Paying the Piper

“Don’t complain and talk about all your problems. Eighty percent of people don’t care; the other twenty percent will think you deserve them.” Mark Twain

I like Mark Twain’s advice. Isn’t it the truth? A whiner I shall not be.

HOWEVER. Y’ALL. (that means that the whining is about to begin)

My head is about to explode. Someone had a saying on Pinterest this morning: I smile to hide how completely overwhelmed I am.

We have so much to do. HERE where we are. THERE where we are headed. And everything in between.

Now we’ve made several decisions. One is that we are going to take that room upstairs with the brick chimney–you know the one I said was my least favorite?

We’re going to make that room a master bathroom! I’m working on ideas and trying to draw it out. (I draw like I’m in 6th grade, so poor contractors!) This is one of my husband and my favorite things to do. Dream and Design. So I’m in the phase of “Hmmm…should this corner be the shower? Hmmm…maybe the tub under the window? Or facing the fireplace?” 

“I’m dreaming of a claw foot or pedestal tub, just like the one my Grandma used to have.”

We’ve decided to white wash the brick in there to lighten up all that brown. Don’t you think that will help brighten up the room?

Now about the piper’s payday.

I absolutely hate it when those times in our lives arrive and it is time to pay the piper! It couldn’t be for a better cause (moving to a farm), so really, I’m NOT complaining. I’m just trying to figure out HOW to do it. I mean, we are trying to move into a house ½ the size of the one we’re in.


I have been mindlessly accumulating STUFF since I was 8 years old. I still have most of it. And 21 years ago this pack-rat married her soul-mate, also a pack-rat. Guess what their offspring is? Yep, a pack-rat.

I like to tell this story because it makes me laugh. A friend (who was a judge I worked with who’s demeanor would remind you of Andy Griffith) came over to the first house we owned. He saw our overloaded-with-stuff garage and said, “You know what? They say you should give away whatever you haven’t used in the last three years….” I said to him, “That’s not what WE say. That’s not OUR standard.” He laughed and said, “I can see that.” hahahaha. That was 15 years ago I bet. Time to pay the piper!

When we moved last time (and then moved back), I gave away and threw away what felt like a lot of stuff. And here’s the honest truth: I have missed some of it. I have looked for a particular jacket or sweater or kitchen appliance. As it turns out, I didn’t part with nearly as much as I needed to. Because this move is THE BIG ONE, six hours away, and because we are halving the square footage of our home, I’ve got to learn how to quit ADDING and start DROPPING.

But how, how, how???

This time I have been going through every single box in the basement, attic, garage and bonus room. You see, last move I simply moved those boxes filled with all kinds of STUFF.

Okay, so why do we have all this STUFF? What makes a pack-rat a pack-rat?

I have pop-analyzed myself to figure this out. Why do I hang onto so much? I think it has to do with two things: the past and the future.

As for the past. I keep stuff because it gives me my history. I have a terrible memory. I’ve always had a terrible memory. People I went to high school with tell me all kinds of stories about our high school antics and adventures. I’m always like—for real?? Mementos help me remember. I go through a box of stuff and find things that jar my memory.

And ego. I hang onto stuff to define who I am. See this article where they quoted me? See this picture of me in the newspaper? See this transcript from that case? See that speech I wrote? See all those things I created? It helps me remember, in a weird way, that I’m somebody. As if!

So I think I’ve kept the stuff so I can keep my memories and my history.

What an emotional thing this is to do. I’m living my whole life as I go through the boxes of my life. I found letters I wrote my parents from summer camp, a letter I wrote to Elton John, a postcard my first crush sent me from a trip he took to Europe. I found ticket stubs from every concert I’ve been to. I have those little notecards that come with flowers that my husband has sent me. I have menus from restaurants on vacations we took. I have old plane tickets. I have every piece of luggage I’ve ever owned, including the one Santa brought me that I took to the aforementioned summer camp. You get the idea?

And. I have everything my daughter ever created. Ever.

