I just returned from visiting my daughter. I always enjoy the visits, even if we have some flare up time. We’re both somewhat volatile, and if we both land on a bad day the same day…well sparks fly. This trip, it was smooth sailing.
I had also taken an entire large box of cookbooks to her, most of them nearly new. On the open market, even as used books, it was probably a couple of hundred dollars worth of cook books, and yet…it was only a portion of my former collection. Collecting cookbooks is something that the women in my family tend to do. My mother has hundreds of books in her collection. My daughter has quite a few in hers, in addition to the ones I took to her this week.
There wasn’t anything wrong with the books I took to her. It was just that the books I took to her weren’t ones I used often, if at all. Some of them I had never even read. It included a vintage book from Brennan’s restaurant in New Orleans and an autographed copy of a New Orleans dessert cookbook that I just had to have…and now had no room for. I consoled myself with the knowledge that I would always have reading material when visiting at her house, but strangely, one the decision was made, it was a painless pruning of the overloaded book shelf.
I know that its just the first serious pruning of my material possessions that I will make over the coming months. A few items are given with the “long term loan” concept, others have no strings except that I gave the items to her. I’m giving her my china set too, and probably the other tea pots I have. She has my KitchenAid mixer on long term loan as well. In the travel trailer, it is hard to use it, and I really need to prune out some other things before I bring it back. It is one thing I do use–it makes up for physical limits on a number of things. At the same time, I’m not going to use it during the coming months, and it was one thing she coveted immensely. I suspect that its going to be high on her Christmas and birthday wish list too!
So what does getting rid of all of these material things do to me emotionally? I am a pack rat by nature–always saving for that rainy day and all of that. But, I also have a theory. If you can’t find it when you need it, then it doesn’t do you any good, you may as well not have it at all. If I can just sell GM on the concept, especially regarding his tools, we’ll be doing good!
That’s another thing I’ve noticed about being half of a couple. As a “tomboy” and moderately handy woman, I had a fair collection of tools. If I needed a screwdriver, I knew where they were. If I needed a pair of pliers, I knew where they were. I had a tack hammer for crafts, and a bulkier hammer for nailing things, and a small rock hammer for rocks. I had measuring tapes and a drill, a scroll saw, a bow saw, pruners, etc. I always knew where they were. Then, after GM & moved in together, I suddenly could no longer find tools. I see the tool bags, but I can’t pick them up, let alone FIND anything in them. I have no idea what we do or don’t have. The only hammer I can locate is one of three different rubber mallets for tent stakes, which aren’t ever where I think they should be (with the tent poles & stakes in the bag.)
The tents were another issue we had. I was always particular about HOW a tent was folded up, and the kids were taught how to do it from the time they were little. They’d help…usually by rolling over the semi-folded tent to squish out the air. It was an important job, right? (Okay, so when I became an empty nester, I didn’t start rolling on the tent…but it worked when they were little!) I rarely had trouble getting a tent back into the bag it came with, and if I did, I’d patiently unroll and start over, double checking to make sure that I folded the tent correctly so that it would fit.
Not GM. He folded it his way (think wadded more than folded) and then would be angry and frustrated because it wouldn’t fit. We’d end up heading home with the tent wadded up in the van. He was frustrated and angry, I was frustrated and angry, and the tent was still wadded up. We ended every camping trip this way. I wanted to fold it myself. He wanted to fold it himself. It was miserable.
We could have continued being confrontational over the tent on each trip, ending a good time with a sour note, or I could give in on the whole tent issue. Finally, I got smart. I bought a big duffel bag from the sports store. The big tent goes into it. He can wad it, I don’t have to watch. We don’t argue, trips end smoother, even when we use that big bulky tent.
As a couple, we have a lot of issues that we end up solving with compromises like that. Every time I feel my bossy side coming out, I have to stop a moment and think about it. Is this an issue that really matters enough to argue about? Can we find somewhere in the middle where we’re both comfortable? Should I just cave in and let this area be his area of concern? I’m sure he goes through a lot of the same process. We don’t argue a lot, and most of our arguments are quick flares. In the larger scheme of things, does it really matter that GM hates folding up a tent neatly when we’re car camping? It might matter if we were backpacking or bicycle camping, but in the van…not usually. We have plenty of room.
It’s the same thing with the stuff. Does it really matter if I only have 25 cookbooks on the shelf rather than 50? No, I doubt that I’ll even notice that I’ve only got half of them. I wanted the space more than I wanted the books right now. I am finding that each time a box of stuff is dispensed into the world, no matter how it is dispensed, that I’m no longer responsible for that much “stuff” anymore. It’s freeing, just like making the conscious decision that certain issues are not worth arguing about give me the freedom to pay attention to the things that DO matter.
So, what are you going to dispense with to lighten your load this week?