Clearing and Creating New Space

May 9, 2023

Recently, my husband “suggested” that it is time to simplify the kitchen cupboards. After all, we have twelve white plates, but we use the same two over and over.

And bowls–how many bowls are really necessary? Cereal bowls, mixing bowls, pasta bowls, serving bowls. I admit I do have a thing about bowls. One of my favorite bowls is the light blue bowl on the top shelf, and I only use it when I make cherry walnut bread at Christmas time. I suppose I could use it at other times, too, but somehow, that doesn’t seem right. And then there are the 24 small vintage bowls or as my grandmother called them, sauce dishes. I bought them several years ago when we hosted an informal soup supper for Bruce’s colleagues. How likely is it that we will ever again need 24 bowls at the same time?

Over the years we have hosted many dinner parties and parties. I have spent days planning menus and cooking and cleaning and have loved the whole process, but it now seems unlikely that we will host large groups again or even have more than six people for dinner.

Our entertaining style has changed. What we most enjoy now is inviting two people over (We have four comfortable chairs in our living room.) for “4 o’clocks”–a drink and appetizers. Cheese, sausage, crackers. A dip, maybe some fruit. Something hot. Nibbles. Often a recipe I have wanted to try. Most important is the relaxed, but intimate atmosphere for fun and meaningful conversation. Oh, and much easier clean-up. Now with warmer weather we will enjoy our “4 ‘clocks” on the patio.

I realize the issue here is not my deep attachment to a material thing, but instead I sometimes struggle accepting who I am now–my age, my energy. At the same time I have become more and more clear about how I want to spend my time and use my gifts. Still, however, I cling to the earlier images of myself. Those stacks of dishes and a bowl for every purpose under heaven represent the ways I lived in earlier years when I had much more energy. The more the merrier when it came to entertaining.

I still have a good amount of energy and lots of interests and am blessed with many people with whom I enjoy spending time, but how much of a good thing I can hold in a day is more limited. Susan Moon in Alive Until You Are Dead, Notes on the Home Stretch, reflects on what she can do with “joyful effort” in her late 70’s. I love that.

An Ongoing Process

Our daughter and son-in-love have hosted the previous two Thanksgiving dinners, but this coming year they may be visiting our granddaughter, who will spend a semester in Greece. How grand is that! Our son and daughter-in-love usually come for the Christmas holidays, and we love all of us being together. But what does that mean for Thanksgiving? Well, my husband, open and generous person that he is, suggested we should host a friendsgiving for all those in our life who are alone. Only a few years ago I would have rejoiced with the idea, but this time I didn’t respond–at least not aloud. I admit I thought about all the work, all the energy that would take (and the bowls!). I know this is a decision that doesn’t need to be made now, and there are lots of ways to make an event like that happen, but it is another one of those opportunities to pay attention to who I am now.

If you have read my essay in Next Avenue ( you know how decluttering and managing the stuff of life is an ongoing process. I suspect that leaving some room on the kitchen shelves will open some space in my heart and mind to more fully live as I age.

Words of Wisdom

When I look around the crowded room and wonder why I am keeping the large desk when a smaller one would do just as well, something inside of me is beginning to change. When three sets of dishes are two sets too many, I have begun to need more than just things. When the house is too crowded and the car is too big and the perfect lawn too much of a bother, I have begun a whole new adventure in life…It is the shaping of the soul that occupies us now. Now, consciously or, more likely, not, we set out to find out for ourselves who we really are, what we know, what we care about, and how to be simply enough for ourselves in the world.

The Gift of Years, Growing Older Gracefully by Joan Chittister, p.91

My Intentions

  • I will pay attention to what I actually use–how and when I use what fills my cupboards. Just looking at the above picture, I see two bowls that can go.
  • I will add some of my kitchen treasures to the annual garage sale my husband has in June to sell the discarded furniture he has rescued, painted, and given new life. The proceeds from his sale go to a program for homeless youth.
  • I will simplify the stack of 24 sauce dishes –keep 6 of them. Or maybe 8.

An Invitation

What outer and inner shelves in your life need to be cleared? I would love to know.

10 thoughts on “Clearing and Creating New Space

  1. Thanks for this. Our move to Montana caused us to do 2 huge purgings, and yet, we had to use half of a full size moving van and rent a storage locker for 5 years. Now, 7 years later, I’m feeling another need to purge. Yes indeed. How many ________ do we really need?


  2. >>I have become more and more clear about how I want to spend my time and use my gifts. << Yes! I keep shouting this from the rooftops. Time is limited and it will be spent doing what I love with people I love (or at least genuinely like).


  3. Hmm, I related to a lot of this and I’m “only” almost-61! My husband and I finally did a lot of purging from the basement this winter. Felt good to get rid of so much stuff, especially after living here for 33 years. We still have more to do, but we made a sizeable dent. And the entertaining? I rarely do so anymore. Like you, sometimes we have a couple of friends over for snacks and chat, but even that’s rare. Funny, I was just talking on the phone to my 32-year old son the other day about this. He lives in CA and is still single. He had a party at his new residence the other day. He asked why we don’t have parties anymore. I just laughed. He will find out in 30 years!

    Of course, the name of the book, Alive Until You are Dead caught my attention right away and I had to look it up. She is described as the Buddhist Anne Lamott. Sold! Ordered it and can’t wait to read it. Bookmarked your essay to read later, too.


  4. We’ve moved many times and downsized the last few just because of the choices we we’ve made about where to live. We have very little storage so that makes the decision for me at times and I’m grateful for that. My golden rule is always “keep the things that you use all the time or that you really love.” Even if you end up throwing something out that you find you need later, just get a refreshing new one! The stuff that doesn’t serve has to go, and not just things–even feelings, or resentments, or hangups, or irritations, or pesky thoughts–let them go if they are not serving, so that there is space for the true, and the restful, and the beautiful, and the holy.


  5. I’m a little late in responding but wanted to mention on a flight I took a few months ago I watched a movie on Swedish Death Cleaning. I was intrigued. Basically, if you have no use for something, give it away to someone close, donate it, have a garage sale, throw it away, etc. The thinking is it reduces the burden for others after you die. For me, this is great motivation! To learn more, including a book about it, see


  6. Such a good reminder. I read the book quite awhile ago and it included both philosophical reflections and practical ideas about simplifying. Thanks for bringing it to my attention again.


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