Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Saturday Seven - #17 & 18

Maybe I'm getting more strict with myself about getting rid of sentimental things. It's not that it is getting any easier. I just seem more able to do it. It is a good reminder to me that simplicity is not something that just comes naturally, at least not to me. It happens through choice, action, discipline.

I started off this week with a simple enough giving. When my new jacket finally arrived in the mail, I donated my old peacoat to our church's Vespers program (a ministry to the homeless and hungry; among other things, the ministry takes winter clothes donations to help those on the street keep warm). Then when I got a new cardigan for my trip, I donated an old cardigan that I haven't worn in years, to the Vesper's program as well. This would be a good habit for me - buy one thing, let go of one thing.

Late in the week, I also offered up two pairs of jeans on freecycle. The jeans are in great shape - just bought last summer - but since spring they have been too big because I've continued to lose weight. This is a happy type of giving away!

But then today was the toughy. I packed up a box of extremely precious baby clothes and sent them to My Old Man's daughter for her 3 month-old baby boy. Some of these were clothes that I had not previously been able to part with.

Like this yellow sleepsack that Tiny Dancer slept in
every night for the first several months of his life.
(Little Buddha didn't wear one until he quit co-sleeping at 11 months).

And this little fleece yellow sleeper.
It was hard to give away for a different reason than the sleepsack.
My mother sent two of these to me when I was 6 months pregnant. They were sized 6-9 months, but I didn't realize they ran really small until I tried them on the boys at 7 months. Tiny Dancer only wore his once, in this picture with my father. Little Buddha never wore his because it was too small. :(

I can still remember receiving the gift basket of baby clothes my mom had delivered to me while I was pregnant. I can remember holding these little sleepers up and imagining my little boys in them. It is so sad to me that they never even wore them.

There were other things in the box I sent that had also been unworn or worn very little. I was so confused in the beginning about things that were labelled "6M" - I thought that meant they would fit at 6 months, not that they would fit starting at 3 months until maybe 6 months.

Anyway, the box included 13 things. So those plus the jeans, the jacket, and the cardigan brings this week's total to 17. That's good because I needed to double-up this week and next since I'll then be in Italy for 2 1/2 weeks (and won't be doing the Seven Things then!).

Total things gone so far: 153.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Saturday Seven - #16

the late again edition

I tried to post yesterday, really, I did. But blogger wouldn't let me in, and I gave up.

I seem to be getting suddenly serious about really getting rid of stuff, including some very sentimental things. Like these precious costumes that my boys wore last year, at 17 months.

Little Buddha, as a lion
he refused to wear the headpiece,
but I still thought he was adorable

Tiny Dancer, as a monkey
that everyone thought was a mouse
he was so precious

I remember him running down the sidewalk, calling out, "hi, hi, hi," to everyone, with his little monkey tail dragging behind him. And Little Buddha, who wasn't walking yet, had to be carried everywhere. He clung to us like a little koala bear, and was as heavy as lead.

I sold these on eBay. The lion costume ended up going to another twin mom, 45 minutes away. I thought that was cool.

I also divested myself of 8 pieces of my own clothing, donated to the church rummage sale. It won't happen till April, which means I can go ahead and get rid of all the spring and summer things I didn't wear this year, or last, or the year before, or the one before that.

Total this week: 10.
Total so far: 136.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Saturday Seven - #15

the deja vu edition

This is so not interesting. Gone this week: more maternity and nursing clothes. Specifically, two pairs of maternity pants, four maternity tops, and two nursing tops. I'm passing it on to the same freecycler I've been giving my other maternity and nursing things to.

I can't believe with as much maternity and nursing clothing I've already divested, I keep finding more. Part of the reason I keep coming up with more is that I can't seem to get rid of it all at once. I have to pry my tight grip off the things I once thought I should get a good price for, and just pass them on. Having the Seven Thing goal each week helps, though. Otherwise, I think I would've only gotten rid of five of these things this time, but I forced myself to cough up two more. Then later, I realized there had actually been one more in the stack of five than I thought.

So here's another picture of me in a nursing top with a baby. I wore this top a lotlotlot. And I had that same sleep-deprived look on my face a lotlotlot. I remember when this picture was taken, I thought Little Buddha looked so big all of a sudden (this was at 2 1/2 months). Now I can't get over how small he once was. (yeah, like I said, deja vu - I know I said this same kind of stuff last week).

Oh well. Stuff gone from my life this week: 8. Total stuff gone from my life so far: 126.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


The opening riff of my sermon this past Sunday (full text eventually here) was about the seduction of catalog images. I thought it belonged in this space, too. So here 'tis.

Lately, of the hundreds of catalogs I receive throughout the year, more and more feature children. I’ve been identified and targeted. Clearly, someone somewhere knows that I have kids. So now I’m inundated with every possible thing for children I might consider buying. Children’s clothes, children’s toys, children’s books, children’s bedrooms, children’s computer software, children’s ride-in battery-powered mini-Mustang cars. I would like to assure whoever makes those cars that there is no way I am putting two little boys behind the wheel of something that has a gas pedal and can go 2.5 miles-per-hour, even if it does promise it has “seatbelts for safety.” But the thing is, no matter how little I need the things they’re selling, I can’t seem to put the catalogs down. I’m entranced by what I find there.

The girls are dressed in the most adorable little dresses and tights, with chic little shoes and glossy girly hair. The boys have a good-natured, All-American rough-and-tumble look to them. Babies bounce on their handsome fathers’ knees. Children play happily – and quietly - together in color-coordinated rooms. Older sisters read to younger brothers on quaint quilts that look homemade (but aren’t). Little boys in fall sweaters carry footballs, while little girls in pink rooms play house. Families lounge in sunny kitchens in matching pajamas. In every picture, children and families are smiling, or laughing, and looking completely charming and thoroughly happy. And you know what? The mothers in these pictures never ever look frazzled. They have found the secret to a happy family and a well-ordered life – the right clothes, the right furnishings, the right stuff, the right life.

