Category Archives: decluttering


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.


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