One Woman's Attempt At A Simpler Life

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In general, I’ve never been much of a collector.  I think I just have too short of an attention span to stay interested in a collection for long.  I guess some people would count clothes/jewelry/shoes as a collection, but I don’t.  When I think of a collection, I think of something that comes in a series, like books, or things where a bunch of different models of that item are made and people strive to own all the different varieties, like coins, stamps, beanie babies, baseball cards, or action figures.  I actually did collect shot glasses for while when I was doing a lot of traveling -I’d buy one in each place I visited.  Then, during a move, I had to wrap them all individually in newspaper.  That officially ended my collection.

I also think of collections as being worth some money – that by spending all that money and time to acquire those items, the payoff is owning something that is hopefully enjoyable AND valuable.  Otherwise, what’s the point?  I suppose some people would argue that just acquiring those items is pleasurable enough, and I kind of understand that, but mostly I just think, “what a waste.”

I did, however, for a brief time when I was a pre-teen, collect Sweet Valley High books.  I LOOOOOVED the Sweet Valley High series.  Oh, the dramatic adventures of the beautiful, blonde, California-dwelling Wakefield twins!  Dating!  Dances!  Cheerleading!  The school newspaper!  Friends!  Enemies!  Frenemies!  A high school sorority (seriously?)!  Hanging out at the beach!  Being kidnapped!  Getting into trouble!  Getting out of trouble!  I couldn’t get enough.

Until of course, I was actually in high school myself, and was more interested in the experiences I was actually having than the made-up adventures in the books.  But while I may have outgrown the series and stopped collecting it, I had a hard time parting with the ones I already owned.  I kept them in a tall stack in the corner of my old bedroom closet in my parent’s house for over a decade.  Then, a few years ago, I started to get a conscience about all the childhood stuff I’d left with my parents.  Why should they have to act as a storage unit for things I’d basically forgotten?  So little by little, during visits to their house, I tried to reclaim anything I was interested in keeping, and toss anything I didn’t want.

During one of these sorting sessions I came across my old Sweet Valley High books, and I weirdly felt a sentimental pang for them.  I took them home with me, not really wanting to read them again, but not really wanting to throw them out either.  They’ve sat in a bag in one of our basement storage areas for a few years now.  But this year, with everything I own being under scrutiny, I finally decided it was time for them to go.

However, because they were a “collection” I thought maybe they could be worth something – I mean, I did have a lot of them.  So rather than just donating them I hauled them into Powell’s.  The buyer took one look, shook her head, and said, “We don’t take Sweet Valley High books.  Sorry.”  Once again, in the eyes of the world, what I thought was valuable was worth nothing.

But as I walked away, instead of thinking, “what a waste of time and money,” I just smiled to myself.  I got a lot of enjoyment out of those books when I was reading them.  I’m glad I had them when I did.  And I’m equally glad to donate them now – I hope some thirteen year old girl will make my old friends her new ones.

SVH

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Around the time Ron and I got married, I was in a pretty hard core shopaholic phase.  Because I had been so unhappy in my corporate job (which I had until two months before our wedding), I was in the habit of buying a lot of things to self-soothe – mostly clothes, makeup, and jewelry, but that list also included books, CD’s, DVD’s, and housewares.  And, I was also still in the phase of feeling like I had to buy a lot of stuff from the places I visited when I traveled.  It was not unheard of for me to need to buy an extra suitcase to get all my shopping home.

So on our honeymoon to Mexico (a week is Cabo and a week in Cancun), I went NUTS buying stuff.  I think Ron was a little taken aback at my fervent shopping and spending – we had lived together for two years, but he had never really traveled with me before – and definitely not out of the country, when my shopping would ratchet up a few notches.  He was very patient and indulgent, but I’m sure there was a part of him that was wondering what he had gotten himself into – and I know he did get sick of spending so much of our time scouring local markets for the “perfect thing(s) to commemorate our trip.”

I remember spending a fair amount of time on our last night in Mexico trying to stuff all our purchases into our luggage so we could get it home on the plane.  Some of the stuff we bought was big and heavy, so it was complicated -like bottles of tequila and Mexican vanilla, a bunch of painted tiles, one of those stupid, HUGE stone mortar/pestle things (that we still have and Ron refuses to get rid of even though we only tend to use it to serve guacamole at parties and it is a BITCH to clean), a colorful woven hammock, and a painted ceramic sink.

Yes, that’s right, a sink.

Looking back, I have no idea why we thought we needed to buy a sink, and we certainly wasted a lot of time looking for the perfect one. I know we knew we wanted to look for a new house within a year or so of getting married, so I guess we thought maybe we’d put it in a bathroom we renovated someday.  Which, for a souvenir type item, is kinda stupid, since if you move, you pretty much have to leave the sink behind.  We did in fact move to a new house in that time frame, but we liked the sinks the house came with, so the one we bought in Mexico was left in a box in one of our storage space in the basement.

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The other day, while looking for something else in that storage space, I saw the corner of the box.  I tried to remember what the sink looked like, even vaguely – the colors, the pattern, anything.  I couldn’t remember anything about it, other than the fact it was a sink.  I asked Ron if he could remember what it looked like, and outside of a hesitant “…it’s blue, maybe?” he couldn’t remember either (it’s not blue).  Then I asked him what the likelihood was that we would use it anywhere in our current home, where we plan to be for a while.  We brainstormed that maybe we could use it as a drip sink in our basement bar, but when we took it out of it’s box and looked at it in the space, it felt too big.

