Have you ever looked around your house and wondered, how did I get all this stuff? I do. I feel weighed down by the possessions that have accumulated over the years.
That wasn’t always the case. When I was young and poor, every new purchase was precious to me, a sign that I was an adult who was caring for herself and creating a home.
But over the years, that has changed. I first realized it about 10 years ago, when I was helping my dad clean out drawers before his move to Florida. My brain kept flashing on my all-too-similar drawers and closets. I came home determined to clean them out and rid myself of useless detritus.
Dad had me and my sisters to help, but I don’t have kids myself. I figured it was better to do it myself right away than to trust that some distant relative will like me enough to do it for me without spending the entire time cursing me out. (Or, if that future cleaner-outer happens to be my sister Judy, dumping the entire contents of my house into a dumpster without a thought. She’s ruthless that way.)
It turns out, I’m not alone in the purging impulse. In fact, the entire nation of Sweden has codified it into a practice I recently read about in the Washington Post, called “death cleaning.”
Oh, ugh. Let’s not use the translation. It’s much less gruesome-sounding in Swedish: dostadning. And anyway, it isn’t something done by those at death’s door. It’s more a general clearing out and giving away of things performed by empty nesters, retirees and the Swedish equivalent of those reaching Medicare age.
I’d really like to be able to say that I came home from helping dad and immediately purged my house in my own American version of dostadning. But I’d be lying.
I did tackle several drawers and part of a closet back then, but without the societal pressure of hundreds of thousands of Swedes doing it along with me, I quickly lost steam. From time to time since then I have thought about clearing out more of those hidden pockets where things get stashed and disappear from my consciousness, but have excelled at quashing the impulse.
Until last month.
No, I’m not dying, and I didn’t have a visit from a long-lost Scandinavian cousin. I found a much more powerful incentive.
Here’s the dirty secret about renovation: it’s exactly the same as moving. The only difference is that the boxes don’t have to go onto a truck, just into the next room or wherever you can cram them.
Have I mentioned how much I hate moving?
So besides waiting (and waiting, and waiting, and waiting) for the cabinetry, I have spent the last month doing what I hate, packing up box after box of bowls, dishes, glassware, vases, pantry items, utensils, appliances and hundreds of thousands of other items, and wondering how I got all this stuff.
By any standards, my bad old kitchen (which should have been reduced to rubble by the time you read this — hurrah!) was tiny, with minimal cabinets and seriously insufficient storage space. But clearing out those few cabinets and drawers was like emptying a series of clown cars. You would not believe how much was crammed in.
My shiny new cabinets (which damn well had better have arrived by the time this is in print) will be more spacious, but even so, all that random stuff is not going back in. I’m dostadning-ing my kitchen into submission. Community Projects won’t know what hit them when I bring in my next donation.
When I leave this earth (hopefully many years from now, but it could be next week if I die of apoplexy waiting for the cabinets), my distant relatives should not expect to be instant millionaires.
But at least they won’t have to deal with my collection of chipped bowls and unmatched mugs.
No recipe this week.
I do still have access to my outdoor kitchen, and I’d like to believe I’m the kind of intrepid cook who only needs a source of heat, one pan, a knife and a fork to turn out exquisite cuisine. But it turns out I’m not. I really need a lot of the stuff packed away in boxes right now. So the only thing I am making for dinner this month is plans to eat out. I’ll be back on the other side of the chaos with fresh inspiration from my beautiful new kitchen
Assuming, of course, that the cabinets finally show up.