I pulled everything off the walls in my office, including my beloved butterflies, removed every single nick-nack and do-dad, and when I was done, I was done. I loved it for a little while. I lived in a blank space for at least a full week, which in the reality of someone like me, is basically a millenium, or a really long time. I did what is called "quieting the room", and all I can say is, I was made for quiet. I wasn't sure if I'd ever pull myself out of the quiet. Even the hubs was starting to worry. "Love, when are you going to hang something up? This is weird."
It just so happened that around the same time, my jute rug unraveled, again, and with it, my last shred of sanity.
My first purging attempt was in the early seventies. Dressed in a bandanna, halter top and cutoff jean shorts, I surveyed the stacks of fringed vests, old photos, vinyl records and books that lined my wallpapered closet. I sang along to Joni Mitchell on repeat – Come on Carey get out your cane
I'll put on some siiiilver, We'll go to the Mermaid Café....Have fun toniiiiight – and I carefully culled through years and years of ephemera to find the hidden gems I wanted to carry with me on this new journey.
What did I want to stuff into suitcases that might offer padding, support, stability, for the uprooting of a sheltered childhood in a small town? What would keep me safe? What would keep me happy?
I begin by tossing aside hand-me-down skirts that felt childish and worn. I left behind favored stuffed animals, meticulously glittered scrapbooks, yearbooks, award ribbons and three hopelessly worn out two piece bathing suits from years spent
Everything that made it into a box had been approved for my new life, for the move to San Francisco. Yes, the new version me would wear bell bottom jeans. Yes, I would wear the brambleberry lipstick. Yes, of course, I would hang a Jefferson Airplane poster on my wall, and attend the final show at the Fillmore West featuring Santana, Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Grateful Dead. I would fantasize about going to the The Concert for Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden. and never, ever miss an episode of The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour.
Why would I not? I was, wait for it... I was blooming.
With every sheet of bubble wrap, with every newspaper-wrapped belonging, I decided who to be. With packing tape in hand, I purged for transformation, for renewal, for change.
I was changing what I had, not who I was.
Curated objects do not create a corresponding lifestyle.
I organized make-up, clothes, journals, and photographs into dresser drawers. I stacked books and music that seemed sophisticated and adult appropriate but did not offer comfort. I unrolled the poster that felt so cool in June, but now, well who was I kidding? I longed for my glittered scrapbooks.
I found that, on this day in August, I was surprised that the contents of my suitcases did not make me an adult. Life, it seems, is the only act that will make me grow.
When I became a mother, I decorated a meticulous nursery with coordinating crib bedding and paper flowers hanging from the ceiling. I organized onesies in drawers labeled 0-3 months, 3-6 months, 6-9 months and beyond. I stock piled cloth diapers. I lined bookshelves with Dr. Seuss and wooden toys, I stocked our pantry with organic rice cereal and made my own baby food.
I changed what I had, not who I was.
I curated a perfect version of motherhood.
I did not then realize that curating perfection would do nothing to assist in actually creating perfection.
I did not then realize that surrounding myself with baby quilts would be a feeble attempt in fluffing the nest I was utterly unprepared to rule. I did not then realize that swaddling a newborn in a miracle blanket would not miraculously transform me into a mother, and that no amount of back-up diapers would shield me from the sleep deprivation of changing them at 3am.
I did not realize how my heart would crack open for the first time.
I did not then realize that, to become a mother, you must mother. You must do the work, with or without Dr. Seuss, Dr. Bronner, Dr. Spock.
George Eliot once wrote of this. “It will never rain roses… When we want to have more roses, we must plant more roses.”
This is not a worthy goal. Minimalism is not something to be mastered. It’s a learning, a re-evaluating, a practice that comes easier on some days than others.
It’s not a raining of roses. It’s a planting of roses.
I am changing what I have, not who I am.
Sometimes, I am just down right tired. I'm weary. I spend so much time and energy creating boundaries and striving for simplicity and searching for a slower way of life that I’ve made it just as exhausting as the fast living I tend to do.
I get it.
Simplification is not simple – it is a focus, one that requires energy and endurance and mindfulness. It is not a goal to top. It is not a box to check off.
It is not about the roses, the beautiful garden, the fruits of your labor.
It is about the planting.
It is about the work.
It’s planting at its finest, a surveying of my lifestyle, my actual needs. Committing to begin taking stock of me – not the curated version of me, but the actual me.
It’s an honest look at what I already have, and it’s an honest look at what might be missing. And after the taking stock, the inventory – the planting – a list based on what I have vs. what I need.
Sometimes mine comes back empty. Turns out my “needs” are at times, dressed up “wants.”
Planting will never be easier.
But the roses are worth it, every single time.
Cheesy Vegetable Soup
2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup shredded carrot
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 cups chopped broccoli
2 cups chopped cauliflower
3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese3 cloves minced garlic
4 cups chicken broth
3 large baking potatoes, peeled and chopped
1.5 Tablespoon flour
1/2 cup water
1 cup milk
Melt butter and cook onion, carrot, celery until soft on medium heat. Add garlic and cook for another minute or so. Add broth and potatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low boil and cook until potatoes are softened.
Mix flour with water and add to soup. Allow to thicken for a few minutes. Add broccoli and cauliflower, milk, 2-3 dashes bottled hot sauce, salt and pepper to taste. Cook on medium or medium low until veggies are soft. Add shredded cheese and stir until melted.