I have been on a mission to declutter our house lately – and I don’t mean in some cutesy “does this spark joy” sort of way. I love clutter and I am perfectly content to allow certain kinds of clutter (books, art, ceramics, creative textiles, vinyl records…) to eat away at my personal space like the Nothing from The Never-Ending Story.
But what I am quite keen to chuck are all the remnants of the rat race that somehow followed us to Florida. We started working from home (read: anywhere with an Internet connection) before it was cool. My uniform is linen pants, a tunic, and bare feet. But I somehow kept a closet full of dark business suits, even after getting rid of probably three-quarters of them before the big move. No one in Florida wears pinstripes. Heck, even our hot-shot accountant dresses like he meant to go to the beach but somehow stumbled into a posh office.
And why do you need any of that anyway? We used to joke that a good suit was a modern form of a knight’s armor. This “armor” being something to deflect all the insecurities and jockeying that takes place in the business realm. But it’s not like the suit makes you any better at math or finance. Casual attire offers an odd form of meritocracy.
Then there are evening gowns and cocktail dresses from the benefits I helped organize in the Junior League and even some from sorority formals. I enjoy being reminded of my lovely Kappa Delta ladies, but come on, how in the world did I still have those? It’s been… well, let’s not do the math, but damn I was skinny in college. Now my idea of getting dressed up is actually putting on shoes. I’m not entirely confident that I could even walk in heels anymore, even though I practically lived in them for decades. But I just got rid of dozens of them. And scarves and bags and all the other stuff that can only be worn with a suit or gown.
Before we relocated to the beach we had a ridiculously beautiful but ridiculously large house (around 6,000 square feet). It was such a big house that each of the three people in our household had the equivalent of a normal house in terms of personal space. Professional kitchen with two islands, a walk-in pantry, and a butler’s pantry. A massive gym. Massive library. A basement outfitted like a sports bar with multiple televisions for watching college basketball and horse racing at the same time and a mahogany bar full of bourbons. Enough bathrooms for each of us to have two. (I had to buy hand soap for eight sinks when I would go shopping.) Playroom, den with a bar, and built-ins everywhere to store endless stuff.
You can’t have that kind of house by the ocean unless you are Tiger Woods or something. We ended up giving away about two-thirds of our furniture to Habitat for Humanity just to be able to move. It is absolutely shocking how much stuff you accumulate for no other reason than you have the space to put it away somewhere.
If I sound like a spoiled brat complaining about all this, that’s probably appropriate.
But the whole point of this is to say none of that was necessary or even enjoyable in the long run and it kind of makes me sad that we lived in such a materialistic landscape for so long. In that big house, we all wanted to be in the same room. We combined our offices so we could chat while we worked. We furnished a homeschool room for the sole purpose of allowing our homeschooled daughter to have “classroom space,” but it turned out she only wanted to do her work at the kitchen table while we cooked. The place was exhausting to maintain.
And here I am, more than two years later, still trying to get rid of all the junk we collected in that house keeping up with the Joneses. Stuff I kept because I was accustomed to thinking I would “need” it, but never have. And, boy, has it lost its sparkle. This must be why “high society” exists – to invent events for people to justify all the nonsense they buy.
The funny thing is, Florida is full of people doing exactly this – checking out. You can’t even sell fancy furniture here because everyone who moves to Florida is getting rid of furniture. The heavy hardwood furniture that is popular up north for stuffing grand federal-style houses has no appeal to people at the beach. And there are people constantly moving down to Florida for a more casual lifestyle, moving into assisted living, or spending their final years here, that there’s a glut in every material good. The charities and consignment stores here are overflowing with the detritus of the rat race in other states. You’d assume there must be a good arbitrage business of buying lux crap on the cheap in Florida and selling it in other states.
And then the fantasy of spending most of our time on a boat comes around. Spending any length of time on a boat will really turn you into a minimalist. I’m not sure how much my husband has considered that I am probably going to sink that thing with books. Alas.