Watching

Today, I was back in my studio determined to give it another go.  I pulled out a small box of papers – you know, the kind of stuff mixed media artists collect – small images, bits of color and pattern, quotes, and other bits of ephemera that might be useful somewhere, sometime.  Talk about micro-managing.  I’m hip-deep in unmade decisions regarding canvases and half-finished works and I’m sorting through bits of paper that are inspiring new projects.

Anyway, about that time I heard the roaring rumble of the trash truck pulling around in our cul-de-sac.  I stepped to the window and watched.  Watched as the two guys labored tossing my five extra trash bags (as allowed by our trash service) into the pit of the truck and then attached our giant can full of debris onto the ramp and dumped it in with the rest of my discards.  Watched as the mechanism smashed it and compacted it with the rest of my neighbors trash.  Thought about my next door neighbors tiny little bag of trash.  Thought about how much I was sending to the landfill.  Knowing that I had recycled and donated what I could and there was still so much…

So much stuff.  So many regrets.  Wondering what the trash guys thought of me and my piles of bags each week.

I watched as they drove away with the stuff I had thrown away and the emotions that trailed behind them – sadness, regret, anxiety, fear, loss.

And stood there with the remnants of those emotions, but mainly with a feeling of relief, pride, and a sense of accomplishment.  And felt so much lighter.

It’s all well and good to proclaim that it’s just stuff – that we are not our belongings, but…

for a lot of us, the stuff is just a symptom of past trauma and abuse.  It’s  the way we coped with things we didn’t understand and couldn’t deal with.  The decluttering effort is therapy.  There is no quick solution.  It’s laborious and difficult and challenging.  It’s tears and anger, sorrow and grieving.

But, today as I was watching that big truck pull out of sight around the corner…those five bags transformed into “just stuff” as I finally let them go.

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Trash or Treasure?

Before we began pulling up the carpet in the classroom/studio, I did some decluttering.  Moving around too much stuff during home improvement projects is no fun at all!

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Some items are harder to make decisions about than others…like old art journals.  These are a few of the first pages I made when I started making art again about a decade or so ago.  Probably longer ago than that.

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Honestly, more scrapbooking or therapy than actual art, but they were a way to start playing with the idea of fitting art into my life again.  I drew and made stuff all the time as a kid.  I majored in art and creative writing in college.  When I graduated I packed away or got rid of my art stuff.  Art was not really valued in my family and I suppose I felt like it was time to become a “grown-up” and put away “childish” things.

I buried the need to create by doing tons of “art” with my kids once I had them and taking on whatever creative projects that presented themselves:  newsletters, Vacation Bible School, fliers, bulletin boards, etc.

Then came these first art journal pages.

So, that brings me back to the original question:  Trash or treasure?  These decisions are difficult and exhausting mentally for me. I love these pages because they remind me how far I’ve come.  I started creating art and have definitely come a long way from these humble pieces.  Not as far as I’d like, but making progress nonetheless.  Do I keep them as reminders, or ditch them and move on.  If they are out on a shelf, it’s unlikely that I’ll look at them again for another 10 years, if ever.  Oh, and I’ll have to dust them.  We’ve already established that I don’t like cleaning house!  If I pack them away, I’ll have to make room to store them somewhere and will eventually end up moving the box  from here to there several times.  If I throw them away, will I regret it or feel “lighter” from no longer having to care for them.

Thus far, I haven’t regretted getting rid of anything.  I just feel relief that it’s going away.

And, the decision is (drum roll please) – no decision at all right now.  They are stacked in the hallway.  There are about 30 total and I just can’t make a decision.  I’m leaning towards going through them and keeping the best pages and pitching the rest.

I did pitch a full trash bag of other stuff, donated a box of stuff, and sold 8 bags of books.

Muddling my way through one thing at a time.