Terry the painter sent me a text. He says he’s ready to come to the house and begin our home beautification, but I’m distracted by all the things we must remove from the walls and the closets for him to begin.

The closets… if I add closets to the list of things to paint, they must be emptied, items sorted, donated and the things I “need” must put somewhere until the paint is dry…So I’m thinking… nah… the closets don’t have to get painted right now.

I concentrate on removing the art from the walls, and now I’m admiring the photographs of my children through the years…. Remembering each milestone moment in the lives of my family… instead, I begin to empty the bookshelves. I glance at naked walls with nail holes. We are collectors of decorative art and treasures…colorful glass and vintage pottery.

I’m making the ‘frantic emoji’ face in my brain right now. So much to do. Trying to simply do it carefully, one piece at a time. I appreciate handling beloved artifacts. I imagine this is what it will be like when we decide to sell our home, to move into the next chapter, when our lives slow down a bit. What things would we bring with us?

I like to think of myself as someone who travels lightly. I can do the carry-on bag and backpack for a 14-day adventure abroad. … but we enjoy living with our collective things. Some of these from my past life, my parent’s antiques, paintings, sculptures, chairs… my own business adventures buying and selling folk art and decorative antiques, and 40 years of my own paintings. My sweet husband has his stuff too… We merged our treasures… his grandfather’s coffee table, an oriental rug, a collection of antique barware and photographs of presidents long gone. I admire how he travels lightly.

It’s hard to part with stuff…. I’m preparing myself… I know I can do it.  An enormous wall hung with family photos of ancestors and kin gives me pause. I could lovingly wrap and box them, take them to the basement and leave them in boxes for our kids to go through one day. Our space would have a more modern, less cluttered look. Those photos represent moments in time.  I could make copies of all the family photos and make a couple of books.  I surprise myself that I’m considering this, because they seem to be more “alive” looking at me from the wall.

I’m thinking of all the people who made these decisions before they left their homes for a new home at JSL. They pared down their beloved belongings and mementos so that everything fits appropriately in their convenient apartments.  I know there are businesses that help people make these decisions too. I’m not yet ready to move…. but I’m imagining it in my future and visualizing letting THINGS go. I love the feeling of so much space… yet there continues to be the upkeep, dusting, and repair. Lightening our load feels right.

The addition of our enormous sun-filled ping pong room added 27 years ago is the best space in the house – a multipurpose arena for games of pong, Thanksgiving dinners for 40, crazy birthday bashes, Brit Milah, Shivas and most importantly, a place the grandchildren can spread their toys and play.  It will become a storage place to house all the items we are moving to paint the walls.  We updated our patio during COVID to entertain ourselves, our family and friends outdoors. We adore our patio and Andy is an amazing and creative gardener who loves to putter about and create beauty outside our windows.

In the meantime, I could decide which of our items no longer “spark joy.” I could “be more with less.” The things we display are not clutter, they are choices that bring happiness. And I could start giving away and selling some of our less precious things on eBay.  My estate sale purchasing days could be over…. All our treasures procured from the lives of others could be resold… Yes… the proceeds could fund other trips abroad. But then I think of life without some of the lively art or the comforting eyes of ancestors, relatives and loved ones past and present looking back at me. We have time… but the painter is here.

Shabbat Shalom.


  • What a contemplative meditation. Yes, some object do have the potential to spark joy but it’s our interactions with one another that sparks joy and meaning. In other words, you Jo Strausz Rosen, are the spark. Shabbat Shalom.

  • Mary Schwartz /

    I look forward to reading your messages each week. You are a wonderful writer that always hits the nail on the head when writing about everyday life and experiences we all have. Today’s message about parting or keeping our treasures are thoughts I have very often. I love my possessions at home and can’t think about parting with any of them. Thank goodness I don’t need to make that decision now and hope I won’t in the near future. Thank you again for your wisdom and ability to write your thoughts that hit home each week.

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