I had a particularly vivid dream last night that my house was on fire. I dreamed that the smoke detector went off just after we went to bed, and we were able to get all the kids and pets out immediately, but the house burned down because the fire department’s pumper truck could not negotiate our narrow, twisty gravel drive. So we had to stand out in the field and watch our house burn, and a more horrible feeling I can’t imagine (unless it’s to stand by and watch your child die, which would be far worse). I heard the little ting-pop-roars as each perfume bottle caught fire and the glass broke, adding alcohol to the fuel mix and accelerating the fire. It was dreadful.
Our smoke alarm actually did go off one Sunday morning in early summer a few years ago, right after I’d gotten out of the shower and dressed. I went into the kitchen and put on my apron – and there it went, and if I had ever worried about whether the alarm would be loud enough to wake everyone up I worried no longer. It was loud. It was loud enough to bring all three kids down the stairs within thirty seconds and loud enough to hurt the dog’s ears. We called the fire department from our neighbor’s house, and the trucks arrived (sans pumper truck, which truly could not negotiate our narrow, twisty gravel drive) within eight minutes. The firemen – most of whom we knew, this is a small town – went all over the house and found no fire, just a little dust in the smoke detector. The whole episode was both frightening and reassuring: the smoke alarm works, the fire department’s response is fast, but if there were ever a fire in our house or the farm shop next door, there likely would not be enough water available to put it out.
I tend to have vivid dreams anyway, and if I happen to mention them to The CEO, he likes to analyze them for me. This one, he says, means that I’m anxious about basic safety and that I feel guilty about having too much stuff.
Well, yes. May 4 would have been my grandmother’s 96th birthday, if she were still with us. This was the grandmother who lived with my parents my whole life, the one with bipolar disorder, the one with major packrat tendencies probably engendered by an extremely penurious childhood… the one that stored a 40-gallon crock of homemade soap in her kitchen closet for, no kidding, nearly fifty years. She died four years ago, and my mother is still cleaning out her stuff. This grandmother was the one that saved every greeting card she was ever given, old letters, photos, knick-knacks, things she “might use someday”. She collected bird figurines, Harlequin romance novels, interesting bottles, rocks, shells, “Ideals” magazines, and anything with owls on it: lamps, salt and pepper shakers, trivets, you name it. Every inch of wall space in her basement apartment was taken up with furniture.
A lot of her stuff has come to me: the pink Depression glass dishes, her yarn collection, her miniature-pitcher collection, some of the china she painted. And I have my own load of stuff too: paperback novels, DVDs, clothes I don’t wear, the cross-stitch supplies that I may never use now that the craft hurts my hands, not to mention my perfume collection.
It’s time for a little closet-and-attic purging. It may have to wait until after baseball season, but that’s my plan for the summer. If I don’t use it or love it or need it, if it’s not a truly cherished piece of family history, out it goes.
All this turmoil got me to thinking, if there really were a fire in my house and I could rescue only one bottle of perfume, which one would it be? One of my very favorites: Le Temps d’une Fete, Parfum Sacre’, Tabac Aurea, vintage Emeraude, the decant of Amouage Lyric Woman, the decants of Apres l’Ondee and Carnal Flower? One of those Discontinued Saints, the gone forever or hard to find: Crown Bouquet, Mariella Burani, L’Arte di Gucci, vintage Magie Noire? But most of those could be replaced. I think I might choose to save the Stunning Vintage Bottle of Chanel No. 5. There’s nothing else like it, it’s irreplaceable.
What would you save in that situation? (Fine, I know it’s an artificial construct, but I’m okay with that concept in the pursuit of proper prioritizing.)
Here are some resources if you’re thinking of decluttering your own living space: Flylady.net , About.com. And our dear Chicken Freak has a whole blog devoted to the topic, as well – I haven’t been checking out Declutter of the Day, but I think I will be doing that regularly. I’ve actually been a member at Flylady for several years now, but I admit that the relentless “love yourself,” mushy-gushy vibe there really just gets on my nerves from time to time. Nevertheless, I need to do this. I’ll probably sleep better.
Image is Perfume fire on a bathroom floor, from bethyreese at flickr.com.