Monthly Archives: May 2011

Decluttering: The Famous Blue Bowl

“Thanks, Sweetie,” said the man from the moving company, as he pocketed the tip I handed him for delivering the shipment from France.

In it were the few things I salvaged from my Aunt Elisabeth’s entire apartment of antiques and a lifetime of accumulated stuff. From that inheritance, everything else had gone to auction … except for the few sentimental pieces that came here. Pieces I had always loved.

As I looked at the packing boxes that made walking through my living and dining rooms impossible, I swore I would remove an equal volume of things as I integrated these new ones into my space.

I’m at that age where I’m allergic to clutter. Being clutter free is part of my vision of being financially free. So I fight it, although people keep dying and leaving me things. And sentiment wraps its tentacles around the items, not always because I like the item, but because I love the person.

My way of decluttering is to give things away to people who like them. Why?

I remember my Aunt Pat asking me what I wanted of hers when she was gone. I pointed to a painting she had of the beach on Sanibel Island. It was impressionist, my favorite style of oil painting. The colors were hauntingly peaceful. It was painted before Sanibel became known to the masses and was still an unspoiled retreat for a few fortunate families. And then Patty walked over to the wall, took down the painting, and handed it to me. “Take it home with you, honey.”

To this day, that painting is the first thing I see when I open my eyes in the morning. I still love it.

When I’m in this cleansing mode, an undefined grading process goes on in my head as I look for things I’m not so crazy about, that I can live without. I refer to it as “things transiting through my house.” They come in, something else goes out. Later something else comes in, and what came in earlier goes out.

The decision process isn’t really structured. I walk around, open cabinets, pull out things I haven’t used in “x” years. Crystal, plastic or glass … art … decorative or useful. It doesn’t matter. The cut crystal bowls that Sarah’s mother’s friend brought from Czechoslovakia? (They were in the friend’s Miami apartment, but she grew too old to continue coming to Florida each winter … and Sarah was sure I’d love and use them.) The painting my Aunt Evie sent me because it looked French and she knew I loved France? The ceramic teapot I picked up when I was working in Medellin, Colombia, because I didn’t have one … yet have never used? And so it goes.

(What I realized early on, when I started this process, is that virtually everything in my house has a story. Very rarely did I drive to Nordstrom’s or Target and just buy something.)

Now, once something makes it onto the “give it forward” pile, I first ask people who I think might be interested … continuing the item’s transit through people’s homes … and then I call for a Vietnam Veterans pickup for anything that doesn’t get placed.

Yesterday I came across the blue bowl. The famous blue bowl. For some reason, it has survived round after round of this purging process. And I don’t know why. Here’s its story:

In 2002, along with a friend, I organized a reunion in Rio de Janeiro of all the people who had ever gone to the American School there. Needless to say, as children of diplomats, military, corporate executives, and entrepreneurs, we had scattered all over the world after our stay there, whether it lasted for just a few years or for K-12 as in my case.

One small part of the 7-day reunion (full of boat trips, bus trips, special meals, a rehearsal by one of the famed “samba schools” of Carnaval dancers, and a dinner-dance in the ballroom of the Copacabana Palace) was a stop at a ceramics factory called Luis Salvador. I figured it gave people a chance to buy a souvenir that they might actually use in their home, instead of some silly touristy piece. All hand painted. For all different tastes. I bought 8 individual little coffee cups for espresso, one from each design collection, so I had something fun to serve my guests coffee in after dinner parties.

A year or two later, someone brought me a house gift from the same factory, knowing it had been part of our reunion itinerary. I was gracious, of course, but never liked it. I don’t like pedestal bowls. The colors don’t match my décor. It’s not my style.

Yet it’s made it through one round of purging after the other. I sat and looked at it last night, as I sipped a nice Merlot. I thought of a couple of people I could offer it to … who might actually take it … not because they liked it, but because I was offering it. And I decided on a different fate for the perfectly lovely (to someone else), 7-inch tall, hand-painted bowl from a factory in the mountains outside Rio de Janeiro.

I will pack and ship it to the first person who goes to my Facebook page and sends me a Direct Message with their name and shipping address.

Boy, I hope it finds a good home where it will be loved! (Besides, think of the story you can tell about it!)

Were You Wondering Who Gets the Blue Bowl?

This is so perfect!  You know how I love stories … and the first request for the bowl comes with its very own story.  Here’s what Beverly wrote real early yesterday morning:

I don’t know if I am first, but my mailing address is:
XYZ Street
Houston, TX
I am requesting this item for a friend who just lost everything in a house fire. She and I were discussing that part of the loss is losing “things” that have stories. I would love for her to have the bowl and the story you shared. It is just her color and I know she would love it!
Beverly Dracos

Could that be any better?  In fact, it motivated me to do another tour around the house (I found I had received a smaller matching bowl!) and pulled everything I could find in the same colors.  Including Aunt Evie’s French-looking framed print.  (Click image to enlarge)

I’m heading off to pack everything up now, for Beverly’s friend.  But I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who tweeted and shared this post … as well as those who raised their hand to offer a good home to the Famous Blue Bowl.

This was such fun!  We’ll have to do it again someday. May the stories continue!




Sharon O’Day lost everything at age 53:  her home, her business, everything.  But how could that be?  She’s an expert in global finance and marketing with an MBA from the Wharton School.  She has worked with governments, corporations, and individuals … yes, she was the secret ‘weapon,’ if you will, behind many individuals in high places.  But still, she did!  Since then, Sharon has interviewed countless women and done extensive research to understand how that could have happened, especially with her strong knowledge of numbers and finance.

The surprising answers will be shared in her upcoming book “Money After Menopause.”  Today her mission is to show as many women as possible how to become financially free for the long term.  She has developed a step-by-step plan to get past all the obstacles that keep women broke and scared … and from reaching the financial peace of mind they so deserve.