First World Problems

Feeling pretty miserable! (Bet you never thought you’d hear me say that!!) Guilty too, because I KNOW, and commiserate with every terrifying thing going on in the world 😥, and YET, I’m commiserating with me too, for my own infinitely less important problems 😧 … moving, getting rid of things, going through stuff and saying Ohhhhh, I have to keep THAT. How do people DO this????? It’s like killing history! Okay, I’m sorry. I’m going to keep it short. The next time you hear from me, it’ll be from Martha’s Vineyard! Twighlight zone! The realtors come at 10am, I need to get going, we leave on Saturday. Oy. Don’t worry, you know there’s always a bright side ~ you’ll find it lurking somewhere down there ⬇️ … MUSICA

Yeah, you try it sometime.😜 So much different when it’s YOU that’s doing it!🤯

Bleak. Not neat, not organized. Doesn’t particularly smell good, definitely wouldn’t taste good, doesn’t feel good either. It is the antithesis of all the things we love. And yet, it’s human. And it’s the job at hand. We have to DO something with this stuff.

We have trash bags filled with no-longer-needed files. It’s hard at first, but after doing this for a couple of hours, you get so cavalier. Barely even open some files. Just tossing things around like they aren’t the bank you once put your dreams into! Well, most of them aren’t, they are junk, why did I ever keep them so long? These are the questions.

Then I find something like this, written years ago, and think, No. And it goes in the save pile. And I start wondering how many of these went out with the cavalier stuff?😲 Too late now!

It’s Boxland. If you were a box lover, we would be your Disneyland. They are everywhere, and yet, I need more!

Look at this, acid-free boxes filled with original art, from the beginning of time . . . calendars, fabric art, dishes art, old hand-written Willards from the 90s, miscellaneous scanned art . .

And every book I’ve ever written, all the original pages of Heart of the Home in one box, all of The Summer Book in another, and so on, and so on. Twenty-seven boxes of book, calendar and misc. art. Guess how much they weigh? A million pounds. Despite the fact that we leave on Saturday, we STILL haven’t decided how to get these things back to the island. Aren’t decisions fun? I especially like the ones where no matter what you do, it could turn out terrible, and still cost an arm and a leg. If you ask me, it’s anti-fairytale-girl. There are RULES around here! 

Oh yes, all kinds of (really nice, hardworking) guys coming to the house, to check out the septic system (dig up yard, kill half the alstroemeria living there ~ oh yeah, we’re leaving, stop crying over alstroemeria) . . . Reports on the septic system, reports from the guys checking wells, report from the termite guy, and from the one with the clipboard, looking under the house, into electrical panels, doing a complete home inspection. The good news is we found out it would only cost a mere $100,000 to make this house perfect if we decided to stay. We still have time, the realtors don’t come until 10. Haven’t signed anything yet. Arguhhhh. Train leaves on Saturday.

So I’m in the house, wistfully waiting for the tea water to boil while looking out the kitchen window at the green pastures and tall hedges ~ feeling a bit sad as I take my tea back to work, going through files, weeding out, deciding, organizing, throwing huge barrels of stuff away … days of this. My sister Shelly comes and helps me, so that happens with lots of stories and laughter. I’m doing GOOD, I think. Productive. Getting stuff done. And then, last night, for the first time in two weeks, I go out to the goat barn to check on what Joe’s been doing …

And what do I find?

He’s been decorating. He’s been out there, all cozy, day after day, making a little antique store. Yes. I know, how darling. But we leave on Saturday.🙄 The realtors are coming today… Everything we are taking home, all the boxes of art etc, have to be packed up because we leave (on Saturday), and the moving van has to come get them. None of the stuff in the goat barn is going back to the Island BECAUSE we have a guy JOE HIRED who is coming after we’re gone to take all this stuff ⬆️ out of the house, barn, and garage, and wherever and DISPOSE OF IT. All Joe and I need to pay attention to is the stuff we want to take with us. For instance his file cabinets, which he has not touched yet. See the situation? He is literally playing!!! I’m venting here, ignore me.😳

Been trying to include beauty-appreciation between the tossing and packing … and it’s definitely not hard this time of year in California. I mean, it’s gorgeous. So much light! Wildflowers on the hills and along roadsides…The air is clean and clear. And that’s part of the problem. It’s too nice. This ⬆️ is called ceanothus (California Lilac!), a plant so popular here you almost take it for granted. It’s so beautiful, so blue, and its fragrance is so pleasing, like very light grape candy. It’s often used as a ground cover, or like this one, a nice tall, shiny-leafed hedge. What a gift.