As for as the future. I keep stuff because I might need it one day. I fully intend to do something with that door I bought at a flea market ten years ago. For real. I’m sure I’ll need it one day. I’m sure I’ll know some time in the future what I’ll do with it. You know all those glass vases that come with flowers? I’ve got ‘em. And so far I haven’t put them in the give-away pile because I have in my mind that one day we’ll be hosting farm events and then I’ll be needing as many vases as I can get my hands on so I might a well put these in a box and keep them somewhere, don’t you know.

So I’m doing a mid-life cleansing. Getting rid of stuff.

I passed out big white trash bags to each family member this last Saturday. Fill ‘er up! You wouldn’t believe how easy it was for each of us to do that. In less than an hour we had each filled up the bags with items to give away. I put them in the car right away before we changed our minds about any of that good stuff.

Here are two things that were hard for me to put in my bag:

These slippers and these awesome plaid shoes (which are not now and never were tacky in any regard, so quit thinking they are because they are not. I loved them plaid shoes!):

And I also had put in my 1990’s combat boots (that used to be style and also, not tacky!) and some orange wedge heels (not tacky, not tacky, not tacky.)

 But you know what? My daughter pulled them out and said, “Can I keep these? They are so cute and I bet I can wear them in high school.”

Though I don’t think I’d let her wear these in high school. Too high?

In any event, I was happy to oblige! Why? Because I am a pack-rat, that’s why!

Next thing I know she came into the room wearing my combat boots. Six sizes too big, but one day.

I’m trying to change my standard for things that go in the KEEPING pile. Instead of keeping things that might be of some use in the future, I’m thinking, “Do I NEED this now?” Because I’ve got to find a place to put it in my new house. For example, I’ve got these cute carousel horses. I didn’t buy them, they weren’t a gift. There were just left by a previous owner in a house that I bought about ten years ago. Why do I still have these? I just do.

I mean, they are cute and they remind me of that house and I might just need them in the future…..


I am NOT organized; I know that and I’ve confessed it here a million-zillion times. But I’m working on it, Baby. I’ve GOT too!

Here are two areas I REALLY need help with. How do YOU handle these?
One is kitchen gadgets. In this house, I’ve dedicated a drawer to them. But it’s a crowded, unorganized mess.

Where do you keep yours?

The other is tablecloths. Where in the world do you store all your tablecloths???? I have no idea on that one. I guess I need to give some of those away as well. How many does one person need anyhow?

Come over an visit me on facebook, pinterest or I’m going to try to post more often. All the feedback is so awesome and helpful and I’ve got a ton of decisions to make over the next few weeks!
Until next time, Friends, savor the flavor of life!

Lots of Love, The City Farmgirl, Rebekah

  1. Wendi says:

    All I can say is Amen!!!! I can sooo relate on so many levels!!! We are finally having a garage sale this weekend and I am making myself purge all the great garage sale I was hoping to use one day!! Wish you well in the process and think of all the happy people you will bless with your things!!!

  2. Karin says:

    I feel your pain. I did the same thing about 5 years ago. I was out of town working and my husband completed the packing and move. BAD NEWS!!! If there was a spare inch he found something to put there. He was too afraid to throw anything out. We moved to a 4500 square foot cabin in a valley (Moving truck could not go thru the creek so they had to unload and bring things to the house in a wagon). The cabin sits on 200 acres in the Ozarks but not one bit of storage and every closet is no bigger than 2 feet by 2 feet. But there is a jacuzzi the size of Maine in the Master Bath. (Soon to come out and be a closet) Luckily there was a barn and everything went into that barn. Every year one of my resolutions is to go thru and get rid of stuff. I have been supporting the local animal rescue’s thrift store slowly. When they have room, I fill it up. People actually buy my old suits and heels (20 years at a law firm). (Must be for a lot of Halloween Parties). I saved everything (you should see my quilting material stash) and with five kids who do not want it at their homes but do not want to part with it, one can only imagine. I like playing in the fields and with all my rescued horses, mini donkeys, dogs and cats.. (Looking at goats now(don’t tell my hubby))(trying to populate 200 acres is hard work enough). That stash of treasures in the barn will have to wait until the thrift store calls or preferably … maybe the organization fairies will come some day and clean out the barn…. I prefer the outdoors….

