Or You See Piles, I See Creative Clutter.
“An artist is a collector. Not a hoarder, mind you, there’s a difference: hoarders collect indiscriminately, the artist collects selectively. They only collect things that they really love.”
From How to Steal Like an Artist, www.austinkleon.com
Being an artist, I would like to think of myself as a collector. I can point to my collection of 13 tea pots (a couple inherited, some bought from other potters, some made by myself), 18 baskets – mostly bought while traveling in exotic climes) and textiles too numerous to count at this point as fine examples of my artistic penchant for having and keeping lovely things. But lately, this label has been called into question.
|Our "basement" which will soon be transformed.|
We are cleaning out our “basement” (really, just an overly large furnace area with shelving). My husband decided, oh, maybe a year or two ago, that our basement needed some organizational updating. Translation: Let’s just get rid of stuff we aren’t using, haven’t used or never will use again.
This presents a dilemma for me. I have a very difficult time letting go of things, especially things that, well, could actually be used or useful once again or even more difficult, things with a history, a story, a heart connection (I still have my Junior prom dress).
All you have to do is look inside our guest room closet. There you will see a lovely array of beautiful clothes - some, mine from the 60’s (the pink strapless is the prom dress), some, my mother’s from the 50’s and a few, my grandmothers from the 40’s, who, I might add, had many of her things made to order back in the day.
|A few of the lovely frocks from days past.|
But luckily for me, we’re not cleaning out closets just yet.
The basement project started out slowly. First I had to get up the gumption to sell my prize antique full size wrought iron bed – the bed given to me by a college paramour. His dad owned a junk yard where he found it, had it restored and presented it to me with its original springs AND a new mattress. I had this bed for 14 years before I met my husband-to-be. It was the first bed we ever slept in together. We moved it from our first little home in the flats of West Berkeley into our huge master bedroom in our new home in the East Bay hills.
|The antique wrought iron bed we moved into our new master bedroom.|
When we decided to get a new, bigger mattress, we decided to get a new bed. The wrought iron bed was put down in the basement and sat there languishing for six years.
I guess I always thought that I might redo the guest bedroom and use it there instead of the serviceable but not so romantic full size futon bed we have there now.
The iron bed sold for $200 on Craig’s List a year ago April.
The next big thing was my husband’s tatami mats and queen size futon. When I met him way back in 1986 this was one of the few possessions he had in his rented room in the Berkeley hills. Being a huge fan of things Japonesque, I was smitten immediately by his aesthetic taste. We used them in our guest space in West Berkeley but never arranged them here in our hillside home. They sat in the basement for eleven years.
They were sold as a unit for $140 on Craig’s List this May.
A few other things have been sold, given away or taken away by various non-profit organizations and e-waste outfits. Our garage has become the staging area for the piles of stuff we moved out of the basement. This past week, I spent at least 2 full days going through boxes of saved financial documents and other papers from 1998 until the present, where, to my delight, I happened upon all my old employers' and college professors’ evaluations (was that ME they were lauding?) And finally, I went through one box of my mom’s stuff when we moved her out of her last independent living situation. That’s where I found a treasure.
It was stuffed in the box with an old pillow and a mattress pad, balled up in a plastic bag, all stained and smelly. Luckily, I took it out and had a look. Here was this incredible hand cross-stitched quilt my mom had made years ago. But so stained I was afraid it would never be useable. Tide, OxiClean, a good spraying of Shout and a long soak did the job.
|My mom's cross-stitch quilt now in our guest bedroom.|
Our basement is on the way to being the clean, well-organized storage space my husband has been dreaming of. Thankfully, he rarely comes to my studio where I’ve collected hundreds of old Ceramic Monthly, Art In America, American Craft, George, and other nifty magazines, which I plan to use in my work or sell someday. And then there are the rolls of paper, the boxes of boxes, the piles of mat/foam board, the stacks of old frames, the drawers filled with tools, paints, craypas, pencils, erasers, foam cups, paper clips, straight pins . . .
Collector or hoarder? It’s all in the eye of the beholder.