His Turn: An Artist Discards, Donates, and Discovers
Truth be told, my husband Cliff would rather not move. Despite the fact it’s getting harder for him to mow our enormous lawn in one fell swoop or scoop up oak leaves by the millions, he would rather stay put.
He’s comfortable with oaken file drawers filled with art supplies and designs in his office and an extra large room upstairs for painting and sound recording, shown here in its current pristine state. (It’s okay to read between the lines: artists are not necessarily neat!)
Still, he wisely understands that mounting stairs and maintaining a large corner property may be too much for us as we approach our elder years just around the corner.
The Discarding Process
And so, like me, he has sifted through, scanned, sorted, recycled, and discarded. But it ain’t easy.
Donations that Inspire
Still, he has sparked joy in book-loving friends at church.
Discoveries Along the Way: Some items, like this bronze bust, were hidden in plain sight:
Others had to be unearthed, like this photo of a Barbara Streisand painting, part of a series of famous New York personalities showcased at “Arnie’s New York, New York” restaurant in Jacksonville in the 1980s. Some of the other 4 x 6 foot paintings included Groucho Marx, Norman Rockwell, Frank Sinatra, Woody Allen, and Joe Namath.
In a tall armoire on a narrow shelf, he found the preliminary watercolor study for a Star Wars painting, which when completed graced the main elevator at Wolfson Children’s Hospital, one among a hundred paintings for the hospital.
He has also found lurking in drawers, pencil drawings of college classmates and professors in the classroom, sketches of unsuspecting diners in restaurants. (To be revealed)
A Male View: Paring Down and Tidying Up
Joshua Fields Millburn, author of Everything that Remains: A Memoir by the Minimalists, shares the masculine perspective of living with little and savoring what you have. “Blindsided by the loss of his mother and his marriage in the same month,” Millburn made daring life changes. You can read my short review of his book here.
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What are the pitfalls (or blessings) of moving with a spouse or other relative?
Have you made fascinating discoveries during a move or while organizing your possessions?
Coming in two weeks (July 20): Louisa Adams’ Moving Adventure
It\’s nice to see Cliff and his artwork showcased here. His studio is beautiful–I can understand why he\’s reluctant to leave it.
I think one of the good things about having a spouse or partner involved in moving is that jobs can be divided. When we moved from our apartment to our house, almost thirty years ago, Doug and friends refinished floors and painted the house, while I packed in the apartment. I was pregnant, so I couldn\’t be around all the fumes.
I\’m sure you will both be so relieved when you are all moved into your new place and settled in there.
The words \”relieved\” and \”settled\” stand out: That\’s the goal. Maybe in a month or so.
Best of luck with it all! 🙂
It was great to read about Cliff´s side of the move. Unearthing things can be fun. I understand this dilema completly. We certainly had differenet ideas as to what was worth moving and what should stay behind. My hubby doesn´t save things like I do but he had a lot of tools! It was hard for him to give them up and he ended up moving more of them over to Spain than we had planned. On the other hand, these tools have come in handy more than once. (Probably much more useful than my books and shoes!)
The garage will be the very last thing. Like your husband, Cliff has lots of tools too. He has used many of them for jobs around the house, but some he used to build equipment for his art performances and art installations.
We are moving just a few miles down the road in the same city. I can\’t imagine the logistics of moving from Canada to Spain, probably in one fell swoop too.
Yes, it was quite something but we manged in the end. Not for the faint of heart!! Arriving at Madrid train station with 6 large suitcases and 4 carry on bags, only to find there were no luggage carts available and having to descend three floors, still gives me nightmares!! Moving is always an ordeal no matter how near or far.
Eclectic and interesting art – some of the most difficult treasures to part with!
Actually, he\’s not parting with the art, Arlene. Some will hang on the walls. Other flat items he\’ll store. I know someone who wants the painting of a cat. We\’ll see if he can part with it 🙂
Eclectic is exactly the word!
I enjoyed seeing Cliff\’s art, Marian. The Star Wars painting is perfect for a children\’s hospital. Moving periodically definitely lightens the load for the next move. Just think, soon you\’ll be all settled…won\’t that be nice? 🙂
Just think, soon you’ll be all settled…won’t that be nice? You\’ve given me a pleasant thought to focus on today. Thank you, Jill!
