Sunday, January 23, 2011

the furniture isn't fulfilling me anymore

as i've previously mentioned, i've moved a lot in the past few years, usually once every year. after never moving, not even once in my childhood, it was definitely a big change. there's a scramble to pull together furniture and other possessions to make your home look like it has enough. this, for me, has been a huge trap. first of all, you can't satisfy yourself with possessions. you can only make yourself slightly more comfortable. second, stylistically, i've never really been forced (or even thought about, quite frankly) to define myself, my style. this has lead to a lot of collecting, of keeping objects that don't really "fit" with my space, because they now hold emotional value. i'm starting to learn to pull from those things to find a cohesive style.

my first home was one of four bedrooms in a third-floor apartment. for a while, my only furniture was a twin-sized mattress (on the floor), a navy butterfly chair, and a waist-high black wire shelving unit. all of my possessions fit into four plastic bins. i accumulated slowly. i bought a silver metal loft bed with an attached desk underneath (to date, the most expensive piece of furniture i've ever purchased). i bought a black metal futon, and shoulder-height black wire rack. for a while, the room seemed perfect: a place to sleep, a place to work, a place to lounge, and a way to organize. they all coordinated, by color and style, using basic materials. it was simple but held the necessities, small but light-filled, and i was happy.

there is a lot of emotion involved in purchasing, for some folks, and i guess i'm one of them. as i moved into progressively bigger residences, i acquired more stuff (furniture, clothing, decorative and personal accessories). i thought, somehow, that a nice house filled with nice things, would make me a more whole and better person. think again! my unhappiness with myself would grow, and i would feel the need to escape. my friends would help me pack, and schlep my stuff to the next residence. the final culmination of this insane thought process lead me into leasing a house that was far beyond my means, and far larger than one person should ever need. the sad part is that i didn't need to BUY any more furniture in order to put something in every room. every room doubled in size, but the furniture from my previous place still fit, in perfect proportion. when i left that house, i left behind a lot of emotional baggage, and donated almost two carloads of previously important possessions.

it's taken me nine months to come to terms with removing some of the rest of the dead weight, but with my furniture on the outs, i felt lighter, ready to move on. after a long week of work, i began to sort through my walk-in closet, an even bigger emotional minefield because it's tied directly to my body. i sorted items into several different categories. one group is clothing that i love and absolutely must keep, the essentials of my style and items i find myself washing once a week because i can't comprehend not having them available to wear. another group consists of items that fit and function, but that i either don't love or haven't worn more than a few times in the past year -- the maybe pile. there's a third pile of items that would be great and i would wear more often... if they were slightly altered (those of you who know me, know i often alter clothes temporarily on my own, but these are headed for a professional). the final group is the sell or donate pile, items that don't fit my body or my style. there's also, in my head, an entire line of conceptual clothes -- items i can't find in a particular color, cut, or fabric, but would love to own. thus, i recently bought a sewing machine in hopes of making them myself.

even still, the contents of my closet is cumbersome: there are long-sleeve layering tees and short sleeve layering tees, wear-alone tees and tank tops. there are dresses for hot days and hot nights, and skirts for when i'm feeling girly. there are low-slung leg-hugging jeans, and comfy cargo pants. there are shorts, for summer. there's even a floor-length dress, but i think i'll have it shortened to knee-length (impractical, in the city). there is a lot of clothing, and somehow, there still isn't enough. there aren't enough light-weight structured jackets for milder weather (though there are plenty of sleeveless tops needing them). there aren't enough of this one particular top that i wore so much last summer, that it's wearing through and getting pilly. there are never enough jeans that fit my ever-changing body perfectly. at least, now, i am starting to realize that clothing is just another of my artistic expressions. some works of art may be an immediate success, and some need additional work to become their best. some are just meant to be kept close for comfort (my favorite pajamas), and some are meant to display for all the world to see.

in the sell or donate pile, there are many items that no longer have a place. they were bought with a particular outfit in mind, or in an effort to be someone whom i'm not (that silk, pink flower-covered dress... or shimmering tops for nights on the town). some of these items are emotionally charged -- they embody a part of my personality (i can occasionally be girly and sweet), but they don't work for my actual body (a clinging silk dress? why did i buy that?!), and their presence is just a burden. shoes are the same... the two pairs of sling-back heels are only cute if i'm not going to walk for ten blocks, and the four pairs of suede boots make me stalk the weather forecast for an unusually precipitation-free day.

of course, you don't have to get rid of everything you love... you just have to decide what's worth schlepping across the country. what means enough that it's worth the sweat from my own brow? it's easy to hang on to things when someone else is shouldering the burden, but when you're doing it yourself, there's a certain amount of pretense that goes out the door and straight to the nearest donation center. beyond that, i'm sure, at some point, i'll end up repopulating my residence with encumbrances that make feel good. i can only strive to make sure that those items aren't trying to fill some big emotional hole in me, instead of the physical space where a couch should be.

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