Treasure Hunting


One of the hardest things about having boys is reassuring their Dad “…it’s OK if he likes to play dress up…”

I have an amazing hat collection. It’s one of my favorite things.

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It was started by my Grandmother (I called her Gertie. Her name was Laurie but I decided at the age of 2 that her name was Gertie.) One of Gertie’s many jobs was a hat model in NYC. (She was also an elevator operator at the Waldorf Astoria where Louis B. Mayer offered her a screen test she turned down! I cried when I heard THAT story.) She was a fiery red head back in the forties when color pictures made auburn hair all the rage. Her job was to wear a hat from Gimbels Department store and walk around the restaurants telling everyone where they could buy it. Try that nowadays! One of the perks of that job was that she got to keep many of the hats she modeled (That’s her story and she’s sticking to it). I found the hats stuffed in a garbage bag in her closet one day and asked her about them. I was rewarded with a great story and the first 4 hats of my collection.

My "Gertie" wearing the heck out of that hat!

My "Gertie" wearing the heck out of that hat!

Makes ya want to go to Gimbels and buy a hat, huh?

Makes ya want to go to Gimbels and buy a hat, huh?

No hat here but what a photo! A teddy bear, a suitcase and those killer shades...I don't know where she was going, but I'm guessing everyone was sworn to secrecy.

No hat here but what a photo! A teddy bear, a suitcase and those killer shades...I don't know where she was going, but I'm guessing the phrase "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" was coined that weekend.

I miss my “Gertie” and her bigger than life personality. She’s been gone 14 years now but I’m reminded of her everyday…
Zeke wearing the heck out of "Gertie's" hat...

Zeke wearing the heck out of "Gertie's" hat...

“Mark, the hats are brightly colored with lots of feathers and bows…they just scream to a toddler, ‘Wear me!’ It doesn’t mean anything. Either we let him wear them now, or ‘everyday is dress up day!’ when he’s 30.”
What's cuter than a little boy in his great grandma's hat? Bonus: We now have the embarrassing photos we needed to hold over his head for life!

What's cuter than a little boy in his great grandma's hat? Bonus: We now have the embarrassing photos we needed to hold over his head for life!

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At the risk of sounding like Julie Andrews…

These are a few of my favorite things:

This was the most thoughtful gift in the world, given to me by my boyfriend, Mark. (He became my husband a mere 6 years later!)

This was the most thoughtful gift in the world, given to me by my boyfriend, Mark. (He became my husband a mere 6 years later!)

 

This is an antique postcard holder/stand that was placed on top of a counter to hold/display postcards in the early 1900s. Mark surprised me with it and made me cry “happy tears”. I’ve been collecting vintage postcards for over 15 years. Why? Because they take up so much less room than my antique house collection. (Easier to fit in the overhead compartment when I found them treasure hunting while traveling on the road, too.) “I have shoe boxes of them and no way to really display them…” I would complain to my new boyfriend. That little seed planted firmly in my problem-solving man’s head and must have jarred loose some million year old cave-man hunter instincts. He searched high and low for something that would proudly display his “woman’s” collection. (That I had gathered by the way…)

Then he stumbled upon it…literally, it was on the floor of an antique mall and he kicked it across the booth. Good thing it was “exactly what he was looking for” because he had bent the frame. When Mark stood up, he found himself starring straight into the eye of the antique mall security guard {shudder} who was pointing to the “You break it, you buy it!” sign.

The only problem with giving such a “perfect” gift early on in a relationship is that now my husband beats himself up every holiday trying to “one-up” himself and find an even MORE perfect gift. It’s his own fault. He set the bar so high (in his mind) that he has to go shopping with a vaulting pole. He gets frustrated and cranky and I get a 3 day late gift card. One holiday, he made me my own signature scent from essential oils but I’m not allowed to tell you about the “sensitive” things he does because that small neanderthal nugget that’s still somewhere deep down inside his otherwise-evolved, thoughtful brain said, “NUUGGHH!” which made the hair stand up on the back of my neck, so I know it means, “I would rather you didn’t, my chums might use that information as fodder against me in a merry game of jest.

My other favorite thing:

My favorite chest is magic! It turns into a dining room table with a mere wave of a wand and 3 adults to gently coax this 80 year old into working.

My favorite chest is magic! It turns into a dining room table with a mere wave of a wand and 3 adults to gently coax this 80 year old into working.

Abracadabra, alacazam...Taa-Daa! Instant dining room table. How cool is that? From Dining room to playroom! Clutter...be gone!

Abracadabra, alacazam...Taa-Daa! Instant dining room table. How cool is that? From Dining room to playroom! Clutter...be gone!

This appeals to all my senses…vintage, gorgeous, useful AND it was a gift from Mark!

Thrifting to me is the same as breathing air…I need it to live.

Luckily, (or not so luckily) Mark is just as addicted to scouring thrift stores, flea markets and yard sales as I am. That means there’s no system of checks and balances in our house. So when one of us holds up a “find” at a sale, the other one urges/eggs them on, “Yeah! You can totally turn that anvil into a lamp shade!”

Although way more fun and exciting to share this trait, it’s also been our downfall. Our houses have been filled to the bursting point with “collectibles and treasures” and a suffocating amount of …”projects”. The problem is that we can both see past the ugly or the disrepair of ANYTHING. We can’t throw anything away, thinking that there will be a use for it someday. Fighting this desire to “save” things from ruin and bring it back to life either in it’s former glory or as something completely different, has been an extremely difficult and painful journey for Mark and me. We realized (and by WE, I mean ME…Mark had to be forcibly committed to a clutter-rehab)  that when your house is filled with clutter (one of the treatments is to start calling all your treasures “clutter”) it immobilizes you and stifles your life. Instead of doing all those “projects”, we spent all our time building shelves to house all the boxes that contained all the materials to do all the projects! {sigh} I’m getting all tired just thinking about it.