Thank you for sharing this story, Marian! This one has really hit home for me. I\’ve grown tired of moving around, after so many military moves. Every few years, we have to pack up our entire lives into three wooden crates, and leave whichever part of the world we have become accustomed to. Over time, we\’ve lost/misplaced many things, but mostly kitchen gadgets such as cheese knives, immersion blenders, and wine glasses. Not to mention the many items that have been broken. In order to prepare for each move, we like to go through all the rooms, to include attic, basement and shed, to sort out the things we no longer want/need. This process helps us stay within our weight limit that we are required to adhere by. After every sorting session, we either throw out what we no longer want, or donate serviceable items to charity organizations. It\’s amazing how much stuff you can accumulate in just a few short years. =)
You sound like a woman of experience. Comment readers will enjoy the details as I do. One of the bits of advice Milburn gives about moving is to not fret if what you miss can be bought for $ 20.00 or less.
Along with our age, clearing out my Mother\’s house after 70+ years was one motivation for down-sizing. Welcome to this site. I appreciate our visiting with a comment. 🙂
Oh, I think you are Piper. Right?
Yes, I am Piper. Thank you for your reply, Marian! I\’m not sure why my comment shows up as anonymous, since I logged in with my FB account, but it really doesn\’t matter. I\’m just glad my comments didn\’t get lost, and I can be part of the conversation. =)
So glad to have you here! 🙂
I can\’t imagine moving without Stuart to help, or in the case of at least one of our moves (when I was president of Goshen College), to take charge. We\’ve moved at least ten times, four of those in the last twenty years. The last time was five years ago. You would think we would be all minimalist by now, but not quite. As you know, I\’ve had the \”Box in the Basement\” project going ever since I published my memoir. I\’ve made progress, but it will probably take another move to force dramatic downsizing.
That studio is lovely, but smaller is lovely too. Can\’t wait to see you in your new spaces. I predict even Cliff will be happy — eventually. He\’s so cheerful.
You are a story-teller, writer – a visual artist too. And artists need material to create from. It\’s a truth not understood very well by the minimalist society.
Cliff\’s cheer, sense of humor, and even-temperedness (not the profile of the stereotypical artist) have carried us through many a storm. You are blessed with insight; thanks for noticing, Shirley.
Nice representation of the past, present and the future. \”Partings\” are difficult, but new beginnings can be exciting and filled with new creative experiences. Delighted for my two special friends, much deserved.
Thank you, my dear. You know this story from the inside out. Thanks for being our partner in artistic appreciation and otherwise, very much appreciated.
A talented man, your hubby! It\’s a blessing that you have one another to walk this downsizing path with. Not easy, I\’m certain, but I predict the freedom you find at the end will make the journey worthwhile!
I remember reading about your transition from the US to Canada, paying close attention to details (particularly the emotional aspect) knowing that one day we would be walking down a similar path.
Today I will focus on the goal and not the nitty gritty of the here and now. Thank you, Linda.
Eye on the prize, that\’s the best way to be sure. It wasn\’t easy–emotionally or physically–but it was worth all the angst in the end. As it will be for you two.
Well done to Cliff: he\’s doing a great job. 👍👍👍
For sure I\’ll let him know. Thanks, Fatima!
Nice to hear Cliff\’s side and peek at his lovely studio. I can imagine that took grit and determination to get to this stage. Our last move was nine years ago and oh how the accumulations stack up already. Still, I can\’t quite imagine going minimalist. Part of living is remembering, and artifacts and photos help us remember, don\’t they? I am thankful for online storage! Right now I\’m going through 40 years of checkbook registers looking for some information on hospitalizations etc. we need for records. Ack. It is fun though looking and remembering $235 house payments, $40 grocery checks.
Yes, Melodie, we will never be minimalists, but we can scale way down. This morning Clkff took some wall paintings over to the new house, hoping to make it feel less \”theirs\” and more \”ours.\”
I smiled at your figures. Thirty-seven years ago our payments on this house were $ 300.00. And so it goes. Thanks, Melodie!
