we don't have a lot of things either. (Well, a few miles away there's a book-packed storage unit with our lock on it. We don't plan to stay on the threshold forever.) We gave away and threw out a lot of stuff before leaving Illinois. To our surprise, we have also given away and thrown out a lot of stuff after arriving in Maryland. Downsizing is easier when you have no place to put things.
As it turns out, we still have more than we need. Under what scary circumstances would two people need three bathrooms?
I am not a pack rat--I can and do throw things away. I am not a shopaholic, I do not collect things, and I fancy that I live simply. In 65 years of living, 46 years of marriage, and 26 years of being in one house, however, I still managed to accumulate thousands of pounds of unnecessary stuff. How?
- By hanging on to things I didn't really want. Did I wear that orange sweater in 2013? Yes, once. Did I enjoy wearing it? Not at all. Do I plan to wear it in 2014? No. Out, out, orange sweater!
- By buying something new without tossing whatever old thing it was supposed to replace. Do I need several dozen mismatched drinks glasses, the unbroken remnants of long-forgotten sets? Only if I plan to invite 30 people for cocktails. Out, out, old glasses!
[Our threshold living room]
- By buying a specialized item when I already owned a general item that served the same purpose. Do I need an apple corer, a mandolin, and a food processor when I already have knives? Well, maybe need is too strong a word, but I do enjoy using them...
It feels wonderfully light, though, to be free of so much unwanted stuff as we stand on the threshold, looking back at the cherished old and ahead to the exciting new.