  3. Donna R. says:

    I’m smiling cause I anticipate that kind of move in about 6 years and the thought of what we need to off-load is daunting! I feel for you. As to organizing gadgets, I’ve had luck with pretty pottery vases or Mason jars for those with handles – sit them next to the stove where you’ll need them. I keep folded tablecloths in an old trunk that serves as a table. If I had the closet space though, I’d drape them over sturdy hangers. Best of luck! Donna

  4. Joan says:

    Dear Rebekah!!! 6 years ago I moved from my home of almost 40 years – and I too am a SAVER OF LIFE. My sister and I live together – she is NOT a SAVER OF LIFE – yupper you got it when we packed to move – she was totally the NO NEED FOR THIS PERSON and I on the other hand was, as fast as I could, packing it into a NEED box. Needless to say MANY things were gotten rid of that oh my how many times have I wished they hadn’t been – even she has some that she wishes she hadn’t been so quick to place in someone else’s home. So the story is – DO NOT DO NOT eliminate too quickly! Oh by the way, just this last week I did a CLEANSING – more items have now gone to the needy but my TREASURES are here and my grandchildren LOVE looking through them and hearing the stories. Best wishes on the move. Oh the way to save your treasures – ORGANIZE and then they don’t look so over whelming. Wish I was there to help you.

  5. Maureen says:

    Watch the Hoarders TV show; you’ll want to give away everything that you own! Seriously, my best way to keep a handle on this is to "sweep" the house on a monthly basis and take a box to a donation center. People there need nice things too. If I could only keep my husband away from garage sales…….

  6. Emma Dorsey says:

    I know exactly how you are feeling right now as I too have to minimize all the stuff we have before we move. I know that my husband and i have accumulated many books over the years and since we now read everything off our androids we have decided to sell all that we can on eBay, along with many other things that we no longer have use for and do not have room for.
    I have told my husband we WILL minimize right down to the bare necessities before we go because moving is such a pain in the bum.
    We have a bit of a ways to go as we are waiting to hear back from our Pert Test to see if the septic tank will be able to be OKed. Since we found out that we are inheriting early his dad’s property we have had to revamp all the plans for our house and scaled way down in order to try and finish the build this year. So the plans went from over 4000 sq. ft. to a very small cabin for our new river home.
    I am leaving most of my furniture to my son who is taking over this place. Anything else will be eBay or yard sale. I have been using this great program called Chief Architect to do all my designing and it is great because you can add all your personal touches to the design right down to the color and texture of your fabric on the furniture and even add the accessories. Plus you can view it in 3D which really brings it to life.
    I feel your pain and i know the shoes are the hardest thing to part with lol. But I wish you the best when it come right down to the wire. I always makes lists and goals and they change every day ha! But somehow things happen, (with a lot of Prayer). Looking forward to seeing the final product.

  7. Raynita says:

    Oh, bless your heart:( I am feeling for you so much right now. How is it possible to accumulate so much? I ask myself that question all of the time. The last couple of years I have really made it a mission to bring very little in the front door. I have pledged if I am going to bring in one item, I have to get rid of two….this sort of works…lol I do throw away concert tickets, etc.. now, but why is it so hard? (okay, I didn’t throw away James Taylor’s, that would be insane) Enjoy your memories that are flooding your soul right now though as you go through your *stuff*. I believe they serve a purpose right now. Then buy more trash Feeling your pain, Raynita

  8. Sheri Chin (Sheepmom2) says:

    I moved here from Lake Tahoe 32 years ago and lived in an 11 by 14 ft. tiny cabin while we built our home. I still have boxes full of stuff stored under the eaves in the attic that I moved then and never opened. I’d get rid of it but I don’t want to crawl in there and get it out and haul it down three flights of stairs… I get it. I feel your frustration and have to grin. Seems like every time I get rid of something, I end up needing it later but I have gotten rid of a lot of stuff over the past couple of years. One suggestion though – Keep a list of what is in the boxes and then number the boxes to correspond to the list. That way if stuff has to live in the boxes while you are working on things you will be able to find things easily by looking at the list and finding the corresponding numbered box. It worked really well for us with things in storage while we built the house. Good Luck on you downsizing!

  9. Kim says:

    I can relate but in the end it is only stuff. The older I get, the more I want to purge my life of the extraneous and boil it down to the essential. Easier said than done but oh so liberating!

