Dining Room in the Country, by Pierre Bonnard (Minneapolis Institute of Art Collection)


Nearly every object in my home has had a perilous existence of late. For a month I’ve been clearing out excess stuff. It began when I came home from the experience of designing a minimalist condo in Southern California and enjoying that aesthetic. Returning to a packed house up north drove me to purge my belongings. And unseasonably cold, stormy weather held me to it.

Apparently I had seen myself as a Pottery Barn branch on island, ready at a moment’s notice for a change of set. Table linens, pillows, candles, and home décor, I thought I had cleared it all out before. Candleholders and glass vases clattered in open boxes in the back of a car traversing a gravel road to the thrift shops. 

Off the wall came an antique pine cabinet, one that I had found to hold spices in a farmhouse kitchen in Pennsylvania how-many-homes-ago? In the years since I’d been coming up with various things to display in it in various rooms, none of them as successful, or necessary, as the cabinet was originally. Goodbye to the collections, and goodbye cabinet.

Still getting rid of all the black & white from our terrace in Seattle. How pretty black & white looked against the red brick of a home in the city, but not here. 

In some instances my “finds” have been returned to thrift shops so they can sell them again. All for a good cause, twice. Proceeds from Friday Harbor Fire Department Thrift benefit the fire department on island. Treasure Hound, our local animal shelter, and Community Treasures, the grand dame of them all, a wide variety of local programs. There is socially conscious shopping and socially conscious unloading, and I like to think they got me both ways. 

What breaks my heart are the tea sets, a porcelain coffee pot, and linens I purchased thinking: my mother would love this. As it turned out, she never had an opportunity to visit our island home. So all those teas we might have taken were in my head. It’s not about these objects. They’re in my mind’s eye now; that’s where they exist.

In these ways I am not so much chipping away at the life we are living as the lives we once lived, or intended to live. A little more on my mother. Age never really caught up with her. Thus I had a whole scenario, should dad go first. Mom might come live with us and feel remarkably at home on island, just as she had on Cape Cod for many years. Here mom would buzz around in a golf cart on country roads with little to no traffic. I often see it when I’m out walking, her long wave to me as she rounds the bend—off to the market at Roche Harbor, the boutiques, cafe, and the post office out on the wharf.

These are the moments too, the things that never happened. I can let the props go because they are seared into the environment, but the imagined moments I will keep.  Mom running her errands happily, on an island of gray haired ladies as prevalent as the Great Blue Heron on our shores.


Filed under decluttering

12 responses to “Stuff

  1. Ruth Kelly

    Kim I loved this —Things are only represent a moment in time and not the memories of our life

  2. Val Gauthier

    I too work on relieving myself of “stuff” that I envision as memories. But then I remember that it’s the memories more than anything I wish to hold on to. And you have once again written so beautifully about your Mom and your love for her comes shining through. Wonderful piece Kim.❤️

  3. Kim, you have found such a lovely way of reminding us that letting go of things from people we love, like your mom, won’t take away our precious memories. Hugs and kisses. And by the way, have you read my brother Barry’s book, Mess? He goes deep into the difference between things and memories.

    • How I adored Barry’s book, Mess! Recommended it to so many friends, my copy ran off. Then, the way he teamed up with Marie Condo, the decluttering queen, in marketing his book was brilliant. What an event those readings must have been.

  4. Bill Funkhouser

    Thanks Kim!

    My mom was a pack rat and living through the depression according to
    many was supposed to have something to do with that. I inherited a bit
    of it. I don’t like clutter and love for things I have to have their own
    home. Alas, as an only child I inherited a lot of stuff’. My dad made
    some of the furniture I have which is very special, but I have, from
    many years of life as well as what I inherited, boxes  I need to still
    work through. Unfortunately Tam is always finding something to bring
    home, but Joan, her mom is the worst about bringing us more stuff to
    deal with. I made Tam promise to not bring me back souvenirs, t shirts
    etc unless it is edible and will not keep.  We have a rocking chair that
    has a cool pattern carved into the back that Joan brought us, but no
    room for it. So for now, my large stuffed Wild Thing (from the Where the
    Wild Things Are book) has claimed it as his chair and happily sits in it
    in the corner by the front door (guarding the door, you know, or so he
    says.) Also as a photographer that had thousands of slides from years of
    shooting I am slowly getting rid of them. A friend that is an art
    teacher has taken numerous large boxes of them for art projects, but I
    still have many do go through. So I totally related to and as always
    enjoyed your article.

    Have a fantabulous day!



  5. Ahhhhhh, the beauty of this piece breaks my heart…open.
    Love you, Kim.

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