Sunday, August 14, 2011

thoughts on hoarding versus saving important items

Every since I was a little girl I thought I was going to be rich and famous. I don't know where that idea came from. I guess Mom encouraged us. She gave my sister, Jeanne, the middle name of Holden and me, Ritchie, which was to indicate that we had important blueblood ancestors but I always considered Ritchie to be an auspicious name.

Mom spoke about how a lack of a father figure in our lives could adversely affect us. (Unfortunately this meant she brought various questionnable men into our home -- alcoholics such as Malochy McCourt, later a writer but then an owner of a bar in NYC where Mom, and we, used to hang out, who apparently wanted to run away with me when I was 3 or 4 year old.) I remember sleeping in the bar and at home, being in my pajamas and these guys sitting us on their laps or hugging or kissing us. I guess it would be before they went out. There were quite a few wild parties at the house with guests staying overnight in the 'country'.

Mom wanted to make us try harder. She told us we had high IQs. Our grades were never good enough.

Anyhow I thought I was really special. I used to wonder how I ended up in this family. I used to think I was adopted or from another planet. My logo in 4th grade contained a symbol for 'the great' and I was signing my name "Carolyn the great" on everything. [Probably we were studying Catherine the Great in grade school. I remember being presented with her, Amelia Earhart and maybe Madame Curie as great women role models over and over. Actually the woman I really dug as a role model was Mae West whose films I used to see on TV in the daytime. She seemed clever and fabulous and worth emulating.]

I knew that I was absent-minded. I heard that Einstein was absent-minded. I am sure people say that as a way to humanize him, but I took it as a signpost that I was just like him....utterly brilliant and destined for a great future.

Since I was going to be famous I saved everything. I saved every school test, every poem, drawing, you name it. Mom saved all my ceramic items. I have tulip watercolors that I entered into an art show at age six and all my early paintings.

(Mom had an oil set that she used to make one painting. She gave it to me and showed me how to paint in the basement laundry room (where it was ok to get paint on the floor). She suggested it was a good thing to do very early on Saturday mornings. We went to the art store and bought a few panels and a canvas or two. I filled a few up right away. I started doing horses, of course. My sister showed me how to draw horses and it helped my popularity in school. Girls would pay me to draw them a horse. I started doing portraits of girls at school, a sad little girl in a Jackie Gleeson dramatic film, and later some giraffes and a 'memory of Florence'.

I saved doodles from high school notebooks. College papers. Punk rock posters, flyers from my bands and others, every scrap of paper from every song I ever wrote. Tickets to every concert including my childhood Beatles at Shea Stadium ticket!

Every time I moved, even if it was back and forth to New York, Colorado, or wherever, all this stuff came with me or eventually found me.

Things I have gotten rid of -- such as my soap collection: a branded and wrapped soap from each of the hundreds of motels we stayed at on our trip out west in the 60s -- so cool; I have regretted. As a graphic designer I would love to have it now. And our childhood, space age 60s table and chairs that was too hard to get to California but so nice.

At my first art open studio in San Francisco, two guys from a gallery told me that it was important to save one's early work. Not that I needed the encouragement.

I have done life drawing for most of my life. I still have every drawing that was half decent. I have painted over many many paintings but I have only thrown out one and that's because I thought it could be radioactive (a college with a radioactive sign that I found on the road affixed to it.).

Like most artists I have lots of slides....3 or 4 binders of originals and dupes. Hundreds or thousands of dollars there. All basically useless now except for the ones which are the only record of pieces now sold or destroyed.

For many years I have been a graphic designer. I had a four-foot stack of papers and various portfolio stashes around the apartment. I have at least one copy of every sample I could get my hand on, as well as a printout (and digital file) of every comp and early revision. I have most of the books, dvds, cd, tshirts, and packages I have designed. I have client files and now even some student files.

Mom recently passed on and I was helping my sister sift through and clear out some of the stuff. It was pretty bad. My mother was a borderline hoarder. Her husband died tragically and early and she never could let go of any stuff that reminded her of him. Jeanne had already gone through the bulk of it when Mom sold her house. But there was still a lot of stuff. Clothes, papers, letters, books, all kinds of stuff. I still have a collection of all the menus we received when we came back from Europe on the QE2 and I was sort of shocked to see that Mom still had a bunch from her earlier trip.

Luckily I could not fit into the clothes or the shoes but I did take a few scarves, some jewelry, my mom's portrait which is very nice, and odds and ends. Jeanne wants to sell or donate most of it. Jeanne and I are sort of opposite in that regard.

We read through a bunch of letters and thought they would make a great book. But we are not writers. Jeanne says you should just take a photo and then let it go.

I realized that any kind of collection if not archived, is practically useless. And if you don't curate your stuff before you die, no one else will have the time or energy to do it.

And that it's just stuff. You don't have to save every drawing. Some of them are not that good. And it might be more valuable to have the space that these items take up.

So I am trying to down-size.
It is hard emotionally. It takes time. But I think I can do it.

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