“The pearl only weighs the oyster down”  ~Marty Rubin

Four years into my budding sewing career, I received my sewing box.  It was a Christmas gift from Mom and Dad.  There it is, in all it’s gold plastic splendor between me and my grandpa.  I had just returned home from the hospital that afternoon after having my appendix out three days prior.

Christmas 1969

I LOVE my sewing box.  It has made every move that I’ve made.  Beginning in New Ulm, Minnesota to St. Olaf College; University of Minnesota; Dossenheim, West Germany; Mendham, New Jersey; Plymouth, Michigan; Chester, New Jersey; New York, New York.

Early in our marriage, Peter’s mom was visiting us in Germany, accompanied by a new puppy.  I was the last to arrive home from work one evening.  Peter and Mutti sheepishly met me at the door.  The puppy had tested it’s teeth on MY SEWING BOX.  Peter said to me that he knew it must be special, because why else would someone who sews as much as  I keep this (dare he say ugly) old “thing” around?  The two of them had desperately tried to repair it.  Their panicked, loving efforts only attracted future puppy attention, but truthfully added to the charm of my sewing box.


Nearly seven years ago, we began the arduous process of downsizing. It seemed to me so strange that just twenty years before we had moved from a furnished apartment in Germany to an empty house in New Jersey.  We filled it and three houses to follow with furniture, love, school projects, toys and memories.  And there I was, nest nearly empty, so quickly dismantling   the accumulation of years.

It wasn’t easy, and my relief was huge once it was done.  Peter and I loved the coziness of our New York apartment.  I still love it.  It feels SO great not to be weighed down by possessions.

It’s interesting to look at what “stuff” actually made the final cut.  Other than basic furniture, that which we brought along has meaning.  Bottom line.  Everything on our walls or shelves is a memento of a trip or family memory.  Decorators be damned, somehow it all comes together.  Even a few of the pieces of furniture I have here are special, like the secretary that was in my grandparent’s farmhouse; or the platform rocker in which my grandma was rocked as a baby; or this gate leg table, a wedding gift to my grandparents in the 1920s.


It’s in my tiny kitchen (beneath my growing wall of travel mementos), giving me extra space when I need it.  I grew up with it my house in New Ulm.

Christmas 1960? 2

So what’s it all for, this accumulation of possessions we all seem to be driven towards in our youth?  During our downsizing, a young couple came to our New Jersey house to pick up a chair they purchased from us on Craigslist.  They were moving FROM New York City TO New Jersey, just the opposite of Peter and me.  They were so excited about the extra space they would have in their house.  I wanted to shake them and say “Don’t do it! ”  But then I remembered the excitement of our first house, the thrill of decorating the nursery, the bikes in the garage, the toys in the basement.  It’s part of life.  As long as we remember that it’s just that, stuff.  It should never weigh you down, because it isn’t what is important.  But I think you already knew that.

Kimimila New York on Etsy

7 thoughts on “Stuff

  1. Oh Cathy, how I loved this story. First of all, I remember you showing me your incision in the girls locker room in Jr. High. How could that possibly have been 40 some years ago?

    And the downsizing, it’s such a cleansing experience to scale down to the things you treasure most after so many years of accumulation. As I write this I’m staring at my dad’s ski-jumping skis and my grandmother’s sewing box. Some things, you just can’t part with like your sewing box with the corner chewed. Priceless!

  2. Cathy!

    Loved this story. Thank you for sharing. Yes, downsizing is a heart wrenching process, that’s for sure. Letting go of the family piano last January was hard, for both me and Connie – but it went to a family with a fabulously talented young boy, and that made it easier….

    I just went through a LOT of downsizing (and more to come), but my sewing box from 6th grade made the cut as well. And when I sit at my machine, something magical happens – I get transported back to my childhood, and suddenly I’m thinking about all the clothes I made, the events, the people around me at the time. My sewing box holds many secrets, and it’s so fun unlocking them once in a while.

    Miss you!
    Renee xoxo

    • I always work really hard to make sure my things find a good home, like your piano. I love that you still have your sewing box! They are like little treasure chests, I believe. Miss you too, Renee!

  3. Mom says:

    What can a mom say? I love that you cherish all of the memories that we share! I had completely forgotten about the gold sewing box——

  4. Dori says:

    Lynn Conroy Collins was just here in Dallas visiting for the weekend and she linked me to your blog. Such a treat to take a peek into your life. So sorry to hear about your husband and so glad you are choosing to honor him with how you are continuing to live your life.

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