I am not rich. I work long hours in a moderately paying profession and raise a child, alone, in the San Francisco Bay Area. Yet I am drowning under house.
I've started -- again -- to get rid of, minimize, distribute Bill's things. Some of this process of dismantling a life I did shortly after he died. His clothes, most of them, went to relatives and charity. But then I stalled out and only now, almost two years after his death, am I trying again. It's hard. It's heartbreaking. I feel riddled with guilt though it's not really a betrayal -- he doesn't need this stuff. I can't use it.
But it's not just his possessions. Looking around this house, there are so many objects. How many do I need? How many do I want?
Twenty-two years together, and so much detritus. Because Bill and I were broke for so long, when we started to be not-broke we started gathering. Even before this, in a two bedroom flat with a roommate, we bought cooking tools. Crappy cars and Le Crueset.
When things got better financially, when we moved to our rambling bungalow on the edge of a dangerous city neighborhood -- not huge footage but fifteen rooms -- it felt bare. Perhaps because we were both afraid of being broke again, we began getting stuff. And storing it for a rainy day.
Now I must shrink it. I need my life to be lighter.
My house doesn't look like that TV show Hoarders. Surfaces aren't heaped high. There are no piles on the floor. But don't open the cabinets or closets. And what's with the duplicates? Who needs seventeen pairs of scissors? Seven teapots? Eleven pairs of jeans, when I only wear four? Four packages of dry erase markers and not a dry erase board in the house? Six umbrellas, hundreds of books, thousands of pens. Every household and gardening tool you can imagine, times multiples -- do I really need three hammers? Camping gear. Exercise equipment. Nine sketch books, two barbeques. Who needs five old cell phones? Why seven spatulas? I own two blenders, two toaster ovens, four coffee makers, twenty-five (at least) chairs, and I'm embarrassed to count the number of computers, in various states of new to obsolete. Rubber ducks. Beds and bedding to sleep eleven, not counting the sleeping bags. I have souvenirs from trips, probably forty scarves, and enough pairs of earrings to wear a different pair every day of the month. Papers. File cabinets. Shoes. Sigh.
Maybe this need to denude is more of my evolution from middle-class wife and mother to unmarried empty-nester -- my daughter is slowly on her way out of here. Maybe some of this is aging -- I've seen it in older relatives -- less an interest in creating a haven for everybody who stops by, more an interest in simplicity.
Yesterday, for the first time in my life, I had an urge to put the daughter and the dogs into one of the cars, light a match to the house, and drive away.