When I look up from the promise-making pages of these slick catalogues, at the real children in my life, the difference between real and ideal is jarring. Real children rarely play together happily and quietly in the rooms for long stretches of time, no matter how color-coordinated or well-decorated those rooms are. The charming outfits are soon stained with blueberries or oatmeal. And it turns out that the rough-and-tumble look of little boys comes because they actually do get rough and they actually do take tumbles. And not only do real children rarely sit still for nearly as long as the catalog layouts imply, they frequently interrupt whatever sitting-still time we grownups try to get. Real life, real children, do not match the gauzy sunlit photographs in my mailbox.

In the last few decades, marketers have realized more and more that childhood is a goldmine. So advertisements are increasingly aimed at younger and younger potential consumers. And, of course, their parents. They beckon to us with their sweet promises of contented kids and a harmonious household.

(end riff)
I have to admit that there is a part of me that thinks that I will get the right life if I can get the right stuff. Advertisers count on us thinking that way, at least subconsciously. I am trying to become more conscious of my own flawed thoughts, but is that changing anything? I don't know. I know I still have too much stuff. I know that even though I'm getting rid of at least seven things a week (in an ecologically responsible manner), I'm still buying stuff. And plenty of it.

In my quest to reshape my thoughts and impulses, I've been finding online inspiration. Like here and here. What about you? What resources are encouraging you towards simplicity?

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Saturday Seven - #14

the late, late edition

ACK! How did it get to be Monday already?

Clearly, I'm behind. And I don't even have photos this time, to try to jazz this place up.

And, I'm going to fudge this week's Seven. I have been so worn out from last week's big sale, and food poisoning, and work responsibilities, that I just didn't get organized to get rid of 7 separate things. I did, however, get my check and receipts for what I did sell at the Clothing Sale last weekend. 19 things. For a total of $33.25. This is out of about 100 things that I sorted and labeled.

With the crib and changing table, that makes 21 things for this week and last. That's great, in terms of getting stuff out of my life. It's not so great in terms of making sales. With the $55 I made for the crib and table, I grossed $88.25. Deduct a seller's fee, a parking charge, and childcare, and I netted $52.25. That looks pretty good, until I factor in that I spent 13 hours on the sale itself and another hour delivering the crib and changing table to the people who bought it. Less than $4/hr. Not much of a return on my investment, eh?

And that's the thing I'm starting to realize about stuff. Unless you are selling a car or a house or an antique (and in my case, not even with an antique), you are almost never going to get what you think the thing is worth. It takes so much time and energy to sell things that the payoff doesn't really justify it. It makes me wonder if I'd just be better off giving my things away. Granted, I could make more on some of this stuff if I sold it on eBay. But that takes time, too. Time for pictures and listing, and time for packing and shipping.

I realize now why I have received so many boxes of hand-me-down baby and toddler clothes. It really seems to make more sense to pass the stuff on. If we all do that, then maybe in some karmic sense it all works out.

Monday morning ramblings. Get 'em here for free!

Total for this week and last = 21.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A sale and a sob

In her essay entitled "Dust," in her book Long Life: Essays and Other Writings, Mary Oliver writes:
For the first time in twenty-five years there is no small footstool next to the bed, on which to break one's toes. The little dogs, first Jasper and then Bear, are gone. How neatening is loss, since it only takes away!

There seems a deep relationship between the stuff in our lives and the losses and gains, emotional and otherwise, that we sustain. So that a death of a dog means getting rid of the footstool. And getting rid of the footstool reminds us of - or makes more acute - our grief at the death. How neatening is loss!

Perhaps this is why I struggle so with releasing things, holding onto my stuff as a way of forestalling my grief over the real losses such release might represent. The losses have already happened, but letting go of the things somehow makes it more real, or makes facing the grief more necessary.

On Sunday, the day after the Big Sale, a woman called me to inquire about one of my cribs and the changing table. I sold them to her for $55 total. It's not much, but it's nice to have a little money to sock away towards furnishing the boys' room at some future point. And of course it's good not to have those two items cluttering up our back room, completely unused and unuseful.

But as the woman's husband walked away from me in the dark, with my changing table under his arm, emotions welled up and got caught in my throat. I made it all the way home before I broke down and cried. It was the changing table, even more than the crib, that pricked my grief. It was months and months before the boys moved out of our room and into the cribs. But we were placing those vulnerable crying babes on that changing table from the first moments we brought them home. Such tender moments, so many times a day, tending to our new little loves. Those moments have been long gone, but somehow the loss of those moments became real in a new way when the changing table was out of our lives. My grief was further intensified by the fact that the woman who gave us the changing table died last year. It feels somehow wrong to be getting rid of something she gave us.

Here's a picture of the boys when they were six weeks old and could both fit on the table at the same time. This isn't usually the way we changed them, but somehow this is one of the mosts vivid pictures in my mind when I think of their babyhood and the changing table. A reminder of how astonished we kept being that there were two of them!!

And here's a picture from a year later, a year ago, in their beautiful new fall diapers. I thought they had grown so much, and gotten so big. Now I look at this picture and marvel at what babies they still were. And I'm sure I'll feel the same way this time next year when I look back at this fall's pictures.

The passage of time has always been so bittersweet to me, but even more so now that I am constantly watching little ones become bigger ones, and then bigger ones still.