Marian — Oh how fun to see a bit of Cliff\’s artwork here! And while pairing down \”ain\’t\” easy, it\’s oh-so worth it!
When Len (maximalist) and I (minimalist) prepared to move across the country two years ago, I\’ll admit we had a few glaring contests. I assure you that If looks could kill we\’d both be dead!
He will admit now (not then) that offloading \”stuff\” was one of the best choices he\’s ever made!
I\’ve heard you say that you and Len could pack and move anywhere in 48 hours. Apparently, the minimalist prevailed over the maximalist at your house. Now I\’m wondering whether we can do this in 48 days.
Editing out lots of stuff to stage our house, Cliff has remarked, \”It really looks good now. We should have done this sooner!\” I couldn\’t believe my ears. 😀
Marian — We could, indeed. By way of example: I\’ve only got 37 hangers in my closet… that\’s for ALL clothes: winter, spring, summer, and fall. I only own and wear what I absolutely love. 🙂
Thirty-seven hangers – Gulp! We should all aspire to such editing. I wonder if you still have the outfit I see you wearing in your gravatar photo. I like it! If you\’ve recycled it, someone else is looking good in mauve.
Marian — I do, indeed, still have it 🙂
Are you referring only to clothes that would normally go on a hangar? skirts, blouses, dresses, coats, pants (whatever you call them for women–I don\’t wear them) ? Then you have more clothes than I do.
Wow, Athanasia, you are a minimalist too. I hope Laurie weighs in on your question. 🙂
Athanasia – Yes indeed. My hat is off to YOU🎈
Only in the clothing area…I just don\’t need a lot of clothes. The clothes I wear for work and church are the same as what I wear most of the time around the house. I don\’t have \”exercise clothes\” and \”casual clothes\” …those are 2 categories I can think of. I have aprons and smocks to cover my dresses when in the kitchen or cleaning etc but those go on hooks.
If I had an office such as Cliff\’s, I would definitely refuse to move. I wish him the ability to recreate such a haven again and to look forward to it. Thanks Marian for showcasing his art work and the stories behind them. No doubt he\’s digitalising (is there such a word) quite a bit. And good that he\’s given 2 books away already! 🙂 And the first photo of your post is a delight!
(Mind you, I had such a lovely study at our old house … large, airy, delightful view onto our garden. It was lovely to recreate a much smaller one – it is possible … so good luck to him)
Cliff\’s working on a new version of his work space from a schematic he\’s creating on his computer desktop. And, yes, he has digitized much of his art work already. The 3-dimensional ones are a problem though.
Thank you for helping me visualize an airy space in our new digs, very comforting image.
Bravo for Cliff. My man tossed piles of stuff last year, but still had FIFTY book boxes that all had to be carried upstairs to his new man-cave of sorts. At least it\’s all in one room now and I seldom go up there, so don\’t have to see it.
I\’m still keeping a bunch of stuff that may be craft items for granddaughter projects. A few more years and most of that goes. Slowly, slowly.
Hope your move is as gratifying as ours has been.
I understand about the book phenomenon. Though I\’ve donated piles, there is a book hatchery in our house even now, and when I find out where it\’s lurking, I\’ll shut it down – ha! Cliff uses audio books from the library mostly, so the book phenom is mostly mine.
More than two years ago I \”met\” you online, your blog serving as a resource for my guest post on Kathy Pooler\’s website: http://krpooler.com/getting-ideas-for-blog-posts/a-memoir-writers-first-year-in-blogging-adventure-by-marian-beaman I\’m mentioning it now because of what your grand-daughter said about crafting clothespin dolls. Spinning stories, making memories – a good thing.
Thank you for commenting here, Sharon, and for your encouragement about the worth of all this effort, which I\’m likening to travail-ing through Berserkistan.
More than half my book collection is digital now. I had only four or five boxes books. I love that eBooks take no discernible storage space, but last April when a memoir friend came to visit and looked over my shelves, I suddenly realized how many titles were hidden. \”That\’s less than half my collection…\” I felt so defensive. Silly, but I did.
Thanks for mentioning my blog and especially that post. I saw those clothespin dolls on Monday in their shadow box frames on Sarah\’s wall. They live on.
