Monday, March 18, 2013

Do cramped closets and overstuffed drawers have you by the throat?

I didn’t realize what a pack rat I’d become until I tried to clean out my jewelry boxes and a bulging chest of drawers.

My rationale went like this: “If we move back up North, I might need these sweaters, these gloves, and this flannel nightgown.”

The jewelry was no different: “If I had this fixed, got a new clasp, a new link, I could wear this necklace again. Why, some of these pieces must be heirlooms; I could give them to my kids. The stones may be valuable? At the very least, I should have them appraised.”

And so it went. Instead of throwing things out or giving them away, I just moved them around to a different place.

"Home at Last" 16 x 20 acrylic on panel
In truth, I’ve thrown out a lot of things in the past from necessity. For one thing, I’ve moved a lot. When you move or downsize, some things have to go. I think the loss has made an impact on what I’m now willing (or unwilling) to give away.

 Everything near and dear to me seems to be gone. My children live in different States across the country. I’ve changed my life, my religion, and my hair color. Is this why I cling so tightly to what is left?

Please don’t psychoanalyze me! I do that enough myself. I’m just glad that I haven’t become a classic hoarder (yet!).

I once knew a woman who, like me, had trouble throwing away her favorite magazines. She lived in a small duplex and when you walked in the living room, every table held multiple stacks of magazines, albeit neat stacks. Each pile was face up in date order and could be found instantly. While I admired her ingenuity, I often wondered how high those magazines were allowed to get before they came tumbling down.

"Painting of my Grandmother" mixed media using "found items"
My artistic “scrounge for finds” nature encourages clinging. “What can I turn this into?” I ask as I comb through saved items in the garage. “There must be some mixed media project that would welcome this?” So like a game of shuffle board, I just move junk from place to place until I get the urge to clean and then I start the process all over again.

My mother was a neat freak; immaculate and germ conscious to the point of paranoia. She once threw away a square of butter because a fly had landed on it. I remember thinking that I would scrape away only half an inch to make myself feel better, but never the whole square.

She also loved changes and moved her furniture around at least twice a month. I hated it. When I walked in the door after school, instead of feeling at home, it took me several days to adjust. Because of this, I rarely change my furniture around. I find an arrangement that feels right and then I live with it – forever. Why change a good thing!

"The Pose" 16 x 20 Barred Owl acrylic on panel
My mother’s cupboards and drawers were neat and simple; partly because my parents had so little, and partly because she hated old things. Ironically, I developed a love for antiques and used items. I’ve always felt that old things carry the spirit and the life of those who went before.

This feeling was reinforced by an antique frame I purchased that held the photo of a woman with dark eyes. Every time I walked into the room where the picture was stored, those eyes bore down on me. There seemed to emanate a dark spirit of evil around that photograph. I couldn’t explain it, but I certainly felt it. Eventually I threw that old photo away, knowing that it was worth far more than the antique frame that held it.

See, I can throw things away on occasion.

"Playing Dress Up" 16 x 20 mixed media on canvas