Around the same time 21,000 pounds of my belongings were delivered to my new home from storage, I began having a recurring dream. In the dream I am living in a house like the one featured in Woody Allen's 1973 sci-fi comedy SLEEPER, Architect Charles Deaton's Mid-Century masterpiece known as "The Sculptured House." There are no hard edges, only ova-like rounded spaces and floor to ceiling windows overlooking an unobstructed view of the mountains. The futuristic house is completely clutter-free, full of minimalist utilitarian furniture and nearly devoid of color.
My vantage point in the dream is from my prone position in a platform bed, underneath a very comfortable white down comforter. Looking down at my feet is like looking across a blanket of snow over a landscape and beyond to the blue sky outside the windows across from my resting place. I feel peaceful. Then, a man's voice interrupts the calm and tells me to "look under the bed." I actually think in the dream, "it's a platform bed. There can't be anything underneath." But when I angle my body over the edge, I see that a lifetime worth of nic-knacks and correspondence, books and magazines, photos, mis-matched shoes and a sea of capless beauty products are crammed into the space below me.
21,000 pounds is a lot of baggage. I can't even begin to imagine the surcharge for that kind of heft on Southwest Airlines. As the hundreds of boxes rolled off the moving van and into my garage, I tried to remember what could be in them. My family and I had lived quite comfortably for two years in a small apartment with a limited amount of belongings while all of this stuff was neatly packed away in temperature controlled vaults. It quickly became apparent that the lifetime contained in those boxes was no longer simply my own.
A few thousand pounds accounted for the remains of my mother's life and her mother before her- family photographs and documents, Hummels and Royal Doulton figurines, a complete set of Rosenthal china from Germany, artwork my grandfather had purchased in Europe when he worked for Ford Motor Company in its heydey, antique furniture lovingly restored, and a pair or two of her reading glasses. My paternal grandparents contributed another thousand, in the form of steamer trunks, and another complete set of German china, this time Paul Muller Selb. Several thousand pounds of toys, stuffed animals, bikes, riding cars, and miniature trucks are the property of my sons. Another several thousand pounds can be claimed by my husband, although he was awarded precious little from his first marriage, in the form of tools, Yankee's memorabilia, 40-odd boxes of books from his life as an Executive at Borders and, unusual for a man, a particularly well stocked wardrobe.
And then there is all my crap including hundreds of pairs of very stylish, albeit ridiculously uncomfortable, shoes and a library worth of books befitting an English-major-wishing-I-was-a-successful-writer-and-hoping-people-will-think-I-am-smart.
As I stood in my San Diego driveway, sun beating down on me, watching the movers wipe the sweat caused by my oversized load off their brows, I thought of James Spader's character Graham in Steven Soderbergh's in SEX LIES AND VIDEOTAPE. Bohemian and free-spirited, he prides himself on owning nothing but his car, a key to his rented apartment, a single duffle-bag of clothing and a video-camera and tapes. "Impossible," I think. But why? A family of four may need a little bit more than one duffle-bag, key, video camera and tapes, but how much more and why? Really? The things that are most valuable in life you cannot own. Friendship, love, good humor, peace of mind, respect, and joy among them.
The night all our earthly possessions were moved into the house I had the dream and in the morning I began to wonder if it would be possible for Ben, Nate,Vin and me to live in a house like the one in SLEEPER without littering every clean surface. Our family has just moved across the country, why not make all the big changes at once and get rid of the clutter, the extraneous stuff that weighs you down and impedes your progress?
Thoreau's famous words, "our lives are frittered away in details, simplify, simplify" calls to me today.
Tonight when I am in bed looking up at the ceiling and bemoaning the fact that it should be painted white, not the same color as the walls, I will think "simplify, simplify." Tomorrow when I pick out what to wear to work, I will think of the fact that Albert Einstein had seven of the same color and cut suits, shirts, ties, pairs of shoes, and hats so he would never have to waste time making a decision about what to wear. As my mother said, "you should wear the clothes, the clothes should not wear you." Simplify, simplify. When I get into my car and have to charge two cell-phones, check three e-mail addresses and four voice-mail accounts, I will think, "simplify, simplify." When I go onto Facebook and see that I have 350 odd "friends" but only a handful I really want to know and love, I will think 'simplify, simplify' and take the time to call one of them on one of my two cell phones or send them an e-mail from one of my three e-mail accounts or... sigh...nevermind.