The rains finally stopped, the clouds broke apart, the sun shone once again, and Noah's ark came to rest on dry ground. Oh, sorry, that's another story.
Here's my story. This past weekend, after weeks of cold, clouds, winds, rain and snow, the temperatures shot up to 70 on Saturday and 80 on Sunday. And I held my rummage sale.
I had planned to hold this sale weeks ago but the weather held me back. I went through all the rooms and closets of our home, choosing items I wanted to sell. Dan had hauled 25 Rubbermaid tubs full of "stuff" up from the basement. I decided what to keep (very little) and what to sell (most of it). If necessary, I dusted or cleaned the items, priced them and packed them into the tubs. Dan hauled each one out to the front yard and set up the tables. I carefully set out each item, put up my signs and banner, and sat back and waited, and waited and waited.
I had very few customers. I don't know if it is the poor economy, or that the sale was too late in the year. All that work for a lousy $205.00. Yes, I know, it's $205.00 I didn't previously have, but it was a small fraction of the profits I've made from other sales. All that work for so little reward! I don't plan to ever go antique shopping again, but if I did, I would respect those dealers who post signs like this: "I found it, I bought it, I transported it, I cleaned it up, I displayed it - and now you expect me to lower my price?"
I sit here today at my computer, looking out on a world that is cold, gray and wet once again. I am still stiff and sore, my back hurts, and I re-injured my knee. But even if I came away from my sale with aches, pains and little money, I came away with tons of insight.
I realize now that I was a shopaholic. (I say was. I never purchase anything anymore, except clothing and books from the thrift shops/used book shops.)
I've mulled it over and come up with several reasons why I turned out this way (because I wasn't that way in my 20s). First, a little background:
In June 1982, we lost our home in a fire. We came away with only the clothes on our backs, our dog and our cars. When we were finally able to get into our new house, we moved in with nothing but some clothes, a crib and a few baby things (I was 8 months pregnant when we had the fire). That first day, our bedroom set was delivered so at least we didn't have to sleep on the floor. Over the next six weeks - which also happened to coincide with my maternity leave - I was charged with furnishing and equipping an entire house. Baby in tow, I bought cooking utensils and dishes, glasses and silverware, sheets and blankets, towels, clocks and lamps. You name it, we needed it.
Because we had had a good insurance policy, I had carte blanche to spend money. And I think that sense of permission to spend money lasted me way beyond the first six weeks. It lasted for over 20 years, as a matter of fact.
Too, I had an enormous void to fill. I had lost my collection of books, my precious family photos, over 100 houseplants, certain treasures with great sentimental value. Not long after the fire, I lost one of the opal earrings Dan had given me the day Kristen was born. I broke down and wept. I felt as if I was forever more going to be losing things. I rushed to fill that void, and fill it I did.
Finally, the move into our new house marked the time I started buying decorating or "shelter" magazines. These magazines told me that I should decorate the entire house for each season, to change things up for a fresh look, to have different looks for summer and winter. And I believed those magazines. Oh, did I believe in them. I bought Halloween decorations, Thanksgiving decorations, Christmas decorations, Easter decorations. I bought accessories, I bought antiques. I bought pictures - more pictures than I had wall space for. I bought things and put them away, never to use them.
On Saturdays, Dan would babysit Kristen, and I shopped. I went to rummage sales, flea markets, church bazaars, open houses, craft shows, antique shops, gift shops, the mall. I'd load up on decorative items at TJ Maxx on Fridays, the day after they put the "new stuff" out. I carried home bags and bags of stuff. It felt good. This recreational shopping definitely gave me an endorphin high. Some people call it "retail therapy". If so, I was in therapy for a long, long time.
Over the weekend, I had many hours to sit and look at that "stuff" in the yard and was aghast at myself. Why did I think I needed all those porcelain dolls, all those angels, all those bears, all those knickknacks, all those linens I had no room to display? Yes, it's fine to have a collection, but why did I have so many collections? I wondered if our current bad financial situation is payback for spending all that disposable income instead of saving it. I thought of the grasshopper and the ant. I wondered if what goes 'round has come 'round. I wondered if my personal karma in the form of a nasty little snake had finally caught up with me and bitten me right in the butt.
Who knows? But I can't unring that bell. I do know those days are over for good. Even if I won the lottery I wouldn't buy more stuff. I know now (perhaps too late) that I am not defined by my possessions. I know that things don't matter, people do.
And I do know that I promised Dan he would never have to haul those tubs back down to the basement again. Sadly, I know there are as many tubs still down there. (As are all those magazines.) I know I will get rid of them all. I feel lighter and more free already, and soon I will be even lighter and more free of possessions. (Except my books. The books stay put.)
I am determined to live by this motto: "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." ~ William Morris