I spent nearly six months doing nothing but getting settled. I hope it goes faster for you. Or maybe slower. You will have the distractions of already being plugged into a community. That suddenly blossomed for us as the wildflowers came out and we feel totally at home here now.
I believe you moved from Pittsburgh to Austin, Sharon, a huge change geographically and probably culturally too. (I\’ve visited Austin and the University of Texas there.)
While you had to gather all your belongings into a huge van, we are carrying things piecemeal 8 1/2 miles to the south over the next few weeks, where we\’ll be close to our daughter. Eventually of course, we\’ll have movers and a moving van swoop in to get the big stuff. I\’m happy to hear you are plugged in to a community now. Summer time is a good time to be neighborly. Speaking of flowers, I remember visiting the Lady Bird Johnson\’s Wildflower Center on my one and only trip to Austin. I will hold \”we feel totally at home her now\” as the holy grail of our transition.
David and I tackled our move 10 years ago as a team. Whether the move is across the country or across town (as it was for us), the task is the same. Whenever either of us went to the new place, we loaded up. Every third trip, we delivered a load to Goodwill or DAV.
That\’s the good thing about moving – as Cliff is discovering. You must handle everything, which leads to delightful re-discoveries. Some you may keep; some you may give away, but always you enjoy memories the discoveries surface.
My 85-year-old neighbor, widowed, remarked yesterday: \”At least you have Cliff to help,\” an observation I\’ve been thinking about a lot since then. Many have to go it alone. Like you, I appreciate being part of a team effort.
You and David are on the same page with an efficient attitude about off-loading the extras. Thanks for stopping by with a wise tip, Carol.
I shudder just thinking about moving, but I\’d almost rather move instead of sort through/clear out/donate/etc. When we moved, I knew how much space we would have and chose accordingly. When we cleaned out the study and the guest room, we were staying put and I had a harder time letting go. But I\’m glad we did let go of many things–now–but I wasn\’t then. Your end result is so impressive and inviting.
Jim has always been my ally at every step; I really count on him and his calm. Excellent post, Marian; much to think about.
At the moment, I have taken some boxes of china to put into built-ins in the dining room. Also arranged some lesser-used items on top shelves in the kitchen. I was feeling pretty much in charge of myself until I got a ping! alerting me of a showing at our current home Saturday. I burst into tears. I thought I was ready to leave my nest of 37 years. Apparently not quite yet. What a roller coaster this has been.
Still, we are making the right decision, as you and Jim did. I\’ll grow into it. I must remind myself of a quote from Mary Peacock I bravely quoted in a previous post \”To save one must value. And to throw out one must value moving on.\” Easier said than done as you know well, Marylin. Thank you!
I\’m sorting and discarding and organizing for two, but the other guy doesn\’t have a body to do his part. Vic had to take prednisone for five days with every chemotherapy treatment. Wired and agitated, he sorted out and cleaned up his office (now my office), the barn, and the garage. He also built a railing for the cellar steps and did a few more tasks. He didn\’t tackle his many notebooks of slides and negatives from pre-digital days. They\’re well organized and culled, but I have to get rid of more and get the rest digitalized. Eight years later, I haven\’t done it. I want to. My family history is in those images. I will. I just haven\’t gotten there and who knows when I will? I\’m slowed down by the need to water and water some more.
Apparently you are having a heat wave and drought still. My thermometer on the porch reads 95 degrees, but it feels like 115 with the humidity.
Surely your plants are very happy about your priorities right now. You won\’t regret the water and watering. Lord, send rain!
Organizing and digitalizing seem like winter tasks anyway. I am so impressed that Vic was galvanized into action sorting, cleaning up, and building even as he was so ill. I wonder if he\’s responsible for the porch/deck you featured in a post this past year. The sun was low in the sky, probably sunset. It was a placid, bucolic scene.
Love that surf logo!
And urgh — hate moving but the tidying of spaces gives an odd satisfaction anyway.
In spite of the fact Cliff created the logo many years ago, the shop has retained the same design since then, which we appreciate seeing when we go to the beach about 12 miles from our home.