And an afternoon tea at Sheri’s produced my favorite photo ever taken of me (Thank you Carrie Weidert who was sitting behind me) … We were on Sheri’s front porch. There is a swing hanging from the roof, very low, just over the brick stairs that drop into the grass below which goes downhill quickly. I sat down … and LOOK, like I did 👀, at the BEAUTY, … I walked back, and kicked off, and up I went, a moment frozen in time for me. I really couldn’t believe it. Sheri lives up on the hill behind us, so that’s our green valley, and how gorgeous it is. This is why my problems mean nothing, despite how they are keeping me awake at night.

Fragrant, pale-pink jasmine vines climb all over this house . . .

It’s just coming into bloom now. I think if we went away and let this house just sit here, it wouldn’t be long before it was covered in jasmine like Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.

Ceanothus and pink roses look very good together! I always seem to have time to go out and pick flowers … 

And I’ve been able to paint new art . . . So that’s like dreaming while wide-awake. More like the fairytale-girl business I’ve been spoiled by.💖

And I found art I did in the 1980s which has barely seen the light of day. You know I love linens … I bought that flowered pillow, and the blue and white striped linen pillow under it, on my first trip to New York back in the 70s! They finally wore out and had to go. But here they are again!!! I’m kinda like the Norman Rockwell of everything I’ve ever owned. From bowls to shoes to quilts and everything in-between.

And of course, we’ve taken some beach time, smell-of-the-sea, coastal breezes, umbrellas, and cappuccino martinis, with my bestie Diane …our troubles completely disappear in the sound of the ocean.

And when I can’t do it, I look at the wall, and there I am . . . in my dreams.

And my Bo-Bo Joe. (What? Me worry?)Took a sunset-selfie of my reflection in the restaurant window.

Joe and I went on a long walk along the shore after dinner . . . went home and completely forgot to set the clocks back, and didn’t find out until 2 pm, I mean 3 pm, the next day. What a loss! It was almost past my nap time!

And I took this photo of the sky (with my iPhone) in our driveway when we got home. Look at the stars!  Guess what I heard this morning? VERY cheerful news! First off, have you read A Gentleman in Moscow? It’s the closest thing to a perfect book I’ve ever read. It’s so good, go read it if you haven’t, I know you’ll love it too.💖 It’s by Amor Towles, and guess what? They made a mini-series of it! Debuting on March 29th on “Paramount”, which is probably the ONLY streamer we still don’t have.🙄 It’s starring Ewan McGregor (he’s been in lots of things, but also Miss Potter ~ 👍) … I can’t wait!👏👏👏

It’s been helpful for me to be reading my Gratitude book. Have you ever seen this? I always forget to talk about it! But it’s a wonderful reminder, to be grateful, even for the loss. It’s been an honor to be the caretaker of this beautiful land for 23 years . . . I have tons of pictures of it, and I’ll never forget.💖 So, off we go! Time’s up! And don’t forget, despite the difficult moments, we are really so LUCKY . . .💖Bye for now dearest ones . . . see you on the other side. Until then don’t forget to stop and smell the flowers!❌⭕️❌⭕️ 

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263 Responses to First World Problems

  1. Kathy Branch Spicer says:

    Deep breaths, fingers crossed, and keep stopping to smell the flowers.

    I am now dreaming of going shopping in the goat barn. Looks like a treasure trove!

    Much love from another Branch, in Ohio.

  2. Prue Ronneberg says:

    I’m reading your wonderful blog… such honest and sensitive words makes me happy even though boxing up and deciding what to chuck and what to keep from a lifetime is sooooo hard! I Can really relate! Good luck and we’re delighted you’re almost home. Take good care! Thinking of you!!!

  3. Debbie Boerger says:

    Just read all the comments for the second time. All of us go through the same things. Family, jobs, kids, packing and moving. So much humor and good advice. Thank you, Girlfriends.
    Debbie, deciding what to keep.

