by Janis Patterson
I call it my office, though that is a grandiose term for a small desk on the short wall of the guest room. Still, it’s mine, and I can go in there, close off the outside world and work. At least, that’s the way it was supposed to be. After some much-needed (and unfortunately ongoing) remodeling on the house and the decision to get rid of our storage units, which necessitated the sorting and going through of all kinds of family stuff, my office without warning morphed into an overcrowded lumber room. It seemed that everything that we wanted to keep but didn’t have an immediate place or which had to be looked through in order to determine final distribution got dumped in there. Now I have a high tolerance for clutter, but all of a sudden it went over the top when I couldn’t turn my desk chair around.
As a consequence I have been opening boxes and sorting and getting rid of stuff! That which we definitely want to keep but have no immediate place for (such as my great-great-grandmother’s sugar bowl, creamer and spoons dish) is carefully packed into uniform new boxes and stored in the garage, which has been remodeled just for such a purpose. Our favorite charity, an orphanage for abused and abandoned animals, has received several pick-up loads of still-good castoffs for resale in their charity shop.
And still the stuff is there! I have decided that one of the secret truths of the universe is that both boxes and books breed. And generally faster than we can sort them. We have been on this decluttering, downsizing ideology since our marriage (when we combined the stuff from four separate households – long story) and it seems that we have more stuff now than when we started. I tell you, it breeds!
One of the major decisions is to make the room more officelike. We have a suite of antique furniture in there – double bed, dresser, chest and nightstand – that had belonged to my father’s mother and is over 100 years old. It’s beautiful and I love it, and not just because it came to me when I was about ten to become my girlhood furniture. It’s just that the stuff is massive and the guest room is a very small room. So – we have decided to continue using the chest and dresser, but get rid of the mattress and springs and knock the bed down. It will be stored with other ancestral pieces in the garage. We’re going to replace it with a single (antique, of course) bed that belonged to The Husband’s family. That will still allow us to shelter a guest, and give me the convenience of a daybed/couch in my office, but free up so much room.
Another thing I have decided to do is hang pictures. The room had two or three in it from the beginning, conventionally hung one to a wall. A sad fact is that our house has a very open floor plan, which means there is very little wallspace for hanging things. As we were going through things I found so many paintings and things that I love, so I decided to hang them. All of them. The result is solid blocks of paintings on every wall and I love it, though the visual cacophony is something of a sensory overload. Neither are the styles congruent. There are huge paintings from J.K. Durbin and Brad Jernigan and 3 or 4 from my mother’s mother, the smallest of this lot being roughly 2x3feet. There are smaller ones by James Rather and Bud Biggs and my parents and an aunt. There are an antique floral chromolithograph and a 17th century copper repousse Madonna and Child. There are some 1,000 year old scraps of incredibly detailed Wari weavings and a rattle and a blowpipe (complete with carefully sheathed darts) from the Peruvian jungles. Are the darts poison-tipped? I don’t know and I’m being very careful not to find out! I have some of the original artwork from Danny and the Dustbunnies, my only (so far) children’s book. There are two original D. R. Rago archaeological illustrations of an ancient skull. Also, there’s an ornate brass oil lamp from an 18th century Middle Eastern monastery library and a small collection of reverse-paintings on glass.
Yes, I have very diverse tastes.
The Husband wonders if all this color and crowding might not be distracting from my work. I don’t think so. I am surrounded by things I love, things that each have their own special, personal history for me, things from all kinds of places and times. To me that’s inspiring, not distracting. It makes a somewhat generic guest room into my nest.
Now if I can just get ahead of the brown paper boxes….