Friday, September 25, 2009


This week I've been thinking of the time when we owned very little. Years ago our only appliance was a toaster that ran on DC current, which supplied our apartment in the South End. We had no TV and no phone. Friends would drop by. We now own a house, a refrigerator, stove, toaster, washing machine, dryer, TV, phone, CD player, computers, electric teapot, microwave, furnace, radios, and a lawn mower. Friends usually call before they visit.

Recently our old washing machine began to leak from the bottom. We replaced it. Yesterday the man from the oil company came to clean the burner and discovered a leak in the oil line. We had to replace the burner.

I know I can't go back in time but I find myself thinking about how little it really takes to live and wishing I had fewer things, though I don't want to get rid of the furnace, not in this climate. What about you? Do you feel you have more than you want? Do you live out of a suitcase when you travel and do very nicely?

Then there's Picasso (See photo of his chateau below.) For a period in his life he would fill up apartments and houses, then lock them up with all their contents and move on. Most of us can't do that, but we are accumulators who need many things to adapt ourselves to the world. A writer friend K. includes the toaster among our evolutionary adaptations, along with shoes, canes, etc. My friend A. loves to sail. There's no crossing the water without a boat. So you see I've written my way out of nostalgia.


  1. I wanted to comment here yesterday but my glamorous job computer would not allow comments. Last last spring I began a rigorous purging of my house which finally ended a few weeks ago with a ritual burning of the end of it. I didn't have much to begin with. I have neither washer nor dryer no cell phone no cable no house either not really since I rent. I've never had much. I find the older I get the less clutter I can bear. I recycle things more quickly now. I like a serene room in which to write in which to practice my violin. All that crap just seems to weigh me down. I am lucky to have a computer. It was a gift and it's a very good one. I have a $12 phone a landline that I don't use for anything but a way to connect my computer. Mostly I have books but I am letting them go after I read them unless they are written by my beloved authors. I have too many books that I do indeed read over and over and over and will continue to read each year as long as I can see. I think books is about it for me.


  2. ps. I meant to add that I don't have friends come over. I have lovers who spend the night then leave and one friend who comes over so we can go to dinner but that's it. Sometimes I feel lonely but it passes quickly. I'm basically a solitary person and have always been.

  3. I remember reading your post about the great purge, R., even your art supplies, the things you used to make books, the special papers, etc. I gasped at your daring. It was like breaking off an intimate relationship that no longer meant much. I never think of you in a bare place, not with your garden and your poems and books. I love to get rid of things. What a pleasure to throw things on the compost pile--old clothes and bedding--and watch them disintegrate. 00xx

  4. Ideology aside, throwing thing, big things like sweaters and bits of wood, in the compost has not worked for me. If a thing won't decompose in a season, it is not a worthy contributor to the mix.

    I am a pack rat. I love the idea of lean, but i am acquisitive. I will stop on the highway to pick up a 2X4, if it is over five feet long. All this stuff is a burden, but it all gets used and recycled in very real ways. Alas. it is can take years to find the right spot to nail it. The process is very satisfying, but is can cause domestic conflict.

    A few years ago the shutters where replaced at the Hawthorne house in Concord. Re-placed iI say, since they had been in the barn for 100 years. I rest my case.

  5. It does take a season for a sweater to break down. I'm willing to wait. Hoarders and discarders need each other. When hoarders spread, discarders may sort. The Collier brothers went too far. One was crushed under a weight of old newspapers.

  6. I think the idea of people dropping over is wonderful, but I've always done the dropping and now one has to announce oneself. I loved the olden days, in the sixties and seventies when it was hanging out.

    The line that my daughter wanted to steal is, "I throw out my old clothes because I don't want anyone wearing my memories." I am fierce about trying to get whatever it is that I'm getting rid of somewhere useful. This isn't entirely good since sometimes I will drop a valuable item and break it because I'm holding a cup that I think I should take to the car so it will be recycled...

    and so it goes....

  7. I miss those days too. So many times I've broken things I wanted to give to other people. Once I shattered the globe of a lamp I had packed to carry to a friend. Someone I swung the bag, just slightly, and the glass broke into pieces.