When I was growing up, I learned about all the stuff I was supposed to have in my home, both inside and out. I was supposed to have a certain number of blankets and linens, a certain number of pots and pans and dishes. There were also extra fancy dishes for company. There were candy dishes, nut dishes and relish dishes. We also had different copper jello molds. Those were a necessity for holidays even though on most holidays we went to visit family.
Outside there were an assortment of garden tools, woodworking tools, some sporting goods, and 30 piano rolls in a trunk. We didn’t have a player piano, or even any piano, but they were old, so we kept them.
We didn’t have an attic, so the garage handled the overflow. It was packed.
My sister’s room growing up was just a 12’ x15’ room, but it was packed, as well. My grandmother had sponsored a lot of her activities, so the were ice skates, skating costumes, pageant costumes, dancing shoes, un-played musical instruments, and every school paper since the beginning of time.
She and my mom both believed in having “collectibles.”
These will be valuable someday.
Um, no, they won’t.
As I got older, married and moved into my own house, I brought those lessons with me. I brought the extra serving dishes, candy dishes, kitchen knickknacks, sports equipment, house and yard tools and the rest. I didn’t know what to do with them, but I knew I was supposed to have them.
A well-stocked home had these things.
I stocked the pantry, as well. I canned veggies, froze meats, dehydrated what I didn’t can, and even candied fruit (yes, that was a thing when I was little).
I was also working full time and in the process of getting a divorce. I had no kids but I did have dogs. Life kept changing, but still I tried to do the perfect home stocking stuff.
But what I ended up with was a house that had a bunch of food that I couldn’t eat before it spoiled, things I never used, and most importantly, I didn’t have the things I did need.
So, what happened? And why are so many folks of varying ages and lifestyle in the same boat?
For me, I never factored into the equation the one key and most important thing:
I am a completely different person than anyone else in my family. (Other than perhaps having a shared habit of having bad choice in first husbands). I’m a black sheep. A bit of a quiet, restrained black sheep, but a black sheep, nonetheless.
I don’t fit into the same box. I never have. Every time I tried to do things the same way, or look the same way, live the same way, I have never been happy. My family was, but I wasn’t. Every time I waited on what I wanted and did what they wanted instead, I was miserable, and they were please because I was “fitting in.”
Now, our cats really do love boxes. Any Amazon box, shoe box or pizza box that wafts it way into our house, must be inspected, sat in, sat on, chewed on, and tried out for size. Even just the shape of a box intrigues them. If there is a piece of paper or an unfolded sewing pattern on the table, they have to sit on it. Even still, though, each cat enjoys their box experience differently. Our little fluffy cat, Misty, insist on cramming herself in a box that is way too small. Assorted legs and her tail stick out at odd angles. A bigger box would be better, you’d think, but no. Lightening prefers a much larger box. He likes to lay on his back with his legs sticking straight up, sometimes. Sunny, prefers a covered box, so she can hide away when she feels like it.
But even the cats don’t like a closed box. They like / need to have an out, somewhere.
Just like me; just like most people.
I had let myself get folded into someone else’s idea of the perfect box. I don’t even think it was meant to be hurtful. It was just how they were taught and so passed that “knowledge” down to me.
It has taken me awhile to realize that it is my choice to live how I see fit. I’m a bit claustrophobic and I don’t like boxes.
I have learned a lot of great things over the years. And gotten some great knowledge. I also love to learn new things. But most of it isn’t going to be applicable to my personal day-to-day life.
Gone are a lot of the well-stocked household stuff, Even now, I am still letting go. I still like to can food. But I only do applesauce and pie filling because we love it and will use it. I like the “thought” of dehydrating, but I don’t have a good dehydrator. It has caused me immense frustration every time I use it. Yes. I could get a different one, but, truthfully, I am not interested in the process. As well, I no longer keep a ton of canned goods. I really like fresher foods. But we do use our big freezer a lot. If something is getting close to the expiration date, we either eat it or I freeze it.
Gone also are the tons of extra tools that I kept because I was supposed to. In 20 years, I have never used most of them. If I find I do need something, I can barter with my neighbor: a new plant from my yard in exchange for borrowing a tool.
Gone also, is every collectible I have ever inherited. They were just a heavy weight for me because they weren’t selected by me. Other people may love collections, and that is great, for them. Greg has his cherished book collection. I’m glad he does. They are a part of his soul and you can’t live without that.
My soul is tethered to the garden, wherever that may be. I love being outside. I love the solitude, the chatter of the birds, I love watching things grow and our cats playing tag early in the morning. I love my walks with our dog. I may grumble, but 95% of the time I am glad we have that time together.
I also like to get creative. But I can get too nuts about it and buy supplies for projects I will never do. So I’m learning to wait before starting something new. I’m trying to appreciate the effort and skill the artist has done and not instantly try to create it myself.
Stepping out of the box all seems to be about letting my soul loose. Dropping the guilt, the stuff, the heavy expectations and just being who I am. It’s about taking the time to listen that inner voice that says let’s just stop and do this, instead.
It’s a lot more fun, too.