I still think it’s pretty, and it kind of kills me to let go of it, because I know we spent a lot of time acquiring it, spent some decent money on it, and then dragged it home as carry on for two different flights (we had a really tight layover, and had to run through the airport to make a connection, with me carrying the hammock and Ron lugging the box with the sink.  It was ridiculous.  We did get our use out of the hammock though).  But ultimately, we had to admit it was something we were not likely to use.  And let’s face it, while I can vividly remember a lot of things about our time in Mexico, I couldn’t remember anything specific about the sink except the amount of time we spent on it.  I will always have that experience in memory, so I guess I don’t really need the object too.

Ron listed it on Craigslist.  Hopefully someone who is actually renovating a bathroom will get some good use out of it.

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Remember when I cleaned out the guest room closet and moved all the clothes and purses I’d been storing in the guest room to my bedroom?  Well, it’s been over a month, and I haven’t been able to face trying to find room for those items, because I’ve known it would involve having to get rid of stuff and refigure the way I currently store things.  Which never sounds like a fun way to spend a lovely spring afternoon.

But yesterday, despite the sunshine, I was in a rotten mood.  And sometimes, being in a rotten mood is an excellent motivator for me to make changes.  So I decided to take advantage of  feeling ruthless and unreckoning and attack the items I was trying to incorporate into my bedroom storage- namely, my handbag collection.

Confession:  I am a bag lady.  I loooooove purses.  When I was making good money, I bought purses on a regular basis – in fact, I cringe a little to think about the amount of income I dropped on purses during that period of time.  I had so many that I appropriated a bookcase to store them all.  I always had the notion that I would be one of those women who switched bags on a regular basis, moving her small neat stash of essential items from one bag to the next.  But I am not that woman – in fact, I’m far from it.  I have a tendency to let paper and random items build up in my bag to the point where changing bags means having to clean my current bag, and because I’m lazy, I usually choose to just keep the junk pile growing rather than switch them.

About a year ago, I cut my collection in half, and attempted to resell some of my more expensive bags at resale stores, but no one was interested.  It’s always a bit crushing to realize that things you spent so much money on have no value whatsoever to the rest of the world–I ended up donating them all to the Goodwill.  It was pretty depressing, but I learned my lesson.  I have only bought one bag since then, and for me, that is a massive improvement.

Even though the purses I was attempting to find storage for in my bedroom were  considerably less than what I used to own, I knew I’d have to pare them down even further if I wanted to find room for them all.  I’ve been procrastinating on dealing with them, and during this time I’ve kept some in the bottom of my closet:

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Klassy.

And some in a big suitcase, which is totally in the way and cluttering up our room:

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So I took all the bags out and spread them on the floor to get a better idea of what I had:

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six everyday bags, two gym bags, four evening bags, one travel bag, one computer bag, one laptop case, and one beach carryall.

I can say I genuinely like all of these, but I only actually use a few of them.  Two of the bags I’ve been storing are gym bags, and I don’t even belong to a gym anymore.  Brilliant.

I edited them down –  if I hadn’t carried it in a year, it had to go. I didn’t actually get rid of all that much, but it made a difference.  Here are the items that didn’t make the cut:

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Three everyday bags, one evening bag, one gym bag

I was left with a definitely manageable collection, but I still wasn’t sure where to put them.  Then I noticed this:Image

We have several of these very cool cubbies built in to our bedroom walls.  The photo is of one of the cubbies emptied out.  This is not typically the case.  Since up to this point I’ve seemed destined to fill every empty space and surface with extraneous crap, the cubbies are usually full of random things – carrier bags from stores with items I might want to return (which I don’t currently have any of, yay for me), clothes that need mending, and piles of clothing I’ve tried on and decided not to wear but am too lazy to hang up.  I realized I could put my pared down bag collection in one of the cubbies – genius!  It would not only solve my storage issue, it would keep me from filling the space with piles of clothing and shopping spree guilt.  A win-win:

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What made the cut: three evening bags, three everyday bags, one computer bag (with a laptop case stored inside it), and a travel bag and beach carryall stashed inside one of the larger everyday bags.

I basically kept three evening bags, three everyday bags, and a computer bag/laptop case.  I did, however, also keep a great travel bag that converts to a little backpack and a beach carryall, which I stuffed inside one of my big empty everyday bags to help it hold it’s shape.  I’ve read you’re supposed to use tissue paper for that purpose, but I needed to store the extra two bags anyway, so I figured what the heck.

I also kept one gym bag (which I actually used while I was living in Florida last fall and joined a gym because it was too hot to exercise outside), and two tote bags (one stored inside the other) that I use all the time.  Those I put back in the bottom of the closet, which is now empty except for those items.

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Classy.

The other benefit to this organizing project?  Finding all the stuff stored in my old purses.  There was definitely a lot of garbage, ancient sticks of gum, the worst brush I’ve ever owned, business cards for people I don’t remember, and expired aspirin, but there was also money, unused gift cards, a new memory stick, a great pocket mirror, still-working pens and highlighters, enough lip balm to last me the next five years, and two sets of opera glasses I thought I’d lost:

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I threw away all the garbage and redistributed anything usable to my current handbag.

I’ve decided that if by December I haven’t switched out my current bag to one of the everyday bags I kept, I’m getting rid of them.  And until I’m out of debt, I won’t be buying any new ones, so I shouldn’t be outgrowing the cubby space anytime soon.



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