I believe you yourself moved recently and perhaps you helped your parents move as well. I\’m definitely looking forward to the satisfaction stage of moving, Fiona!
Marian, I give you and Cliff a lot of credit for recognizing your need to downsize and taking action. Wayne and I are in the contemplative stage. We recognize the need but are stalling. If Cliff can do it–with all those unearthed treasures–so can we! This is such a lovely recap of a \”moving \” experience. I need to keep reading this for inspiration and wish you the best as you move forward.
Contemplation precedes action – or possibly a decision to stay put for now. Yes, my last 4-5 posts have regarded the moving process which is equal parts physical, mental, and emotional. As I look back, it\’s interesting to observe on days when some of these pre-planned posts seemed balanced and serene, mayhem was ensuing on the other end. I suspect you know all about that, Kathy.
I\’m happy to hear these pieces inspire you. And by the way, thanks for the sweet tweet!
My pleasure, Marian. You are so tweetable😊
What a great post! What a talented husband you have! How can he and you part with such treasures? I\’m the hoarded in our family. I\’m not sure you guys will be able to downsize. You\’ve got so many treasures! Maybe your children will come and help rescue you! I hope so… 🙂
I meant hoarder!
Thank you for the compliment – I\’ll pass it on to Cliff.
As for our children, they\’ve taken all of their childhood mementos and don\’t want much more. And each got their own sets of china and crystal when they got married. But some things sneak in through the back door so to speak. Last week I asked Joel if he wanted the teddy bear his Aunt Ruthie knitted for him. He thought not, but when his son Ian saw the teddy bear in the back seat of our car, he fell in love with it, and it was passed on anyway – ha!
Oh, that\’s great! Good for Ian!
My problem is books …
My husbands are screws ,nails and wood…lots of wood
Books drive him bonkers ..
And screws ,nails and …wood … get to me but it\’s about compromise isn\’t it Marian …isn\’t it ?
I think it might be easier if I lived in a library and he lived in a D.I.Y store 😀😊🤔😏😂
Good luck with the move my sweet .
I hope you heard me chuckle over the library/ DIY store line. Too funny! Obviously, you love books and your husband likes woodworking. I wonder if he has made you some handmade pieces.
Thanks for the good wishes and the comment here, dear Cherry. I hope we are situated in early August. 🙂
When we returned from Africa after 15 years of mission work, and found our home in Ontario, Canada in 1984, I told my husband that we would never move again. However, in 2008, after living in the same house for 24 years, I was the one who pushed for a move. All of our children and grandchildren lived in Manitoba and so did our extended families. I could not believe how much stuff we had collected! I brought stuff down and my husband packed. I have many stories I could tell about that move! We love our new place (we\’ve already been here 8 years but it still feels new to us). One of our families has moved back to Ontario, so we still go back there to visit once a year. Whenever we do, I always say to my husband, \”Remind me again, why did we leave this place?\” But on the whole, I am content. I want to stay here as long as possible!
Elfrieda, it\’s so reassuring to hear your story, which reminds me of the ambivalence connected to moving house. I was the one who heard the drumbeat in my head about five years ago, feeling drawn to downsize and also live closer to family as we get older.
You say, \”But on the whole, I am content. I want to stay here as long as possible!\” That\’s my goal. Buying one house and selling another has been a Tilt-a-Whirl experience, one I don\’t wish to repeat any time soon.
From the description, you have had and continue to enjoy a rich, full life. I notice you and your husband spent time in African mission work. For most of his life, Cliff had a chalk art/music ministry all over the United States. In 2011 we went to Ukraine and gave 19 presentations in schools in churches near Kiev connected to a friend\’s ministry to children and families there. If you are interested, here is a YouTube presentation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRGtrXiDkQ8
Thanks for sharing your personal experience.
We talk about downsizing from time to time but the thought of all the work involved is horrifying. Having said that, I am slowly discarding things and rehoming them. It could take some years.
That\’s the way it starts, slowly, and then gathers momentum when you see less \”stuff\” and feel freer. I actually lost some weight during the move, but I attribute it to stress, not freedom.
More power to you, Marie. I like your coined word \”re-home\” – exactly!