Friday, April 30, 2010

Wading through change

Sometimes you seek change, and sometimes it is gifted to you like that package of wool socks you got for Christmas when you were eight; you really wanted a cool toy or maybe a bike, but instead you got underwear. For me, I find a lot of deep, lasting change is like the latter: an unpleasant gift that is thrust upon me whether I like it or not, from which I derive a significant benefit that I couldn't see when the gift arrived. After all, those childhood socks were pretty warm, and I appreciated them on a cold winter's day.

As it so happens, a few weeks ago, the Universe sent me a "present" in the form of water - three inches in my basement, that is. You may recall reading about the 100-year floods that occurred in New England recently. Well, our formally dry basement was dry no more. After a few hours of pumping and wet-vacuuming, we abandoned ship when the water started coming in faster than we could remove it. We quickly began moving the contents of the basement upstairs, leaving whatever heavy items that couldn't be lifted suspended on top of paint cans and out of the small lake that was then forming. Needless to say, the first floor of the house was filling with furniture, drums, boxes, computer equipment, pictures, fabric, cushions, tools, and things we hadn't see in a long time. A few years ago, I had done what I thought was an extensive basement clean out, but I guess I was not thorough enough. Or maybe we had since accumulated more things. Whatever the case, it soon became obvious that a lot of the items that came up from storage could not go back down; residual moisture in the basement and the threat of mold would prevent wood items and cardboard boxes from making their home below ground level. It was time, once again, to sort and get rid of a lot of things.

I admit I felt a sense of panic at the time of the initial flood, some depression about the mess, and a lot of nervousness thinking about all the work that was ahead of us. But most of all, I felt overwhelmed by the scale of the sorting task, and the emotions that would be dredged up by deciding which things to keep and which to give away. After all, like many people, I often had difficulty separating memories from their associated objects; the kids items were the hardest to see go since they brought back feelings of happy times that were now past tense. I had also kept a few furniture and household items that had sentimental value because they came from my mother's house after she passed away. In the mix were a couple of toys from my youth which I had saved (who knows why!), that I was ready to release. And then there were four cabinets of fabric, squirreled away during my former life as a fabric store employee, that really needed to be moved to a dry environment to avoid mildew. Ugh! I dreaded going through that stash and letting go of all those lovely textiles.

I waffled over some things - keep or not - for days, but generally I was ruthless in my divestiture. Fueled by a sudden internal drive to be free of the past and to live more lightly, I started Freecycling like crazy. I have mentioned Freecycle in previous posts, but it is worth giving the link again. Freecycle,, is "a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (& getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It's all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by a local volunteer (them's good people). Membership is free." Go to the Freecycle website and look for a group in your area to join. You can post items you want to give away, and sometimes receive items which you need - all free. I like Freecycle because items go directly to people who want and need them, and they stay out of the trash. It is amazing what I have given away. If you think that nobody would want your "junk" then think again; you never know what someone else can use. Although I was sad to see some things leave, I was comforted that they went to homes where they would be used and loved, as opposed to sitting in a box in my basement or closet for years.

It soon became evident that, what started as a little water in the basement, was turning into a whole-house reorganization. Since we decided that we wanted to keep the basement fairly empty (in case of future water issues), what wasn't given or thrown away had to find a home in some other part of the house. This was a challenge. Like pieces in a life-sized puzzle game, we moved furniture, fabric, photos, and other items from one room to the next until we achieved a clear space; when one thing came into a room, often something else had to come out. I have built a lot of arm muscles lifting stuff up and down stairs, though this hasn't helped my back all that much!

As each room clears and gets rearranged, I do feel lighter somehow, and better about letting go of the past. I hadn't intended to tackle all this internal change right now, but life evidently had other plans for me. I probably really needed that kick in the pants that our flood provided, or I never would have been inspired to take on such a huge and emotionally draining project. Like any major life-changing event (eg: getting married or having children), there's never a perfect time to turn over the moss-covered rock called "life" and examine what's living underneath it. Most likely, I have to trip over the rock and fall flat on my face before I will investigate what needs changing. Skinned knees and all, I am working my way back from this latest eye-opening, purging fall, hopefully to a place of less baggage and more contentment.


The last stage of our reorganization is to rearrange my craft room. Since I am going to be moving things around anyway, I decided I would try to beautify the space to be more inspirational and less bland. I have always admired (and drooled over) the lovely art and craft spaces I've seen online and in magazines, but somehow my odds and ends of furniture never mesh in a pleasing way. Functional, maybe, pretty, no. So I am going to try adding a little color in the form of floral valances, painted storage cubes (repurposed from my son's room), decorative storage tins (a childhood collection), and a repainted sewing cabinet (picked up at a thrift store). I'll let you know how it goes!

In the meantime, have a look at some BBEST items that would make any craft room a more inspiring place to work!

Keep your small crafting items in this Money Box for the Economic Crisis

Perfect for the sewing enthusiast, spruce up your computer area 

from Clinging Images are sure to inspire flights of imagination.

Cups and small vases, like Black Hearts Stoneware Juice Tumbler
from Fehu Stoneware, are great for storing pens and pencils.

Why write on a plain block of paper when you can write
in this lovely journal, a Large Harbour Moleskin Cahier

Every time you switch on the light, you will see beauty

Small ceramic containers, like this Southwest Heart Treasure Box
from Jill's Treasure Chest, make pleasing storage 
for small items such as paper clips and beads.

 Try using household items as display materials for photo mats and patterns.
Vintage Metal Wire Napkin Holder 
from Sweet Rice

I've been collecting tins since I was a teen, so I plan to use them to keep
small things contained.
This Vintage Bicentennial Canister Set from the 1970s
from By The Wayside, would work well for this purpose.

Use eclectic, vintage pieces to add fun to your storage.
This Antique Winchester Ammo Box from Nonnie's Treasures
would make a unique place to stash books or tools.

For jewelers, save your silver scraps to recycle later. I keep mine in a small tin

Sewing needles will be safely kept close by in this

Got notebooks with sketches? Give them a pretty cover up treatment 

While reading craft books for inspiration, keep your place with style
from Big Island Rose Designs.

 Tired of plain old hand-me-down lamps in your craft room?
Let this beautiful Tulip Stained Glass Table Lamp
from Diana's Creations bring new light to your work space.

Get a fresh start with a little spray of
Odor Eliminator Spritzer
from Unique Garden Essences.


ZudaGay said...

Great post, Liv! Our home could sure use a toss/give away session. Who knows why we keep all this stuff. Beautiful items!! I love boxes and tins and storage items.

Julie G. said...

That was a very nice article and great selections. I think we all need to do that but like you said, we have to trip over it and fall on our face before we tackle it! After all, we creative people would always rather be 'creating'.

Sixsisters said...

Great post and wonderful choice of items to go with it.

Judy said...

You sure have a good attitude after encountering that flood in your basement, and determining that you needed to literally "clear the house." I think I would find letting go of everything very, very difficult. Kudos to you for taking such a positive approach!

Jill said...

I have felt this same way recently going through my storage building. It's hard to get rid of things that remind me of happy times. I like the idea of FreeCycle and will look it up here. Thank you for including my heart box.

Pam said...

First, positive thoughts with you after Mother Nature's deluge that brought you to the place where you had all this difficult work to do. Truly an amazing story, and such a good attitude you had in dealing with all of it.