frenchtown fiber

Chris Mundy and Kate House try to make art while navigating the crap life throws at them.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Attic Project

When my husband and I were married in 2005, we combined 2 lifetimes of stuff. It was very challenging. Neither of us are the sort to go buy furniture at a store. For the most part, we had collected this furniture over the years, flea market finds or hand-me-downs that were repaired or painted to look cool and turned out to be a great deal. Joe, who is a plumber, is always in people's basements and will notice orphaned furniture. "Excuse me," he will say. "Do you want that lamp? How about that old fan?" Half the time they will flat out give it to him, other times some small price will be agreed upon.(You should see his collection of antique fans) The point I'm making is that our things almost seem like prizes, hunted down. How clever we are to get such excellent things for almost nothing! But the inevitable question had to arise: "Who's living room furniture was more worthy?" Some of my living room furniture ended up in the porch. Joe had an art deco cocktail table with a blue mirror top and a James Bond-style secret door that swung out to reaveal a place for a bottle and glasses. That definitely trumped anything I owned. His living room chairs and couch ended up in the porch, because it actually was porch furniture.
It went on like that, and between us we used the best of everything we had. We love our house and everyone thinks it looks great. But lurking below the creatively appointed surface is a terrible secret. The attic. We are both pack rats. In the panic of moving, you realize that you cannot keep the u-haul for another day and tons of stuff just gets chucked into the attic. Over the months you make your living space attractive and organized while piles of junk fester up there.
I could blog for a week about the psychic pain this causes us. First of all the pain of going into the attic to find something. You can barely step around, and you become angry at yourself, and everyone else for having so much stuff. How come I have to deal with it? My daughter has stuffed animals that can illustrate any and all events in her life. I have surrepticiously made a lot of this disappear. Like, how many little stuffed owls wearing mortar boards does one really need when they graduate high school? How about 5 years later? We did all of this moving while my son was in the Marines, so I felt that I could make no decisions for him. Every time he was home on leave I would ask him if he would take a look at his things and decide if he could live without some of it. He has now been discharged for over a year. He has not only not looked at that stuff, he has added 4 seabags full of uniforms and various other bits and pieces of military stuff. He is still in the active reserves, so, it's too early to get rid of it, but I've noticed there are shirts with other guy's names on them. What the...?

When I do decide to do something about all this, at least organize it, the fact that it is either freezing or broiling up there would be enough to discourage me. I am also confronted with the evidence of various failures in my life. All of the clothes from the last time I lost weight. I pretty much know the way it goes now. I arrive at some weight that could almost be called thin, stay there for one season, and then slowly climb back up. The cycle takes around 8-10 years, so I know that the clothes in these bins will be largely out of style by the time I cycle down again.

Oh, and the photographs! Joe has been searching for his slides from England, and instead has found pictures chronicalling all of his failed relationships along with other landscapes and people that no longer mean anything. And he got doubles of every single picture! He thinks maybe he left a box behind in one of his moves with books and the slides. He remarks that he really could have lost the slides during any one of a dozen or so moves over the past 20 years, but has blissfully thought they were in there amongst the crap he no longer wants but yet has been moving from place to place.

I had a photography class in college in 1997. I really enjoyed it and imagined that I was pretty good. I came across them yesterday and realized that I was, in fact pretty mediocre. I also have a lot of collages up there that I have to admit are pretty bad. But is that just the head I'm in right now? Should I throw this stuff out? Will I be sorry later?

This is why there is an entire industry built around clutter and organization. All this does have a connection to my art, or whatever you want to call that crap I make. (kidding) It took up so much time this weekend that I did very little sewing. But, If I can really clean the place out, I can use half of it as a studio. We are determined that now is the time to let go of major amounts of STUFF.


Quiltplay said...

Wow! This is a great blog entry and I felt as though you were writing my thoughts down. Especially the weight gain. I have clothes from size 5 to 12. Very few nice items are size 12 as once I reach that size I start dieting like mad and go back down to an 8 or so. Those clothes are outdated so I have to get something current and then suddenly I am back at a 12 again.
Most North Americans live with too much clutter. I have been spending the better part of the last few months decluttering. It is a difficult and trying process but leaves you feeling much healthier (both emotionally and physically) in the end. We still have much to go through but it is getting better. One of my favorite things to do is to drag down various items and put a "free" sign on it. Despite living in a fairly affluent area there are many who can use the items and they all go quite quickly. Once they are gone it is a tremendous source of relief.
Best of luck to you!

Susan said...

First, thank you for your recent comment on my blog. Second, I love this post. I understand. I'm also CURED! A little over five years ago our house was struck by lightening, caught fire, and would have burned to the ground had four fire trucks not come within seven minutes of the call. We lost the roof and everything in the attic plus most of the things in two back bedrooms. While dealing with the unbelievable mess in the attic, I had to face the fact that most of the charred stuff had been moved from one attic to another to yet this place. I no longer really knew what was in most of the boxes. I didn't care anymore and it didn't matter at all. Everything in our house was sent for cleaning and storage. We lived down the street for five months and learned that we really didn't need much of anything at all....and I WAS HAPPIER THIS WAY! When it came time to move all the stuff back into the remodeled/fixed house, my husband and I decided to rid ourselves of at least one third of everything (50% of the kitchen because we'd also removed an entire wall of counters and shelves so one third was too little!) I can honestly tell you....I don't miss any of it. We had two turkey basters...why? Who knows! Things just had to go. It was harder for Steve than for me. I also read Angela's Ashes at about this time. This, too, sort of cured me. All I can suggest is....just DO IT...pitch it, give it away, put it out by the side of the road, whatever it takes! You'll be happier. By the way....all our furniture is exactly like yours. I don't think we've got a single thing from a traditional furniture store. We love auctions and yard sales...we rarely go anymore...which prevents us from buying and provides more time for art/stitching. When my studio gets too full....I start chucking hurts for about a second...then I think of all the new treasures I will have room for! I find it far better to allow the "stuff" out into the world if I haven't used it recently. Sure, there's a good use, a great idea....but there's always going to be another item with an equally good use for an equally great idea. Oh...about the kid's's time for an ultimatum. Move it or Lose it! Your attic is not their free storage unit! Good luck!