A cynic, wrote Oscar Wilde in “Lord Darlington,” is “a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
Which brings us to item No. 2 on our list of things to do as we move to Belize: “Sell everything.”
Here’s the problem, Oscar, we know the value of everything and the price of nothing. So that makes us, what? Stricken with emotional rigor mortis, I think.
But here’s what we are discovering: Stuff is memory. Stuff is identity. Stuff is emotional. Stuff is expression. Stuff is defining. Stuff is functional. Stuff is connective tissue. Stuff is comfort. Stuff is self. Stuff is continuity. Stuff is nostalgia.
Stuff is also self-defeating. You collect a lot of stuff and then you install a security system to protect it. You stay awake at night worrying about your stuff and how you are going to pay for it all. You begin to measure your stuff against other people’s stuff. Pretty soon, you feel you have to have the biggest, loudest, most obvious and most expensive stuff in the neighborhood. You are always wondering, do I have the right stuff….
Oh, my god, I’m channeling George Carlin!
It is complicated.
Rose and I have two very separate sets of stuff. Although she has insisted from the beginning that what is hers is mine, I just can’t bring myself to feel that way. For one, she has a heck of a lot of stuff. It is tasteful, elegant, functional and valuable. She has collected it over decades, fought off the banks on her own and raised two children to adulthood in her home.
I basically got rid of nearly everything that I owned before moving to Northern California. I’m not dumb. I saw the scene in “When Harry Met Sally” where Bruno Kirby and Carrie Fisher move in together and try to merge households.
My stuff was the equivalent of that wagon wheel coffee table. Or, as Billy Crystal says, “This stupid wagon wheel Roy Rogers garage sale coffee table.”
Rose, on the other hand, is on a first name basis with both Ethan and Allen. My San Diego apartment was filled with scruffy stuff. Just guy stuff. Her home is a thoughtfully curated affair of good taste, functionality and warmth.
Not one stick of furniture that I owned would fit with her decor. It would be like a rogue atom, bouncing off all the other good and tasteful atoms, sending them careening into a chaotic chain reaction that could only end with the two of us on the curb overseeing a most dreadful and embarrassing yard sale.
So a few days before moving north I Craiglisted the hell out of everything I owned — except my 1991 Trek Antelope bicycle and my Cobra Explorer kayak. And my 10 boxes filled with 40 years’ worth of newspaper memorabilia and kids’ schoolwork. Oh, and the cast iron-and-wood schoolboy’s desk that I used as a child, that my brothers and sister used, and that all three of my sons used. The desk is now in my grandson Brody’s bedroom.
But to be fair, I only had stuff. She has things. Beautiful things. Real things. Real memories. Real furniture. Plus, a real Pilates studio, chock full of equipment. It is amazing how much you can accumulate in a five-bedroom house
Rose insists that she wants to get rid of nearly all her things but I know this is going to be hard. She put so much heart and thought into this house. I see sad and painful days ahead as memories go out the door with leather sofas and antique dressers, Glashoff statues and beautiful tapestry wall hangings and music instruments personally collected while living in Gambia.
“Now that we’re selling things I see them differently,” Rose was telling her friend Laura this morning. “The memories come out.”
As for big ticket items: The one-eighth share in “Lucille,” the Lake Tahoe house where Jon and Caira grew up hiking and skiing, is going. The time share on Nob Hill in San Francisco is not going, because we can use it when we come back to visit. The Mercedes convertible is going. The Ford Hybrid SUV is either going, going into storage or going with us to Belize. My Saturn sedan, inherited from my late-parents, will go to Caira, so she can add Arizona State stickers to the windows and cruise around Tempe for a couple of years.
The main house here in Fairfield will be rented out, ideally to a nice Air Force officer and his or her family.
Face it: Letting go is hard. But I know from experience that the pain is fleeting. And, in the end, there really is a euphoric feeling of lightness, not unlike the high you get when a credit card is finally paid off and cut in half or a mortgage is retired. Or so I’ve been told.
We talk about moving to Belize with no more than two suitcases apiece and carry-on bags. Or less.
It won’t be easy. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy. But it can happen.
- Game on, Belize (robertjhawkins1.wordpress.com)
- Speed bumps on the road of life got nothing on the roads of Belize (robertjhawkins1.wordpress.com)
- Foot-dragging from village to village through Belize (robertjhawkins1.wordpress.com)
- When Harry Met Sally (1989) (thecinemaid.net)