I'm outing Mark and I with these photos...this is the garage of the first house we bought together in CA.

I'm outing Mark and I with these photos...this is the garage of the first house we bought together in CA.

The more "treasure" we found, the more shelves we built to store it on.

The more "treasure" we found, the more shelves we built to store it on.

There are more "project" lamps than we had rooms to put them in. My chest is tightening and my right arm is numb just looking at these photos.

There are more "project" lamps than we had rooms to put them in. My chest is tightening and my right arm is numb just looking at these photos.

The garage was just the overflow from the house. We had a modest 1,100 square foot house which should be plenty big enough for just the two of us. Some how it wasn’t…

The hallway is a great place to store things. Walking sideways burns more calories than just walking straight.

The hallway is a great place to store things. Walking sideways burns more calories than just walking straight.

Our restful bedroom. I always slept well after the "climbing over the boxes" workout.

Our restful bedroom. I always slept well after the "climbing over the boxes" workout.

The office. No more room? No problem...just build shelves from wall to wall, floor to ceiling.

The office. No more room? No problem...just build shelves from wall to wall, floor to ceiling.

Guest bedroom/craft room. OK, I think you get the point. (and I'm getting nauseaus)

Guest bedroom/craft room. OK, I think you get the point. (and I'm getting nauseous)

Our answer to this problem? Well obviously…we needed a bigger house! That’s right, folks. We couldn’t see the forest for the clutter. We went from 1,100 square feet to a 4,000 square foot Victorian.  The house was amazing. It was also over 110 years old. That means we moved all of our little “projects” into one great big project…the house, itself.

Our dream house. That is if you like dreaming about termites and bees and skunks, (oh my!) and all the invisible projects like plumbing, wiring and rebuilding. Have you ever seen the movie, "The Money Pit"? It's not a comedy to us, It's a documentary.

Our dream house. That is if you like dreaming about termites and bees and skunks, (oh my!) and all the invisible projects like plumbing, wiring and rebuilding. Have you ever seen the movie, "The Money Pit"? It's not a comedy to us, It's a documentary.

Nate spent his second 2 years of life in this house, wandering the halls looking for his parents. When Zeke came into the picture, we knew we needed a change. The house, the “projects” the clutter…it was just too overwhelming.

I started watching clutter-reducing, organizational, clean-up-your-pig-sty shows obsessively. I was like an overweight person that watches diet/exercise shows.  “Clean House” and “Clean Sweep” were on 24 hours a day. Peter Walsh and Niecy Nash were my new gurus. I would have these amazing dreams that both of them would show up at my doorstep, wave their little clutter-free wands and I would emerge from the clutter-cocoon a beautiful, butterfly…able to fly unobstructed through my home. {sigh}

But when that didn’t happen, I knew desperate times called for deperate actions: “Let’s move to Florida, Mark!” I cheered. “Huh?” he replied. “Let’s start over. Let’s sell everything we own, move near our family in FL and lead a clutter-free life!” Mark grabbed his glasses off the (cluttered) bed-side table, put them on and looked me straight in the eye. “Can we make breakfast first?”

So, one year, 3 yard sales, many donations and gifts to friends later…here we are in Florida! Now, I’m not insinuating that we are by any means clutter-free now but we are well on our way. It cost us $10,000 to move all the stuff we felt like we had to keep…the “can’t live without” stuff. We’ve sold/donated about half of that in the year we’ve been in FL and have been “living without it” just fine. Even better actually. Not only is it a very slow, painful process but an extremely expensive one. But the reward is living an authentic life, surrounded by the few things that REALLY matter and bring you joy. (instead of piles of boxes filled with crap)

We have lots of new rules to keep us on the path to “less is more”. One of them is: Nothing comes into our house unless it has a place. And another is: If you bring home a project, it must be done within a week. I’m proud to say we adhered to both rules this past weekend. Celebration has a bi-annual “Porch and Yard Sale”. We are sellers mostly but couldn’t resist a little “treasure hunting” with the boys. (“We’re teaching them moderation” she said trying to convince herself.) Mark spotted a beautiful desk from the 1930’s that needed a “teeny, tiny bit of work” he said. I chose to go along with his white lie because it was awesome and we got it for a song ($30.) He carried it home and then my wonderful husband immediately got out his tools and made the repairs to the legs, cleaned it up and promptly put it in it’s new home…our bedroom. (Was he suppose to be working on the swingset? Absolutely. But I had a selfish moment and he needed to finish a project and be proud for a few minutes. Mission accomplished.) I had an industrial white fold out table from Costco in there before. I had taken out my sewing machine to finally start a life-long desire to learn how to sew. Now, thanks to Mark, I have a beautiful start to my new hobby!

Zeke helping Daddy. Not only didn't the apple didn't fall far from the tree but it's rolling back towards it!

Zeke helping Daddy. Not only didn't the apple didn't fall far from the tree but it's rolling back towards it!

Ta-da! Table, meet chair. Chair, meet table. You two were made for each other.

Ta-da! Table, meet chair. Chair, meet table. You two were made for each other.

I still dream about Peter Walsh and Niecy Nash. But in these dreams we’re…well let’s just say we’re “clutter-free”!