In the Closet of My Discontent

20 Feb

I’m unexpectedly home today and not sick OR tired. Giving thanks for four inches of snow and a forecast of icy coating. Since we live on a hill and I love my car, I purposed early to not leave the house.

So, what to do with a few glorious hours of serendipitous unscheduled time? Well, for the most part, I’ve straddled the line between laziness and “round-to-it” chores, like washing the Christmas tree skirt that has been in our laundry room for weeks. Had it not been for today’s snow, that thing might have sat there until summer.

The down-side of such an accomplishment is that now I’ll have to scale the pile of boxes and plastic Christmas bins looking for one with enough room to store yet another item. This, my friends, is no simple task.

When we moved here twenty years ago, the Christmas closet was fairly empty—a tree, some lights, a few linens, and a manger scene. Since then we’ve acquired a lovely 15-building winter village, a huge bin filled with only garland, two crates of wrapping paper, bows, and gift boxes, snowmen of all shapes and sizes, Jim Shore angels and who-knows-what else. In fact, now we couldn’t even wedge a Charlie Brown tree in there. Wait; bad example. There IS one, in the back somewhere, right beside the fishnet-stocking-covered leg lamp (because every Christmas scene needs the soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window).


And that’s just the front row!

I stared for a while at the overstuffed storage space, struck by how easily gradual acquisitions can overwhelm an otherwise simplified life. I’ve never placed great value on possessions, except those with sentimental ties. Yet every year I get closer to hoarder-dom.

However, crammed into this colorful cubby is a small black box (See it on the top left?) that contains all that really matters—ornaments we’ve acquired over the years that tell the story of my family. From the cheap plastic banner proclaiming our “First Christmas together, 1985” to the fragile white star made of salt crystals from the Bonneville Salt Flats that commemorates a recent trip across country, everything in this box is another brush stroke in the Fitzsimmons family painting. Some are reminders of people we love who have passed away, others help us re-live shared adventures, and still others recall two boys now grown, but when I hold them, I hear giggles from long ago.

If we ever have to “Bug Out” (a military term involving a fan blade and some unpleasant substance), my husband will snag his pre-packed bug-out-bin filled with food, batteries, and survival gear. Since my job is to run upstairs and grab the fireproof document safe, he must also ensure the black Christmas box makes it into the car. It’s his most important mission. Depending on how many flames are licking the house, I might not let him into the car until I see that box go in first.

I tell you all this because I’m pondering these days what downsizing would be like. We’re going to move again, not soon, but likely within the next five or six years. Across town, across the state, out to the coast, who knows? Someplace quiet and writer-like. For now, though, I’m starting to see my house as one big overstuffed closet and wondering what the heck happened.

When we married, we lived in a tiny, two-story, four-room townhouse. My husband brought with him a bed he’d purchased in Colorado and I contributed a hope chest filled with glassware I’d amassed on a military tour in Okinawa. Our dining room table was a cardboard box. Every pay day, we’d purchase a polished plank and two-to-four matching wooden legs—the next addition to the book case that held our roughly 15-inch-wide television and my growing collection of must-have novels.

That was it. And we were happy. Well, not with the place, which was a filthy hole that we left after about six months, but we didn’t pine for “stuff.” We just acquired it. Lots of it.


What is the measure of a man who cooks?

We now have ceramic bowls for every season, tables in every corner, and measuring cups for every purpose (and then some). I kid you not on that last one. (I must be very, very, careful not to whine here because my husband is a fantastic cook and he loves to do it, which is the opposite of me. I could survive without him, but only because I like fruit.) I’m just pointing out that in our kitchen, one entire cabinet exists to hold measuring cups of varied size and purpose. He uses them all. He notices when a cup goes missing. One managed to migrate to the garage workbench a few years back and find a purpose down there, so my dear chef actually purchased another to replace it. If we downsize, I may have to coax him into Pyrex Anonymous until life settles a bit.

I’m hereby appealing to the already downsized generation and asking for your advice, your tips, your wisdom. Do I part with one item each month or rip all non-essentials out of my life like a giant Band-Aid with a massive yard sale? Is there a logical way to assess what I “need” when it all seems useful? And how does one even begin to part with books? My books are my friends! Why is this so hard?

And perhaps the most perplexing question, if I succeed, how do I keep from re-filling the void? I’m serious about this. Not so serious I won’t go antiquing next chance I get, but serious enough to maybe not buy any more large items . . . although I’ve always thought a spinning wheel would look neat on the fireplace hearth . . .

So that’s it. Everything must go. Or, almost everything. Or some things. Perhaps I could start with the Christmas closet. Sometime this year. Or next. I’m sure I can find a few items in there I don’t use . . .

I’m keeping the leg lamp.


But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” — Luke 12:20

11 Responses to “In the Closet of My Discontent”

  1. Heidi R February 20, 2019 at 8:37 pm #

    Love this!! The content and the writing and you home for a few well-deserved hours! And hoping you get some advice that I can follow, too. I want to start letting go of “stuff” now, but why is it so hard??

    • Portrait Writer February 20, 2019 at 8:46 pm #

      Dunno. Maybe ’cause it’s woven into our stories. 🙂

      • Suzy Speare February 20, 2019 at 9:37 pm #

        Let me know when you figure this out! I don’t want to move but am tired of all the stuff! Beautifully expressed as always!

  2. Allyn B. February 20, 2019 at 9:45 pm #

    For us it took a move to get rid of 33 years of accumulated stuff. My advice is do it for your boys, not for you. They will appreciate it more than they will be able to say!

  3. Cheryl February 20, 2019 at 11:00 pm #

    Rosemarie, You have struck a chord with me and I am guessing many others. I enjoyed your story, especially because I could smile and empathize without feeling like I had to tackle my closets! At least not yet!

  4. Mary Scro February 21, 2019 at 9:29 am #

    Wow did this hit home…so much so that I think I’ll also blog about it. Link coming…..

  5. Margaret Mann February 21, 2019 at 12:01 pm #

    Rosemarie, I love this blog post! I’m right there with you, though a few years ahead. Three kids all grown and out of the house, yet they think “their” sentimental possessions need to remain with Mom and Dad! And that’s not even considering how much Mom and Dad have accumulated on their own. I did watch an episode of Marie Kondo on Netflex and felt that I picked up some good tips on how to begin…now, I’m “thinking” about beginning. Will need God’s help to actually do that!!

    • Portrait Writer February 21, 2019 at 5:13 pm #

      Thank you Margaret,
      Thinking about beginning. Willing to be willing. I think we’re getting close.

  6. Kathleen Grunden February 21, 2019 at 1:36 pm #

    If I knew the answer to this, every closet and shelf and drawer would not be full! This is the year (as it was last, and the one before) to get rid of and organize stuff so my sons would not have to do it when I leave this earth!! But . . . I do have a special box filled with very special and memory-filled Christmas ornaments that I will carry with me, and I hope my sons will want after I’m gone. I even took pictures of them all with the plan to write where they came from on the back. Unfortuately, the back of the pictures are still without writing . . .

    • Portrait Writer February 21, 2019 at 5:11 pm #

      I’m working on something for the ornaments, too. Will share with you when it’s ready.

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