Yesterday FedEx came and picked up two hefty boxes—over 100 lbs total—of Stuff that's now on its way to Art is You in Petaluma, which, by the way, is NEXT WEEK: yay!
Most of what was in the boxes was books. Lots and lots of books, many of them review copies from various publishers. But there was other Stuff, too: art and some projects. It was the kind of Stuff you certainly would never toss out or recycle, and you wouldn't want to donate it because you know there are people out there who would love to have it and would get good use out of it if only you can connect it with them. So I'd been waiting with all this Stuff in bins, and getting it out of the house was pretty huge, you know?
And after the nice young FedEx guy hauled out his trolly and took all this Stuff away, an amazing thing happened: I had An Idea. Sure, we get a lot of ideas, but this one seemed to come from nowhere, because it certainly wasn't something I'd been thinking about. Suddenly, it was just there.
[OK, an aside: on Saturday I'd bought a second-hand (or 3rd or who knows) jumper, one that had originally been hideously expensive. I brought it home, washed it, dyed it, and planned to wear it over jeans. But yesterday morning I suddenly had the idea to make a pattern from it and make some more, and I went out into the storage building and found enough already-dyed linen to make not one, not two, but FOUR of these in all the colors I love most. I made the pattern, sewed up the first jumper, tried it on, tweaked the pattern, and then laid out the fabric so I can start on #2. All this in between and around writing the first big draft of an article for an assignment. It was, in short, A Really Good Day.]
What I firmly believe—what I have come to believe in just the last year or so, as I follow this path I seem to have found myself on—is that as I get rid of Stuff that's been sitting around or hanging on the wall or filling shelves, it makes room for something else. Not more Stuff, oh, goodness, no! I have no desire to go out and buy new stuff. I seem to be over the part of my life where I enjoyed finding things to bring home. The only kinds of things I like to bring home now are the things I need to make clothes. I don't know why, but there it is.
What fascinates me is that the more Stuff I get rid of—and, as I've said many times, I've gotten rid of a ton of stuff, probably literally—the more ideas I have and the more energy and the more excitement about life and making and thinking. They say that Stuff expands to fill the space available to it, and maybe that's what's happening here: Stuff took up a lot of space, both physical and mental (cleaning it, storing it, insuring it, sorting it, digging through it to find other Stuff), and as it goes away, the other things—ideas, inspiration, energy—expand to fill the space that's become available.
Whatever. I'm not all that concerned with why this is happening; I'm just happy it's happening, and I'm like any other new convert: I want to spread the good word.
So: what do you wish you had more room for? (And, yeah, I know that sentence ends with a preposition, and we don't care, do we?) What is there that you've pushed to the back burner, the back of your closet, the back of your mind? An idea for a book? A design for a quilt? Jewelry-making tools you used in college? A collection of fabulous paper you planned to use Someday? What is it that could expand in amazing ways?
OK, let's do a for-instance here. Lots of people tell me they'd like to get back to sewing. Not that there are tons of people who want to sew, but people see me sewing in public and see how happy I am doing it, and it sparks some Good Sewing Memory (well, OK, not for everyone: lots of us have really icky memories of being forced to make buttonholes in jr. high home ec., but we'll just put those out of our minds, right?) I tell them, "Then you should!" and they alwaysalwaysalways say something like, "Well, I'm not sure where my sewing machine is," or "If I could put a sewing table in the dining room, which we haven't used since Reagan was in office," or "I've got so many projects started that I can't even find my fabric stash." Things like that. What I'd like to say to them next is: "If you got rid of all the crap you've got stored in your house and garage and attic and closets and spare bedrooms, you'd find what you need and have room to do whatever you want." But you can't tell people their stuff is crap. We have to figure that part out for ourselves, in our own time: that all this Stuff we've bought and brought home and saved so lovingly really doesn't matter a bit in the big scheme of live and love and joy.
The truth is that if you're busy and have a job and/or a family and/or a house, you don't have the time or energy to hunt for stuff when you have an idea or clean off space to set up your tools. You get an idea you'd like to pursue, and then you start thinking about where stuff (pins, fabric, scissors) might be and what you'd have to do to set up (set up the folding table for cutting the fabric, clear off the table to set up the sewing machine, move the lamp from the den to have better light), and you push that exciting idea out of your head because, frankly, it's just too much work. Do that often enough, and guess what? The ideas give up on you. They stop coming because they know they won't be welcomed and embraced. If every time you get an idea, you get frustrated and overwhelmed by all the things you'd have to do to follow it, ideas stop seeming like Good Things and start seeming, to your poor, cluttered brain, like Very Bad Things.
So please find me in Petaluma next week and talk to me: what would you do with some empty, bright, airy space? What would you hope would come to fill it up in the very best of ways? Let's talk; I have ideas!