  10. Andrea says:

    I’m not a keeper and I’m an organizer. Two rules: Store like things together. Store things where they are used.

    Kitchen gadgets I call "heavy equipment," and they all go into a drawer like yours. Just make sure it good and deep to hold all the stuff. You drawer looks just like mine.

    Best wishes on all of this. My "solution" for you would be to call on all the Angels of Moving into a Smaller House whose task it is to support the memory-keepers. Call yourself a memory-keeper instead of a pack-rat. You have enough negative thought about yourself already and don’t need the name thing. Then feel yourself surrounded by these Magnificent Beings and SOAR your way through this period of your life. Shortly, you will call it the very best moments of your life. GO FOR IT! Many blessings to you!

  11. kay says:

    Imagine you gain by losing and lose by gaining..
    Your attachments to objects, status, your culture, and even other people prevent you from being free. The more stuff that accumulates, the more you have to watch it, insure it, protect it, polish it,distribute it and identify with it. In other words, you lose harmony while seeking to gain. Practice giving your possessions away and loosening your need for who and what you have. Imagine strings attached to everyone and everything that you feel you own; then symbolically cut those strings and be an observer rather than a owner.
    Wayne Dyer wrote this and it inspires me and helps me live in the now…….

  12. Nan Roberts says:

    Yes, re whitewashing the brick.

    Moving into a smaller house, what great timing. I’m going to do the same thing in a couple of weeks. Three years ago I moved out of the family home into this house, 1/3 the size of the other. But at the end when we were all fried, we shoved things in boxes and gave them to me. sigh. But my sister was also the "throw it out" one, and i did have to rescue some things, going behind her. But I realized that I am trying to keep fragments of my past life, and of the home we lived in. But now they are just fragments. I don’t even like some of it. So I have to sort again, and really get rid of stuff.

    The paper mementoes, think flat, scrapbooks. Which you can’t do right now, but you could plan a *specific time* to deal with them

    A friend of mine is a personal organizer. Her criteria were: do you use it? Does is grab your heart?
    If so, I keep it. BUT I know you could say that all your mementoes grab your heart.

    My reaction to all my overwhelm is to pray for help. It’s really simple. You say, "Help, Lord."

    So I will eventually quit reading and typing this and get out to the garage, and start packing.

    Hang in there!

  13. Nan Roberts says:

    Kitchen gadgets. I had to do the same thing. I went through the drawers full of them all, and thought about cooking, and pulled out the things I really use. I kept them. They are now in several drawers. And I do use them. Though somehow I have two ice cream scoops. I don’t know why.

    Tablecloths: I have the same problem. I stuff them into drawers, that’s what. We did get rid of a lot. Is there some way you could box things as "business" things? You probably will have farm dinners and will need tablecloths. SO can’t you box and label them that way as business supplies and you have BARNS!!! A barn. OUTBUILDINGS!!!
    Gather your future business supplies and store them that way. The flower vases, same thing, except you can probably pick up what you need when the time comes at Goodwill, etc. Those vases are a bear to pack and store, and they are usually sort of ugly. You can get more of those.

  14. Brenda says:

    Oh for goodness sake. I just wrote a long comment with some suggestions for you. It was there and then it just disappeared. If you get it let me know…otherwise I will try and come back and re-write it. You can do this!

  15. Deb Esposito says:

    Questions to ask when sorting through things: Do I love it? Do I need it? Does it bring me peace and energy or unease. Clutter is anything neglected, forgotten, unwanted, unloved and unused. I read this somewhere and now I just need to take my own advice and get moving!!

  16. Marge Hofknecht says:

    Rebekah, saving things for some day in the uncertain future is a problem I struggle with as well. But I do try to nail down a future purpose for an item as often as possible. I love origami so I have accumulated high quality and beautifully printed wrapping paper. I keep the papers rolled up in individual rolls and standing on end in a wicker basket that I have. I try to pare down and stream line stuff so it can be used. Go to the local library and peruse Country Living (try not to subscribe!! If you’re like me, you won’t want to part with the issues) for some great ideas for your country home’s storage.
    And for all your paper memorabilia and your child’s artwork there’s always scrap booking. Look for ideas online and in craft stores.
    I hope these few ideas help you and rest assured, I’m a pack rat, too. I have respect for things and the memories attached to them as well as the dreams I have when I pick up something I think I’ll need. Nothing wrong with that. At least, I don’t think so. Have fun in your new home. The Lord bless and keep you.

