Lessons from a Cluttered Life

Fiber studio circa 2014.

I am considering getting rid of my living room. Seriously. I don’t mean physically removing the space from my house, but changing its use because, really, I don’t live there anymore.

Let me back up a bit. For thirty years, I have inhabited a small, story-and-a-half house built sometime in the mid-1800s. I have raised two daughters here, seen two marriages begin and end, celebrated and commiserated with friends and family over numerous meals, and enjoyed the lives of and mourned the deaths of many animal companions. This house, in its own eccentric, wonky way, has supported, sheltered, and comforted me for fully half my life.

When the girls lived at home, we used the living room a lot. They played there as small children, had sleepovers when they were older, and consumed hundreds of pizzas there during family movie nights. Many a Christmas tree filled it with light; it held hidden eggs on rainy Easter mornings, and numerous pumpkins were carved on a paper-covered card table while we watched “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”

Hand-spun rainbow yarn.

But since they’ve become adults and embarked on their own lives, the living room hasn’t been used much. I’ve moved my bed back upstairs from the first floor where it’s been for six years, and I now have a work space in the smaller front room at the top of the stairs. I find that I spend most of my time there. Well, there and in the kitchen.

The kitchen is the real heart of the house. Until two years ago, it was a sad space that was literally falling off of the back of the house. I had it torn off and expanded four feet and now it is a glorious room where I love to cook and hang out when friends stop by. Even the bathroom has been updated and is now cozy and inviting. The poor living room, however, has become a repository for boxes and bins and things in transition. Basically, clutter.

My younger daughter asked recently if she could move back home. The problem is that I have taken over her bedroom and I don’t have anywhere to put her. My old bedroom has exercise equipment and cat furniture in it.

I woke up this morning with the idea that I would get rid of the living room, and I would turn it into my fiber studio instead. I have a small building in the backyard where I have a loom, a drum carder, and my two spinning wheels. I used to spend a lot of time there, but during the kitchen remodel, it became a storage space packed so full it was impossible to get into. I’ve been clearing it out little by little, but I haven’t touched the fiber equipment at all.

A couple of months ago, I advertised the loom and drum carder for sale online, but I didn’t have any serious inquiries; I didn’t push it because I realized that I didn’t really want to sell them. I would much rather get rid of the television and the second-hand couch.

My 1950s Leclerc floor loom.

My fiber arts, although they don’t make me any money, support me in important ways. There is nothing more grounding for me than sitting and spinning on a cold, snowy day with a fire crackling in the wood stove. It’s better than meditation.

I’ve always joked that my house is like one of those square puzzles that have one piece missing, and in order to get the picture to come out right, you have to move things around. Shifting stacks of boxes and bins adds to the clutter, at least temporarily, but I’m okay with that. Once I get my fiber equipment moved in, the entire house will reflect my life and be full of the things I love.


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