navy spouse

The Punch Bowl Revelation

As part of a military family and a bit of an organization freak, I am pretty much always thinking about packing boxes, weight limits, and how much space we will have in our next home. Our next move is still over two years away, but I am already eyeing my house thinking about what can be packed versus what must travel with us, what needs to be re-organized, and what will simply have to GO before we do. This may sound nerve-wracking and time-consuming to you, but to me, it’s actually pretty awesome. You see, I crave simplicity. I love clean lines and organization. I love items that beautiful and useful; I hate items that are neither.

I did a major clean-out just two years ago prior to our biggest move ever and am constantly sorting, donating, craigslisting, and tossing, but somehow I still own a ton of crap. And I hate it. I hate shelves filled with junk. I hate two-year-old unpacked boxes (got rid of the last of ours just a few months ago). I hate overflowing files and mystery piles. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it!

This year I am turning it all around. For the past month or so, I have ruthlessly sorted, donated, and trashed a metric butt-ton of junk out of my house and out of my life. How? It was easy. You see last year I had a revelation, the aforementioned Punch Bowl Revelation, and though it took me a year to really put it into practice, it has changed my life!

My story begins about five years ago in a store called The Christmas Tree Shoppe. If you live or have lived in New England, you know what I am talking about. If not, it is the best discount store EVER!  Imagine all the beautiful random-ness of a dollar store with slightly higher prices and not bad quality. Just as in any store, some stuff is weird and cheap, but in my experience at The Christmas Tree Shoppe, you have a pretty good chance of finding a few diamonds in the rough.

I remember clearly the day I bought my punch bowl. I had been looking for one for a while. I wanted something simple without any sort of design or theme on it. I had seen tons covered in grapes or curly cues, but that wasn’t what I wanted. But on this day, I found the perfect simple, no-cutesy-crap punch bowl! I bought it immediately and felt very grown-up for having it. I grew up believing that all grown up fancy ladies owned punch bowls, right? For ladies lunches and baby showers? To bring out at family gatherings and fill with 7Up and sherbet? For black Kool-aid and a hand-shaped ice cubes at Halloween? Right?

Well, I thought they did anyways and had long wanted a punch bowl all my own. And now I had it. I took it home, showed it off to my husband (he was, of course, thrilled … not!), and placed it on a shelf with pride just waiting for the grown up fancy parties to begin!

Over the course of the next two or three years, I used it once, and that time was a messy disaster.  Spiked-by-me punch got spilled all over the counter (after too much of it had been consumed, of course). At clean-up time it was sticky mess and had to be hand washed, as did all eight glass cups, their hooks, and the ladle. The box it came in began to bend and fold immediately, and with each crease, the punch bowl lost a little charm.

It stayed in that box and got banged up even further as we moved across country, and it took residence on a much less prestigious shelf in the garage. Several times, I noticed it sitting there, and each time I felt the bowl was mocking me. “If you were a real grown up fancy lady, you’d have all sorts of reasons to use me!”

I stuffed more boxes in front it to shut it up. It didn’t work. I knew it was there, not being used, taking up space and I hated it. I wanted to get rid of it, but if I did, would I no longer be a grown up fancy lady? What if I donated it, and the next day I was asked to host a luncheon? Where would I put the fancy punch?

I even asked on an online forum of total strangers what they thought about my Punch Bowl Conundrum. Surprisingly almost none of them had punch bowls. Those who did also rarely used them, and some of those who didn’t even said … gasp! … that punch bowls were old-fashioned!!! That shocked me and actually made me a little mad!

For about a minute …

Then I began to think of the vision of the grown up fancy ladies I was trying to be. Their pearls were gleaming white; their kittens heels and crinolines were perfection. It dawned on me just how old-fashioned my vision was and that I was nothing like that vision (and that I watched too many black and white movies growing up). Nor do I really want to be that kind of lady. I am not a “lady who lunches.” I have friends over for burgers, dogs, and bonfires. I don’t own kitten heels, white gloves and whiter pearls; I rock blue jeans and t-shirts and prefer to be barefoot at all times. Not only was that vision old-fashioned, it wasn’t even me-fashioned!!!

I immediately donated my punch bowl to a FRG yard sale and never looked back.

So this year I have been putting “The Punch Bowl Revelation” to work. Do I really love that? Or do I love an ideal that no longer means a thing to me. Do I really need those? Or am I still hanging on to them because I might need them some day in some situation I don’t really want to be in? My de-cluttering goal is to only keep those things that are beautiful and useful, things that I love, need, and use right now … not in some future or past vision of me.

And all those things I am letting go of? I hope they find an owner with a clear vision of themselves now so they never have to mock their new owners from a dark shelf in a musty garage about a vision that may never be.

No one likes a bitchy punch bowl.


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