Monday, December 6, 2010

Easing Into Laid-back Living

If you live in Florida you probably have them. Items you wish you could move to a safe place every summer and can't--or don't because it isn't practical--but you would hate to lose them should a hurricane blast your home to soggy smithereens.

For me they include the china I've collected for 14 years and twin mahogany breakfronts I bought on the lawn of a Naples beach house back in 1988. It was a relaxed, informal home with an enormous front-to-back living room and a swordfish above the fireplace. Sadly, the place was torn down years ago.

But last summer, as I prepared to leave our Naples condominium for our cottage up north, I felt uneasy about some items I hadn't worried about before. Then, I felt shallow and guilty for feeling uneasy, since they were just, well, clothes.

I confessed my secret to a friend who said, "I love my clothes. All of them. I can't imagine parting with a thing."

Neither, frankly, could I. Well, yes I could, because I do give away things over time--what I don't wear anymore--but not everything at once. It's taken me 35 years to find my style and the items that express it; many of those items I bought on sale. The thought of starting over again makes me almost possessed.

So possessed that one pair of shoes--four and a half-inch sandals that originally retailed for $395 and I got for under $20--I put in an upstairs shower stall, since I thought that was the most hurricane-proof spot in our condominium. Even worse, I'd had them for more than two years and still hadn't worn them. I was saving them for something "special."

I bring this up now, months before leaving for the north again, because an issue occurred with my clothes recently--or, actually, with the number of clothes crammed on the rod within my closet. The spindly thing not only had bowed, it almost entirely had pulled out of the wall.

I asked my husband if he could fix it and this was the week he assessed the problem. But instead of blaming the rod and installation, he turned to me and said, "You might want to consider getting rid of some things--and not getting anymore."

To which he added, "A general rule is an inch between each hanger."

It was a nice idea--and not surprising coming from someone with at least two inches between each item that hangs in his closet. But in my closet? Not even possible.

He had a valid point, though. It wasn't as if I needed so many things. I'd even turned that upstairs shower stall into a second closet--yet something else to feel guilty about.

Nevertheless he fixed the problem--without doling out any more advice--and now each morning I gaze at a neatly shored-up-in-two-places clothing rod. Of course, when I pull something out, it's as wrinkled as if I'd wadded it up in a tiny ball.

But as I told my husband, people shouldn't build a thing to hang clothes on unless it will hold as many clothes as a person can hang on it. Now, thanks to him, it does exactly that. Relieved doesn't even come close to expressing how that makes me feel.

Of course, summer will be here before I know it, along with another hurricane season; and I don't want to worry again. I want to be laidback. Relaxed. Like that beach house--the one where I found my mahogany breakfronts.

Sand between the sofa cushions, shells lined up on windowsills, windows flung open to capture the breeze. At least, that's how I imagine it was--how they were. How I imagine I can be.


Why live in Florida if I'm worried the beach will be tracked in my house--or a storm will blow it and my possessions to sea?

A beach person can't be bothered about that, not if she wants to enjoy her life. She can't let her possessions possess her.

For starters, I took those sandals out of the shower stall and wore them finally.