Deep, not wide

3 color palette

Watch Your Values: Mostly tonal study using black, with occasional Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna for warm/cool push/pull

I was chatting with a friend this morning about how grateful I am to have found the art supply that fulfills all my creative desires (watercolor), that I am not even curious about other media, that I am content exploring all of watercolor’s capabilities and potentials. No distractions from colored pencils or pastels or oils or acrylics or sewing or weaving or pottery or anything else at Hobby Lobby. I have everything i need with just the few supplies I already have, and I still find them very exciting. Michelle said, “You should write a blog post about that, about Not Needing to Explore in Stores Because You Have Plenty to Explore Inside (inside my art cabinet and inside myself.)

Deep Not Wide: It’s Not Just About Art

After returning from that best-trip-of-my-life visit to England in May, I was struck by how a 28 lb. suitcase held everything I needed for two full weeks, and I hadn’t even used everything that was in it. As I unpacked and methodically put away the  travel toothbrush, scarves, hair clips, art supplies, and laundry, I glanced around the apartment and thought, “Huh, look at all this stuff I didn’t even miss while I was gone.”  A few days later I had coffee at a friend’s house and spotted on her table a copy of “The life-changing magic of tidying up” by  Marie Kondo. I commented on it and she said, “Yeah, it’s good, I haven’t finished it yet. Do you want to borrow it?” I hesitated, thinking I do not need another book on my already cluttered coffee table, but acquiesced and put it in my backpack.

“Life-changing” is an understatement.

Ms. Kondo may call it ‘tidying up’, but for me the essential gem of the book is the  how-to guide to downsizing: getting rid of things in such a way that regrets will be few if any at all. Armed with my new motivational tool, I started examining my possessions, deeply aware that two things have stood in the way of my physical and psychological freedom for as far back as I can remember: Inertia and Guilt.

Inertia

Many things are still in my home simply because they do not have legs of their own. I no longer need them, or even like them, but there they sit, gathering dust because they haven’t crawled out the door or disintegrated due to my disinterest. Take cookbooks: the only one I ever use came free with my microwave, and I only use the one splattered, crinkly page that tells me how long to nuke sweet potatoes or corn on the cob. I could easily rip out that one page, stick it to the inside of the cabinet door, and chuck the book.

I closed my weaving business about five years ago, and downsized a lot when I did that, but I still have a collection of weaving tools and specialty yarns that serve as the emotional hangover from an era that was wonderful but is decidedly over. With enough distance, I now am so done with all those supplies, and know just who would be thrilled to have them. They are now packed up and ready to go.

I use Marie Kondo’s test for each item that faces my metaphorical machete: Does seeing or touching this item spark joy, i.e., bring a silly grin to my face? If instead I find myself wanting to say, “Oh no, not you again”, then it goes directly into the Out Pile. But ‘out’ where?

The Out Pile

There are two Out Piles actually: To the Dumpster, and to Elsewhere. The dumpster call is easy and brings great pleasure, as well as a healthy swooshing sound as each item hits the inside of the trash barrel. The Elsewhere pile is where all the complication lies.

Elsewhere: Goodwill? Thrift shop? Consignment? Family? Would my brother or one of my nieces like it? Would they be hurt or angry if they found I had sold it, God forbid trashed it? It was Mom’s after all, or Grandma made it, and Mom made me memorize the history of it and recite the story every time I saw it in her house. Can I afford to let it go?

The real question is: Can I afford to keep it? And the answer is no.

Possessions can turn from treasures into millstones when you are not looking. Especially if they are hidden well out of sight, the molecules shift, intensify, and take on meaning that is simply not inherent in a piece of fabric, or pottery, or photo paper. That extra weight, heavy as it seems, is less substantial than smoke, and can easily be cleared with a heartfelt thank you and the sentence, ” I will keep the fond memories and discard the evidence if it no longer serves my soul.”

It comes down to a different question entirely: It’s not whether I can afford to get rid of it— it is really more about whether I can afford to keep it cluttering up my life, serving as a low-level barricade to my next adventure.

I do want to own more than fits in a 28 lb. suitcase. But there is nothing like opening a closet door and seeing most of the back wall in all its naked glory. It is breathing room. It is the Ultimate Weight Loss program.

What can you afford to get rid of in order to prepare for your next trip into the future? The possibilities are endless.

 

About Bobbie Herron

I sit here in my loft studio, surrounded by watercolor brushes and paints, fountain pens, sketchbooks, journals- wanting more than anything to write and paint at the same time. I am the fourth generation of journal-keeping women, starting in 1862, and I have read their words and between their lines. This blog was inevitable: thoughts on the unsung glory of women whose lives were recorded and transformed through their writing and art.
This entry was posted in Cafe Wisdom, Sketchbooks, Storytelling, Watercolor. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Deep, not wide

  1. Maggie Butler says:

    Wonderful! Leaving my home of 30 years was a similar experience and one I’ve never regretted.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gail Boyce says:

    Wow, Bobbie, your writing is as inspiring as your art. I, too, have been a Marie Kondo fan, and since watching the series in January, I have ruthlessly gotten rid of unwanted “stuff.” Reports were in after the program aired, that GoodWill and Salvation Army and other similiar types of collection for the needy, were deluged with the cleaned out closets of the viewers. Add to the fact that I will be 81 next month, I definitely needed to pare down. You have refined your artistic life to just water colors, while casually tossing aside your weaving as “been there, done that.” Except for the fact that YOU turned me on to weaving and now, after having purchased a small lap loom, almost every square inch of my house has a weaving hanging. The overflow has found its way to the clothes line in the hope that nesting birds will spot it and decide to design their interior nests with colorful yarn!

    My hope for you is that you continue to do what you are doing, writing, and painting and interacting with others in your own unique inspirational way. As I have mentioned before, I would love you to visit. Round up a friend, your paints, and head over for an afternoon by the river. We have enough inspiration here to fill up a page or two. Food is always a given. Miss you, dear friend. gail

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jean Haley says:

    You are correct about knowing who would love and use the weaving supplies! They would spark joy. Great article, Bobbie. We are all somewhere in the process.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Melanie isk says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. Love you!

    Like

  5. Maggie Pedone says:

    Beautifully written Bobbie, you have inspired me! (Know of anyone who want a couple of kilos of yarn?)

    Like

  6. Wonderful post Bobbie! I mostly reduced, and only add to, the stuff in my house long ago mindful of the old William Morris quote “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” . Trouble is, I keep finding so much useful and beautiful stuff! 🤣

    However, I have 3 days for each of four weeks set aside in my iPad Calendar marked “Storage Unit Clear Out (wk1, wk2 etc)”. But it takes about three seconds to change the start date of items in an iPad Calendar… ‘n’ I’ve been doing that repeatedly for the last two years. 🙄

    I may be a lost cause, but your post is giving me pause for thought, and just may be the call to action that I need.

    Like

  7. Karen Juall says:

    As always, I love reading your posts. This one inspires me to do what you’re doing (and to stop procrastinating)…. your words make is seem like a beautiful dance instead of a dreaded chore. Thank you!

    Like

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