  4. Carolyn Rector says:

    Oh my God you have been through so much. At least you took some time from all the sorting to go to the beach, pick some flowers, and eat with friends. Loved this Willard because you have been so real with us. It’s an inspiration to me to dig in and purge. In my first marriage I moved 12 times in 20 years!!!! And now since my divorce and remarriage i moved much less. I’ve been in my house since 1996, widowed in 2019, and I do want to eliminate the clutter. Thinking of you with love and appreciation. Now that I’m retired I’m learning to watercolor. You are an inspiration. God speed in your travels and in your decisions.

  5. Sara Brankaer says:

    I’m sorry if this may feel like rubbing it in, but seeing you wrestle your enormous pile of stuff makes me grateful for my one modestly sized home with a modest amount of stuff 😂. I’m glad to see you are also taking breaks to enjoy life. I had to help clear out my grandmother’s house after she died last summer… it was also a modestly sized home, but my oh my, stuff does accumulate. Maybe there’s something to this Swedish death cleaning I hear so much about after all? Good luck with everything!

    • sbranch says:

      It does, that house isn’t big, kind of perfect if you ask me, 1,800 square feet. But we owned it for 23 years, so yes, it had gotten way too full!!!

  6. Tamara Pinkard says:

    Hi Susan, I always enjoy reading your adventures and seeing the art and photos. Thank you for sharing your journey. Today is my mom’s birthday. She died last December. She was a treasure keeper! My dad has dementia and complains of all the “junk in the house”. My brother and I are slowly cleaning out the house and donating and dumping things. We rented a storage unit to allow us “thinking time” to decide what to do with some unusual items. It is hard to get rid of items in bulk, I think it is helping us to do just a few car loads at a session. Less over whelming for all involved. I guess sometimes there is too much of a good thing (stuff). Happy travels as you head back home. Congrats on getting a major job done!

  7. Joanna+Peterson says:

    Big hugs!! You (and Joe) have built such a beautiful life. How hard to have to chip bits and chunks of it off. 😭
    I love the swing pic! What joy and love of place is expressed.
    Last week, visiting my daughter in CT, we rode the train into New York City for the first time, and I thought of you traveling cross country by train. It is such a pleasant feeling to just ride, even for the short hour to NYC.

  8. jeanie says:

    Hope you are safely home and loving on Jack, but I just have to know. Did you ever have goats in the goat barn? They are sweet animals. xo♥️

    • sbranch says:

      The man before us had goats and the goat barn was something he put there, except it didn’t have any walls. So we made it work for us! I love goats too, they are so sweet, after you get used to those rectangle eyes!

  9. Dorothy says:

    Oh dear Susan I know the pain of downsizing and selling a beloved property so well. Went through it five years ago when my dear hubby was diagnosed with an illness and could no longer work. It is so so hard. We gave away just about everything and sold a few things. I have the memories but I feel your pain.
    Life goes on. We are blessed in spite of the hard times.
    Best of luck to you always. ❤️

  10. Anna Kaplan says:

    Yes, it continually tugs at the heart to separate from our life treasures. And you have so very, very many of them – an abundance of riches and you produced many of them! A lengthy, repeated process of reminding yourself who and what is truly most precious to you plus deep breaths plus long walks plus gardening plus visits with friends plus good food … help. 🙂

  11. dianne dolan says:

    We r about to go through this and I can’t decide if your scaring me or making me feel better.

    • sbranch says:

      I SHOULD be scaring you!🤣 It is not for sissies! I always thought I was a GOOD decision maker, but now I know I’ve lost my edge!🤣🤣

  12. Leslie Scutellaro says:

    Dear Susan, Looking forward, thinking about the plans for every day of the week, made me wonder…something that makes the Willards so special is the delightful unpredictability, the surprise of receiving them, the serendipity. Personally, I like to think of you living your busy life and stopping by via Willard to share the goings on when you get a chance, Daily kinda sounds more like a job, an obligation, less whimsy. Saturday thoughts from a longtime fan…

  13. Jane Mulraney says:

    Oops, sorry, just learned what I wrote this morning popped back as a “duplicate.” So you can see I’m new to this and don’t know where to post this. I just meant to introduce myself and get on your happy bandwagon. I was scrolling to see if my attempt was printed.Help?

    • sbranch says:

      Love to meet you Jane! It’s just me, I love to read the comments, they are so wonderful, so I take my time which means they might not go right up, so don’t worry, it’s not you, it’s me! I was REALLY slow this time!💘

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