After 12 weeks of manic purging, organizing and cleaning, the house is finally empty.
We have lived here for 17 years, longer than anywhere I have ever lived in my life. I have reflected in earlier posts about the process of evaluating each possession and trying to ascertain some insights along the way.
This was unlike a regular move, where you just shift your stuff from one house to another. We had to determine was was worth paying to store, what we want to ship and what we can simply live without. My intention for the unpacking will be similarly different. Rather than just a massive undoing of the packing, it will be intentional. If we need or want something, we will go to that box and get that thing (every item is inventoried into numbered boxes). Whatever is left in boxes after a year (has to go through the holiday and seasonal cycles) will remain in boxes for sale or donation.
It’s been an exhausting and draining process, full of mixed emotions and physical labor. I have the bruises and trashed nails to prove it.
By the time the movers left, the house empty except for dust and cobwebs that had accumulated behind furniture, I sank into the full force of this moment.
I stood in my beloved kitchen and wept.
I felt a mix of physical and emotional exhaustion, relief and grief. I wandered, in a bit of a daze, through the house, letting memories flood over me. Most were wonderful, warm memories. Some were wrenching. But where I most lingered, where the strongest memories and emotions are invested, was in the kitchen and the dining room.
These two rooms represent the best of the last 17 years there — where I was surrounded by friends-come-family, where my mother would tell me stories of her growing up while we cooked for countless hours together, where I taught energetic and eager young cooks the finer points of cooking and baking. These rooms were where we marked the rhythm of our lives — the nightly dinners, the holiday feasts, the slow Sunday mornings over coffee, the Tavolavila dinners. (Stay tuned for a resurrection of this.)
Throughout this 12-week process I have referred back to a number of minimalist blogs for inspiration and fortitude. In one article, there was a suggestion that your accumulation of things reflects your values, insinuating that your values are screwed up if they are tied to your possessions.
I vehemently disagree.
The things to which I held on, despite purging over half of our belongings, were the things that enable those memories that I hold dear. It is the 100 cookbooks. It is the countless wine glasses, dishes, flatware and linens that allow me to host those memorable meals and soirees.
While some people create a home as a respite, a place to hide from the world, I have come to realize that I am the opposite. I create a space that reflects my deepest value — gathering with those I love, with whom I laugh and tell stories.
Do I enjoy solitude and quiet? Absolutely. In some ways the 2nd house has provided that. But if my material possessions are any indication, one of main functions of creating home is to create a space for gathering.