  17. Leslie McG says:

    Oh my I can relate. I am considering a move from my home state of CA and my current home for the last 27 yrs(in a 975 ft condo with a 2 1/2 car garage with only one car and many boxes and a storage area) to TX, 4 states away and we intend to be in a more rural area with land (though not the HUGE place you are going to,in my condo-suburb experience). I too am a pack rat (although I LOVE the "memory keeper" concept and will adopt it happily) so you can imagine the sorting and letting go of that i need to be doing.
    GF keep the combat boots, you will be on a farm and may need them for mucking about although they will not stay as shiny! LOL I love the brick and would paint the brown doors/shutters instead. Get the biggest tub you can so that it views the fireplace! Best of luck and am looking forward to hearing more!

  18. Lori says:

    A tablecloth tip…hang them in a closet. We live in a small, historic house, with very limited storage, and I have quite a collection of tablecloths. Since many belonged to my grandmothers and great-grandmothers, I couldn’t part with them. We ended up hanging them in a closet in the dining room. Since I have a tablecloth for just about every holiday, this system works really well – I clean the tablecloth after use, press it, hang it, cover it with either plastic (from the dry cleaner), or use a suit storage bag. The tablecloths stay neat and are ready to for the next party.

  19. MartiBee says:

    You keep your table cloths in a linen press. And, please find other things to divest yourself of than your letters and mementos. Now that MY mom and grandma are gone, they are my most precious things. As a family historian, your great great grandchild will love you for it. At the present, I keep the letters in an old suitcase that belonged to my grandpa, on top of an old army footlocker that belonged to my dad,on top of an old trunk that belonged to my great gran. My sister in law interior designer would have a stroke, but, hey, she’s not the one living my life. And — don’t you have some outbuildings? You could put your husband’s stuff there! 🙂

  20. Cheryl says:

    I can see one of your outbuildings becoming a Memory Haven. Remodel it into a room to escape to. All of your favorite memories hanging on walls and displayed on furniture. A great easy chair and books or music. Your own Mom Cave. I am thinking of doing that very thing.

  21. hobbit says:

    You are not alone as so many before have stated. A year ago I got a mason jar that I use to hold my kitchen tools that I use on a regular basis. I put my canning tools in a basket with my canning jars fun collected tools were hung from an Amish peg board and after 6 months the drawer was emptied in the Goodwill bag and quickly sent on it’s way. Good luck and keep at it ’cause once a hoarder always a hoarder you just have to accept it and deal.

  22. all8garden says:

    It’s funny that you posted this because after reading your post, I moved on to another blog that I follow. Her most recent post is quite apropos for your situation. I hope it’s a help.

    I suffer from the same ailment. How much time could I reclaim if I didn’t have to clean ‘stuff’, or shift ("reorganize") them or worry about what I’m going to do with it when it’s time for us to move. I’m beginning to look at things as blessings, blessings that I have used in their time and need to pass on to others, so that I can receive the blessings I really need instead of hanging onto things. They are just things.

  23. Laura says:

    Remember the out-buildings? Need I say more 😉

  24. MarillaAnne says:

    😀 totally relate to the stuff holding memories thing and the bad memory. Photographs and scanners are amazing memory holders. I scanned cards, letters, invitations, articles … Etc. I even scanned some of my children’s art work that was coming apart anyway. I don’t think I need to tell you this because it probably doesn’t apply but…if you hold something in your hands and it doesn’t fill you with good memories, let go. I don’t care how pretty… Just let go. Oh and if a box seems especially intimidating, say, "i can do anything for 15 min." do it. Then do something easier for 15 or so min. Then, back to the difficult thing. 🙂 enjoy have fun.

  25. all8garden says:

    Here is the specific post that I mentioned earlier. She posts just about everyday and so it’s moving down the page.

    I hope that you are able to live your dreams at your new farm without the past keeping your from enjoying your new life.

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