I am a collector -- not in any official way, but more in my approach to the world. I collect family photos, my children's drawings and baby clothes, posters and tchotchkes from traveling, lots of books, letters from friends. I even collect actual friends.
Being a collector is part of why I write this blog. I like to collect ideas, stories, memories to share and revisit.
Letting go is not my strong suit.
When each of my grandparents passed away, I inherited pieces of furniture from their homes. Over time, I accumulated scores of items large and small between things I received directly from them and things I scavenged from my parents' attic.
Some of the furniture I took was purely functional. But many of the items hold personal significance. There's the picnic table that my grandfather built out of the hatch cover from an old ship -- he taught me to pick crabs at that table when I was a kid. It weighs a ton, but makes a quirky rough dining room table under the crystal chandelier from my in-laws. Or there's the antique sofa that my grandmother saved specifically for me, her only grand-daughter -- we recovered it in red corduroy to make it less fancy, but the curved feet at the bottom still set a grand tone.
But after years of taking in these hand-me-down treasures, our decor sometimes looks like we did all our shopping in the Dead Relatives Collection -- and there's only so much space for keeping furniture in our house.
So when we started talking about decorating Pippi's big girl room, I realized there were two pieces I was going to have to let go. One was a white dresser with glass knobs that had been in my room and my brother's room when we were kids and then in both nurseries when my children were babies. The other was an upholstered rocking chair that had belonged to my grandmother before serving as my reading chair in my teens and 20s and then my nursing chair in my 30s.
I considered selling them on Ebay or Craig's List, but never seemed ready to make the leap to post them online. Too much hassle. I thought about taking them to an antique store or consignment shop, but just couldn't bring myself to do it. No one else would think the furniture was as valuable as I did. How do you put a price on something filled with memories of multiple childhoods? It sounds melodramatic, but how could I haggle over the space where I rocked my children to sleep?
Green Chair Project, a nonprofit organization co-founded by Jackie Craig and Beth Smoot in April 2010 to take quality donations from people like me (who have too much furniture but have a hard time letting go) and get them to people in transition (who actually need the items). The Green Chair makes the furnishings available for a nominal fee to individuals and families identified and referred by its partner agencies.
What makes The Green Chair different is that their warehouse is actually staged and decorated. It's not a pile of castaway junk that no one wanted, left behind for others to dig through. Instead, visiting The Green Chair is like wandering through any other furniture store or consignment boutique, allowing the recipients to shop with dignity as they furnish their home and create nurturing environments for themselves and their families.
I don't know who has my dresser and rocking chair now. But I like to imagine that somewhere there's a mom making a new life for herself and her baby, tucking away tiny onesies or snuggling together to nurse before bedtime. Or maybe it's a little girl who loves books as much as I do, happy for her own space to curl up and disappear into a story.
Letting go wasn't easy -- but somehow giving away the furniture instead of selling it seemed like the best way to honor the memories that have no price tag. Letting go created a new opportunity to be part of someone's next chapter. Letting go opened up space in both my house and my heart.
And I still get to collect the memories.