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October 8, 2008 / Bo Mackison

De-clutter? Not Even the Question!

Not for Sale

Someone Else's Junk

Why do we save the things we save?

When I moved to Chicago 33 years ago to attend school, I arrived with a suitcase of clothes and an army  trunk full of bedding, towels, and everything else I owned. I bought a hot plate and rented a tiny refrigerator. After I got settled and met a few people, I somehow managed to collect other peoples’ cast-offs – and was mighty happy to get them. A folding bed, unfolded, doubled as a couch by day and a bed at night. I found a perfectly acceptable chair on the curbside waiting for the garbage pickup. Some hot water and soap revealed a wood chair made out of oak that gave me the option of offering a guest a seat on a chair or on the floor. Their choice.

Eventually I graduated, married, and started working…and accumulating. Accumulating stuff. Important stuff. Good stuff. But after 32 years of marriage and three kids, I have way too much stuff. Not all of it mine, mind you, but all of it is, well, stuffed into my house.

I recently read about a person who had survived both a flood that destroyed one home and a catastrophic fire that destroyed a second. She bemoaned the loss of work in her studio and her writing samples, her photographs and personal letters, but never once did I read any mention of any stuff. Makes me think I could do more de-cluttering than I already have.

A move into smaller quarters is on the horizon, though a rather far horizon – considering how not-so-quickly I accomplish huge projects. But now that our family of five has dwindled to two, we do not need to inhabit a 9 room house. The two of us have been examining architecture and dwelling spaces, and we are thinking it would be interesting and challenging to try to create a home that is truly designed for the way we live. Smallish, but full of interesting details and open spaces, both inside and out. I’ve been looking at a lot of Frank Lloyd Wright designs and adaptations, and I’m beginning to amass a notebook full of scrawls and sketches and resources and photographs.

But first – I have to get rid of some of this stuff. Think my kids want any of their stuff I’m storing? I’m sure Good Will will be happy to accept some of the extra, too. Maybe I should just pretend I’m moving cross-country and go on a stuff-reduction diet. Gulp!


  1. Marcie / Oct 8 2008 11:30 am

    We’re in the same ‘place’ as you in life. Getting rid of ‘stuff’ is huge. Can’t even figure out how it was that we accumulated so much of it.

  2. uphilldowndale / Oct 8 2008 2:05 pm

    *sigh* and if you have a barn of your very own, not only do you keep all your own old stuff but everyone else’s as well.
    That sounds great fun, to design a place from scratch.

  3. ankush / Oct 8 2008 3:39 pm

    interesting photo, and thoughts

  4. Debi / Oct 8 2008 7:49 pm

    Time to clean out, both figuratively and literally. Good words, great post, wonderful photo.

  5. Amelia / Oct 10 2008 7:36 am

    I would love to design my own house.

  6. Debi / Oct 12 2008 7:22 am

    I feel your pain. Hubby and I downsized 6 years ago and decluttered, only to amass a gob of junk when he moved his parents out of their home into assisted living. He has an unnatural, emotional connection to these old, dusty pieces of furniture and out-of-style and disfuntional lamps and whatnot. Until he purges some old ghosts, an entire household of STUFF fills the garage. Emotional connections. Fascinating post, Bo.

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