Thursday, August 30, 2012

Lessons from Katrina: Life Is Short!

First, thanks to the many of you who read and commented on yesterday's post.  It's good to know that people are reading what I write; although, I think yesterday's post was cathartic enough for me that I would've written it even if no one were reading it.  Anyway, thank you.  I love my readers!

Now, on to today's post.  How has going through Katrina changed our everyday living?  More pointedly, how has losing all of our "things" affected how we now view "things"?  Because, thankfully, that's really the only way we were affected by Katrina -- we lost ALL our stuff.  I could tell you countless tales of friends of ours who lost far more than just their stuff.  Some of the stories are so horrifying that when I first learned them, I couldn't shake them for days.  So, yes, we lost pretty much everything we owned.  And, in that, we are thankful that that's all we lost to the storm.

Starting over fresh with only the things in our suitcase was lightening.  It's hard to imagine giving up all of our earthly possessions by choice, but I can tell you from experience that when it's all gone, a load is truly lifted. I admit, I still miss my favorite pair of pants that fit just right and I wish that Girl 1 would have her baby book to look back on in years to come.  But, most of the stuff I haven't thought twice about.   

Knowing that, we attempt to keep our house clutter-free.  For an item to stay in our home, it must either be useful or hold sentimental value (hopefully both) and it must have a home

For example, our bed.

The bedspread was my Grandma Smith's.  The Euro shams are made from another bedspread of hers.  The quilt at the end of the bed was a gift from my Mamaw Carroll and was sewn by my great-grandmother Mama Toney.  Are they useful?  Yes.  Do they hold sentimental value?  You bet.  Do they have a home?  You're looking at it! (Also, the bed came in that truckload of furniture mentioned yesterday that was so graciously given to us when we had basically no other furniture to put in this house!)

Living without clutter means that our shelves are pretty much tchotchke-free (yes, that's how you spell tchotchke -- I looked it up ;)   The pictures on our walls are not random prints -- they are family portraits and paintings done by my talented sister-in-law and late mother-in-law.  And, when something new comes in the house, something old usually goes out. 
Here's the donation tub that lives in the bottom of my closet.  When I got new running shoes a few months ago, my old ones went to the basket and then eventually to Goodwill.  In fact, A LOT of stuff goes to Goodwill.  During my spring cleaning a few months back, the ladies at the store got to know me well as I brought in bags from whatever room I'd cleaned out that week . . . 5 weeks in a row!

Living mostly clutter-free means that shelves like this one in Girl 2's room look a bit sparse sometimes.  Though I suspect that she owns fewer toys than most of her peers, she has more than she could ever need and less to have to clean up each day (or week, let's just be honest here ;).

Meet our refrigerator.  Notice how you can see it?  I admit, it isn't always this clean.  Recently, I read an article that suggested that if you wanted to de-clutter and simplify your life, the best place to start was with the refrigerator door.  I'm not sure how much truth there is to it because I do still have the ball schedules, spelling lists, good behavior ribbons, birthday party invitations, lunch menus, and monthly calendars -- I just don't have them on the front of the fridge.  I do think it looks nicer this way, anyway.  ;)

One place that IS cluttered is the wall in the stairway.  On the left are family photos, old and new.

On the right are photos of the kids' activities and teams. 

If there's something worth cluttering your life with, it's photos.  Am I right?  (Speaking of photos, we keep our albums on a shelf right by the front door, so that in case of emergency, we can grab them on our way out the door.) 

Here's the thing.  Life is short.  Hurricanes, fires, floods, unexpected death -- they happen.  And stuff is just stuff.  For me, life is too short to be burdened by things.  It's the memories we make, not the stuff we accumulate that we remember as we look back on our lives, anyway. 

One last anecdote in closing. . . . I don't honestly remember, but I'm pretty sure that I evacuated New Orleans wearing flipflops.  It was August, after all.  So, when I found myself living with my parents in Fort Smith a couple weeks later and had signed up to substitute teach at the local junior high school, I needed some new shoes.  Off I went to the store.  Now, if you're headed out to buy your only pair of shoes other than flipflops, you really ought to buy something sensible.  You know what I came back with?

Yep, those are red, peep-toed, faux-croc heels.  I loved them then.  I love them now.  I never once regretted that they were the only pair of nice shoes I had to wear for awhile.  You know why?  Yep, you guessed it . . . life is short!  It's too short for the only pair of nice shoes you own to be black pumps when you could have these instead that make you smile everytime you see them!


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