A while back, I was sitting with friends, chatting about an upcoming bridal shower we were planning to attend. The young couple had just purchased a new house. New furniture was coming from Ethan Allen, stuff was on order at Pottery Barn, and they were registered at Williams-Sonoma, hoping to stock their new kitchen with all the essentials as well as some rather expensive, high-end items like a monogrammed cutting board, $80 kitchen shears, a seashell-shaped soup tureen, and an Italian hand-painted spaghetti serving bowl.
Nice gig if you can get it, we all agreed.
This couple had been together for five years. They already had everything they needed. They were getting married—making their union official—without any real change in their living arrangement. The new house, furniture, and kitchen gadgets were icing on the cake.
Some of us, on the other hand, had been married with children for 20-25 years. Our mismatched pots and pans looked like they had been through a war, and just about everything else we owned had seen better days. We all agreed it would be mighty nice if someone showered us with gifts at this point in our lives so we could start over with a house full of new stuff.
It got me thinking
It would be exciting to toss out everything and start over. Daunting, yes . . . but oh, the possibilities!
Most people with an empty nest don’t have that luxury. Tom and I certainly didn’t. We had to make do with what we had, which was daunting in its own way.
Have you, like me, ever looked around a room in your house and wondered, How in heaven’s name did I ever accumulate so much stuff? It’s time to declutter. Everywhere you look, there’s something to see; and much of it is just sitting on shelves and tables or in cabinets, unused and untouched, except for the times when you have to move it to dust. Read more
When Tom and I embarked on this new phase in our lives, we had a lot of stuff. Too much stuff. More stuff than we needed. We had met later in life and were combining two households. With our four children grown and gone, we bought a new house together. It was smaller than the ones we had lived in before, and unpacking was becoming increasingly stressful as we tried to find a place for all the things we had.
Much of the stuff was boxed back up and put into storage. There were just too many duplicates. I tried to keep one of anything I thought we might need, but it was still too much.
Clearly, it was time to declutter and simplify. But where does one begin when every room, every closet, every cabinet, every drawer is packed?
Out with the old . . . in with the new
With every declutter, you have to start somewhere. For me, it was the kitchen. We had remodeled (after living in the house for several years), and everything from the kitchen had been put into boxes, waiting to be unpacked when the remodel was done.
This was a perfect opportunity to sort through our stuff and purge what we did not need.
I unpacked things as we needed them . . .
Dishes . . . glassware . . . silverware . . . utensils . . . pots and pans . . . and so on
. . . and concentrated on essentials only, only taking something out of a box when I needed the item. Some of the stuff we had was so old and worn I didn’t even want to put it into our new kitchen—but if I needed it, in it went.
I soon learned there was no way we could pare down the kitchen to the bare minimum. It just wasn’t possible. There were too many things we considered essential if our kitchen was going to function well for Tom and me.
After six months, there were still things in the boxes I had not needed. For instance, a nutcracker I never used . . . pots and pans, including a frying pan the same size as the Le Creuset Casserole/Braiser I used all the time (have I mentioned how much I l♥ve this pan?) . . . and other kitchen gadgets, utensils, knives, storage items, dishes, and bakeware I was never going to use.
I had accepted the fact that no one was going to shower me with gifts to re-stock our kitchen and help re-feather our empty nest. So I drew up a Wish List of things I wanted and started getting them myself, replacing old-and-worn with new and/or improved items as soon as I could.
If I found myself coveting something I knew in my heart I did not really need, I would ask: Will I use it at least once a week? Do I have a place to store it when not in use?
Some things did not make the cut. No matter how much I had always wanted something, if I knew I wouldn’t use it on a regular basis enough to justify getting it, I did not get it.
In the spirit of William Morris, I was determined to fill our home only with things that were beautiful and useful. Meaningful, too—like heirloom items, Tom’s art, and special treasures brought back from our travels that hold fond memories for us.
It took a while, but I was able stock our kitchen with all the essentials I needed . . . only the things I needed . . . and all of the things I could have ever wanted as a blushing bride-to-be way back when.
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