Tuesday, November 10, 2015
One Hundred Items: The Challenge #NancyMartin
LUCY BURDETTE: We are always happy when a new Nancy Martin book comes out--we love to celebrate and to hear what's new in her life...and you might love her new obsession too! Welcome Nancy!
NANCY MARTIN: Okay, Reds, I know I’m among friends here, so I’m going to tell you about my latest obsession: GROS----that is, Getting Rid of Stuff.
My husband and I raised our daughters in a big house in suburbia, and when they went off to create their own lives we downsized into a perfect-sized city home with small closets and not much space for all the things that we managed to accumulate in the last 38 years together. My bazillion books. (We bought this house because it came with a library in the basement.) His sporting equipment. (I’m not just talking golf clubs and tennis rackets. There’s a motorcycle and all the paraphernalia that must come with it.) There was all the stuff our girls left behind, not to mention the furniture and housewares I thought they would want some day. (But of course they want their own stuff!) My mother downsized into assisted living and brought me all the things she couldn’t quite bear to part with. (Beautiful antique fireplace tools, for one thing. Except I don’t have a functioning fireplace.) Then there were the years when we were big into community theater, and somehow we managed to collect a bunch of costumes and props and even a set of velvet-cushioned theater seats that came out of a demolished—well, you get the picture. Our house was bursting at the seams.
Meanwhile my beloved aunt had gone into a long, terrible health decline, and those years of neglect turned her beautiful big house full of antiques, exquisite furniture and many, many collectibles into a daunting project that loomed in my future. I knew I was going to be stuck cleaning up her mess. When she died, I assembled all the cousins and the Got Junk company, and in five hellishly difficult days, we managed to clean out everything. It was a huge project fraught with all kinds of problems, but despite the hard work it became a fun celebration of her life. We survived. And we’re all still speaking.
So on New Year’s Day, I made a resolution I thought I could keep: For the whole year, I’d get rid of 100 items every month so my kids wouldn’t be left with such a chore. 100 didn’t seem like a huge number. It was do-able. In January I started small-- with all those little hairdo jiggies—clips and pins and a headband I was never going to wear again. And old makeup. (How many rancid tubes of mascaras does one woman need?) The bathroom was a great place to start. All those half-used travel sized toiletries that had somehow multiplied in the cupboards were quickly tossed into a trash bag. I counted carefully and got rid of 100 items—easy peasy.
I don’t know about you, but my New Year’s resolutions rarely make it to February. But the next month I hit my closets and easily shed clothes I’d never wear again. Things that were the wrong size or hopelessly outdated. (It’s hard getting rid of expensive clothing, but really, was I ever going to wear that embroidered vest again?) In March it was my linen closets and my shoe collection. The project gathered momentum. I stopped counting one towel as one thing, but a half a dozen ratty old towels in a single bag made one item. I found old magazines galore, but one bag full of magazines became one item. I was on a roll. Getting rid of stuff was great! I felt lighter, happier. I could see the bottoms of my closets again! April and May flew by, and I lugged many bags and boxes to the Goodwill store. At June’s neighborhood garage sale, I got rid of some really big items—an old treadmill, furniture that was taking up space, more housewares. Over the summer, books went to library sales and nursing homes. Children’s books went to the homeless shelter along with art supplies and toys. Magazines went to waiting rooms. Finding good places to recycle still-usable items became an obsession.
I didn’t want my family to feel as resentful as my cousins and I had felt while dealing with my aunt’s mess. So I kept cleaning. There are plenty of books and websites that preach the gospel of de-cluttering. But I made a few rules for myself: Did I love an item? If I didn’t, out it went. (I love my dad’s dressage saddle, so—yes, I am still a little crazy—it stays.) Did I use an item often, or was I saving it for the “someday” when I might possibly need a set of Memorial Day picnic plates? Was I saving something even though it was broken? I admit that sorting through sentimental things got complicated. I couldn’t get rid of important family photos, but do you remember when we took pictures on film and saved dozens of photographs, no matter how dopey friends and family looked? I found I could easily pitch the photo of my college roommate when she’d played too much beer pong. But the flattering pictures I kept. I lugged one daughter’s high school jewelry box all the way to her house in Texas. If she wanted to hang onto those keepsakes, she could find storage space in her own house. Same for my other daughter’s rock collection. (!!)
It took until October for my husband to start noticing. And then he pitched in! Last week I took 36 old dress shirts of his to the Goodwill. (Why does a man keep that many shirts he’ll never wear again? Well, I’m asking myself the same question about the 37 winter scarves I also dug out of our front hall closet.
I feel changed by my One Hundred Items challenge. Better. Lighter. Happier. Less stressed out. Relieved. Not so daunted by the future. Has this project translated into a book? Kind of. MISS RUFFLES INHERITS EVERYTHING is about Sunny McKillip, a young woman who doesn’t have many possessions left in this world. But she moves in with Honeybelle Hensley, a flamboyant Texas rose who has a big house and big hair…….and a beloved, but obnoxious small dog. When Honeybelle dies and leaves her fortune to Miss Ruffles, it’s Sunny who must step up when the hijinks ensue. (MISS RUFFLES INHERITS EVERYTHING is available now. Go check it out!)
Do you collect too much crap? Or are you one of those organized people who keeps only what she needs and nothing more?
I’ll be finished with my New Year’s resolution soon, but I’m in the habit now. I’m going to keep divesting. And I’m thinking about a new challenge for next year. Have you heard about Forty Hangers? The idea is you keep a wardrobe of only forty items in your closet. I’m thinking I might give it a shot.
Meanwhile, see you in line at the Goodwill!
Nancy Martin is the author of nearly fifty popular fiction novels in four genres—mystery, suspense, romance and historical. Her best-selling, award-winning Blackbird Sisters Mysteries include last year’s A LITTLE NIGHT MURDER. MISS RUFFLES INHERITS EVERYTHING is a standalone mystery from Minotaur. Nancy has served on the national board of Sisters in Crime and is a founding member of Pennwriters.In 2009 she won the Romantic Times award for career achievement in mystery writing. Find her on Facebook.