A few years ago we spent a week in a cottage on Lake Michigan. It was such a relaxing vacation. It was October but mild so we still spent a lot of time on the beach, playing with Jack and then we cooked together and played games or read books. Every night I tidied things up before bed. That little cottage was so easy to keep clean. I took note and realized that what I can handle in home keeping is furniture, kitchen supplies, books and clothes and spent the next year and a half trying to divest our home of everything else. The six months before the fire I went room by room reorganizing and de-cluttering. I got rid of so much stuff. For months one stall of the garage was dedicated to Goodwill and the other was trash. Paul dutifully hauled it away one carload, one trash night at a time.
We lost almost everything in the fire. When we moved into our rental house, insurance provided a minimum of belongings to get us through: a couch and chairs, tables, lamps, beds, linens and kitchen supplies. We requested a couple bookcases and a desk since we began to rebuild our library from the first day.
With the exception of books, clothes and a few chairs we haven’t really replaced anything. From the beginning I felt a real reluctance to buy and then, as insurance dragged and dragged and dragged its heels, it became a necessity to wait.
I told myself, “It’s not a problem. We’ll move in get the feel for the place and take our time. We’ve lived this long with the bare minimum, we’ll be fine.”
And then I remembered that the rented pieces would be returned and as thrilling as minimalism is it’s no fun sitting on the floor and I don’t want to try cutting meat with a measuring spoon so I began to think about what we have and what we really need.
- 4 barstools (a kind stranger generously donated when we moved into the rental)
- 7 Thonet bentwood chairs (four my mom gave us and three I picked up over the year)
- 1 antique wicker rocking chair (my first big purchase since the fire)
- 1 bed (Paul and replaced ours first thing)
- 2 seven by four foot bookcases
- 4 lamps (need shades)
- 1 night stand
- 1 desk (on loan from my brother-in-law)
- 1 dining table (it’s actually a long, harvest looking table from my mother’s elementary school. It was used as as sofa table in my home growing up and will look great but won’t work long term as the apron is lower than is comfortable for dining)
- numerous plates and bowls (I replaced some jadeite and hit the jackpot with Buffalo china)
- 1 filing cabinet
- 1 13 x 9 inch pan
- various glass food storage containers and lids
- 1 XL stockpot
- 1 sauce pan
- 1 XL metal bowl
- measuring spoons
- 1 serrated bread knife
- 2 large cutting boards
- 2 muffin pans
- 1 baking rack
- 2 spatulas
- oven mitts
- kitchen towels and washcloths
- 1 can opener
- 2 wine openers (gifts from concerned friends, bless them! We’ve actually had three as the rental company provided one too)
- 1 coffeemaker
- 1 toaster (that seems such a small word for what this is…will be blogging later)
- 2 king sets of sheets
- 7 pillows
- 3 bath towels
- 5 beach towels
- 3 quilts
- 1 down duvet and cover
- 1 large blanket
- 2 wool throws
And then a friend has promised the loan of two leather club chairs.
I think that’s it.
Here’s what I recognize we need to buy:
- knives (I can get by with a 8″ chef’s and small paring & plan to replace our Wusthof)
- 1 large skillet
- 1 dutch oven
- a coffee grinder
- a pancake turner
- long plastic spoon
- large ladle
- measuring spoons
- gas grill
- sheets (twin and queen)
- bath towels, hand towels and washcloths
- shower curtains
- 4 end tables or night stands
- beds: 2 twin, 1 queen
Am I missing something obvious?
Are you amazed by how little and yet how much it all is?
The picture above is of a couple of drawers in my kitchen after the great purge. The one on the right was my “junk drawer” replacing three others that functioned as such.
Guess Who? says
It IS amazing how little one can actually live with. However, you skipped the random knick knacks, crockpot, roaster, vases, green box, toys, videos, Wii, etc. you’ve already collected. (Did you copy that list right from your new inventory?!) The things that we do collect & that tend to breed when we’re not looking.
You DID leave out the upholstered furniture you’ll need…and the bench/storage in the mudroom, freezer, microwave, linen shelf for the bathroom, art, desk chair, more bookcases…see how sadly the list grows?
I didn’t have the strength to get into Excel. That was from memory, but way to out me on all the extra crap that just appeared!
And I only wrote what I “need” to buy in the next week or so.
you have measuring spoons on the list but what about measuring cups?
M Bradley says
Your post reminds me of two books and two videos …
First, Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s wonderful essays in “Gift from the Sea.” She spends time in a sparse beach bungalow and reflects how different it is from her suburban Connecticut home with a husband and 5 kids. A classic, both on “stuff” and the various stages of life.
Second, Peter Menzel’s remarkable photo book “Material World: A Global Family Portrait.” He documents families around the globe, sitting in front of their homes with all of their possessions ad furniture around them. It is a vivid reminder to all of us on what we have and what we need.
Third, I am reminded of two NOOMA videos – “Rich” for how wealthy Americans are compared to the rest of the world, and “Shells” for how we use our time and our stuff.
I do know what you’re going through – lost everything to
a fire. it was many years ago and I’ve moved on, that’s what one does. I go for great lengths of time without thinking of it, then something will trigger a memory. one day several years later, I was standing in a vintage store transfixed by a large painting of a butterfly. I knew it seemed vaguely familiar, couldn’t place it, then bam! realized I’d had this same painting and it was lost to the fire. immediate sadness set in and I left the store in tears.
weird things like that through the years.
it changes your perspective for sure.