Monday, March 17, 2014

The threshold : making space for the new

[Our former living room]
It has been three months since I posted on Lively Dust or wrote a book review. I was not ill. I did not die. But I did exchange one life for another, and that took all the energy I could muster.

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...
Right. Even we downsizers don't have to toss everything that isn't strictly necessary. Some non-utilitarian things--my framed French posters, for instance--seem even more important as the old inexorably recedes.

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.


IB Stork said...

Refreshing LaVonne. Thank you. My husband & I are at this point also and will be moving from our 5 bedroom 2 & 3/4 bath home to something smaller and more compact where we can "age in place". Times are a-changing.

Unknown said...

Missed your loquacious writing, glad to have you back. Have a basement full of "things" will keep in mind the Benedictine dictum.

Ron said...

Stopped by your old haunt yesterday . . . nice folks. The mrs. came to the annual mtg, wherein we missed you.
As you might expect, some changes. All carpeting ripped out from entry up the stairs, throughout all the upstairs. All new oak. Basement altered, shall we say? Furnace now enclosed in a "box" and old storage area now part of bigger u-shaped rec room for kiddies to romp in. Whole basement new drywall: including spiffy laundry area. Well, to each his own.
No news on move-in time, as their old home not sold yet.
Have fun looking for new digs.

LaVonne Neff said...

Sounds like they're doing good things to the house formerly known as ours! Glad to hear that they, like you and Elaine and many of our other neighbors, are improving property values in Evergreen Place.

Ron Bridenthal said...

Well, we do our best. Elaine sent me notice this a.m. that she wants to improve her basement . . .
They are still working on your old haunt. Every day, including Saturday, two or three vehicles in drive before 8 a.m. and until late aft. Will be interesting to see the finished product some day.