Decluttering:  The Famous Blue Bowl

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!

Warmly,

Sharon

xxxxxxx

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.

  • I love this article Sharon!  I find purging therapeutic and the way you have described it makes it even more so 🙂

  • Karen Brooks

    Sharon

    The timing of your article could not have been better! All weekend I have been purging what were my treasures for a moment, but are now sitting and collecting dust!

    It is a true liberating feeling when you see the clutter melt away. Life becomes so much simpler and sweeter to savor.

  • What a great article, Sharon! I love simplicity… and purging feels so good… I love your giving it forward tradition 🙂

  • Wendy

    How funny Sharon…I just bought a new fruit bowl yesterday that’s identical in shape 🙂 Citrus colours, flowers and stripes.       

  • Denny Hagel

    I could read your articles all day long! You have inspired me to pass a few things forward myself! Great article!

  • Rachelle

    I absolutely love your idea of “playing it forward” with items you no longer want.  We’re still in the process of spring cleaning our home, and I have a few items that for sentiment I cannot seem to release. They will have a new home by the end of the week.

  • Now Sharon, you blog was a love letter to me! 😀 I love decluttering too, and it is wonderful giving them to people whom you know love them or can use them. Good expression “give it forward!” I am so tempted to run to your FB for the bowl, but I don’t have room. But you are so so clever. Great idea.

  • I have a few of those items in my house today – and I look at them and think HOW UGLY!  and there it sits. I told my husband when we replace furniture – to understand most of what I have has to go! Some of the items have landed here because someone left it in a will (I mean really ugh) I want to sell it to the nearest what ever spot as long as it is not here – lol – I have bowls in my cabinet that make me smile and spoons that make me giggle remembering how my grand-daddy played them – your post made me smile. I love reading your adventures! Thank you for sharing them

  • That is a lovely bowl Sharon. If it was three years ago, I will be wishing and hoping I’m the first in line to get that bowl. However, times have changed. Just like you, I am minimizing…I like your idea of giving it away. That is very generous of you…as always. Great post.

  • Sondra Wright

    Thank you Sharon. I have been on my own personal “cleansing” journey. I realize as I am transitioning into a new place in my life, decluttering and letting go of pieces of my “former self” is allowing me to walk more freely and boldly into my new me.

  • Olga

    Awesome! It is good to give away those things that feels like to much in our homes. BUT!!! What about the truth that when you give, it will be given to you more and more…how do we stop that? hahaha..

    • Ah, Olga, what’s never stated is “what” will be given to you more and more.  Nothing says it has to be more stuff.  Maybe it’s more and more free space … and the clarity that comes with it.

  • Charlotte Siems

    Oh, I love it!! Great decluttering philosophy. I would send a DM but it doesn’t match my decor. 😉

  •  Oh Sharon this is priceless! A Facebook giveaway for a drop dead gorgeous bowl. I’m so thankful I was not the first to read this…I’d have requested it:) My home needs your method of decluttering…problem is my many stories, memories and all attached to stuff gets in the way. I am inspired and one day I will dig in and get to it…stories or not.

  • Elise

    Thank you so much for sharing this story.  Decluttering is close to my heart!  I love you describe that EVERYTHING has a story and then continue the precious, priceless stories by giving these items ‘forward’.  Such a sensitive perspective.  And so powerful since you are the one telling it!

    ~Elise from http://adamsorganizing.com

  • Love this post and your generous offer. I don’t think the beautiful blue bowl will get as much use here if still available. It was not easy passing it by either. Learning to get rid of is a hard thing for me to learn.  Right now I am thinking of these tree graftings, for lack of a better word, or maybe it’s bamboo that someone beautifully painted on that sits in my closet. Does it need to be framed, given away or what? It is still beautiful, but on display is ideal.  I’m a work in progress. Thanks for sharing “decluttering” wisdom.

  • Fay

    What a generous offer Sharon. I’m sure the lovely bowl will have a happy ending.

  • My favorite line: “And sentiment wraps its tentacles around the items, not always because I like the item, but because I love the person.” 

    Beautiful post Sharon! As someone who grew up on Sanibel, I can only imagine how beautiful that oil painting must be for you. I always say I am lucky to have been raised with the salty Sanibel sand between my toes — and I am so thankful that my kids now get to play on the same beaches as I did. 🙂 

  • A perfect home for the beautiful blue bowl AND other beautiful items!

  • Anne

    I really enjoyed this story too. I’m so glad your bowl found a loving home. I was tempted myself but I need to declutter too. It does look very French doesn’t it? I found some lovely china in the attic of my home in France, cute coffee cups and stuff. Maybe I’ll try a give away too!

  • Beverly Dracos

    I am delighted!  Thank you so much, Sharon.  Your gracious generosity will catch my friend totally by surprise and I know the story of this bowl will play a role in her healing process.  This is a tribute to the power of giving, the power of genuine connection through social media and the significance of our stories.          Thank you again.

  • Anonymous

    I love this story.  I must figure out a way to give my books to someone who would like
    very much to have them !

    • Susan Kim

      Mllechristine– thanks for bringing up books!  So many people act as if books are sacred.  I have a good friend who has TWICE moved the same books, in the same boxes (unpacked) across the country and all she does is put them in storage.  Save the books you TRULY are going to re-read. The rest– give them to friends, the library, or sell them on amazon.  I take mine to a bookstore and get credit for new books!

  • Loved the story… and the happy ending of a new home for the beautiful bowl.  I like to do a similar decluttering with my wardrobe.  For every new piece I add… I remove something old and either discard or give it away.

  • Victoria

    Clutter and I definitely don’t get along, but there are some things from my family heritage that I do wish I had.  I remember how disappointed I was when my great aunt sold a precious family heirloom – a crock that had gone across the prairie in a covered wagon with one of our ancestors – to a real estate agent.  But now, many years later, I see that really, it’s just a ‘thing’ and it’s more the stories and memories that are important.  Thanks for this, Sharon!

  • Beau Henderson

    The bowl couldn’t go to a more deserving home!  What a great story.  I’m sure it will be loved forever!

  • Gvp0721

    great story…and lovely ending 🙂

  • Cherie1313

    I enjoyed your blue bowl story as you said I would. I am leaving for Minnesota/Wisconsin next week with many things from my mother and grandmother to give to my children or donate if they don’t want them. Will be a freeing experience! Still more probably hidden in my house but working on it. Cheryl

    • Have a safe trip, Cheryl, and take pleasure in “giving all those things forward.”  Is YOUR bowl going to make the trip?

  • Sharon,

    I’m so grateful you listened to the broadcast today and connected!  I love your website and the authenticity of who you are clearly comes through.  Fact:  36% of women over the age of 60 live at the poverty level.  Your book, Money After Menopause, is greatly needed.  Can’t wait to read it.

    Best,
    Bethany St. Clair