Carrie’s Painting of the Week

Big Sky

By Carrie Jacobson

I have not thought of myself as a consumer.

I do have too many clothes, beautiful clothes that I love, and which are now nearly useless as, after more than two decades of going into a newsroom to work, I no longer have a 9-5 job.

I do have too many painting-related items, too many paintings and too much paint, if there really is such a thing.

I have cut my own personal library down to about 50 books. I have thrown away boxes and boxes and BOXES of mementos, newspaper clippings, stories and novels and essays I’ve written. I have donated clothes and shoes and linen tablecloths. I have given furniture and towels and sheets and rugs and blankets to my daughter. I have left good stuff at the end of the driveway, and passersby have happily taken it home with them.  I have sold my dead mother’s possessions at yard sales, and given them to groups holding yard sales, and wheedled and whined until my siblings and childhood friends took them – and still, when push came to shove, we barely managed to fit most of our stuff into a 26-foot-long moving van.

I sat on the deck and looked at the truck and burst into tears.

“I don’t want to be a person who has this much stuff,” I wailed to my daughter and my husband. They love me and generally don’t think I am crazy, though this episode might have dislodged their certainty a little. “We could burn the truck and still live fine in our new house!” I cried – and of course, I was right. We bought the house furnished, after all.

“What IS all of this stuff?” I cried. “What IS IT?”

At this point, I would like to come right out and say that a lot of it is my husband’s stuff. While I would like to live in a house with a bed and two chairs and a flower arrangement, he would like to have a library stuffed with books, walls rich with paintings and photographs and work rooms with the right materials and plenty of them.

So that is him, and that is his stuff.

I told myself that, this move, I would limit myself to one box of things. You know the things, the things it’s so hard to part with, and the things that are so hard to explain. I tried for one box, and think I ended with three – which is far better than the 10 or so I began with.

In the boxes are letters from my mother and poems my father wrote, and notes from friends and staffers. There’s a magic wand given to me by a friend whose birthday and mine fall on the same day. There’s Oscar the Seal, my favorite stuffed toy, which began life as a gift to my brother, but which, according to my mother, I took instantly, before brother Rand had a chance to see it.

There’s a photograph of me and my long-gone dog Gus, at the top of a mountain in Banff, Canada. There’s my Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance certification pin. There’s the oddly shaped box with my baby hospital bracelet, and another tiny box that holds a pin my grandfather won for working for decades at Dupont.

It was hard to get it down to three boxes. Hard to toss out plaques and awards I won in my years in newspapers. Hard to toss out papers I worked on that reported history. A couple of those papers even made history, and I threw them away, too. It was hard to toss out the paper reporting Mike Levine’s death, but I put it in the recycle bin, and instead, kept a rock from his gravesite.

I threw out notebooks and cracked cups I had treasured. I brought old paintings of mine to Goodwill. I recycled my journalism portfolios, gave a hundred  books to the library, donated my skis. I let go of a lot this time. I faced a lot this time.

This time, in spite of the 26-foot truck, I made a lot of choices and came to grips with a lot of truths. I won’t work in a newspaper again, at least not in any capacity that requires nice clothes. I won’t ski again, at least not to the extent of needing my own skis. I won’t reach out to friends I haven’t thought about in 20 years, though I certainly will never truly forget them.

This move is some sort of defining point in my life, and for once, I am facing up to it, and all the truth it holds.


**If you are interested in buying ‘Big Sky,’ please contact me at


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5 Responses to “Carrie’s Painting of the Week”

  1. Anita Says:

    Carrie, beautifully written. I’m with you on the bed, two chairs and flower arrangement–and maybe a table to put it on. I wish you the best with your move.

  2. Sherry Svec Says:

    Stuff has been piling up in my house for 22 years – and we brought a lot with us when we moved in. Since then my grandmother died and I have a great deal of her stuff, my mom moved to AZ and left me with more, then my baby sister moved, more, more. Several years ago we insulated the attic, which had the dual effect of weeding out some stuff and lowering our utility bills. We need more projects like that or I’m never going to get out of here. I have thousands of books. Books in every room, on practically every horizontal surface. And now I have two Kindles that were gifts when I was in the hospital. I was afraid my 10,000 books would take offense and pile on me in my sleep.

  3. bill hogan Says:

    Carrie, Nice painting, but I’m not interested in yet another painting. Sorry.
    I’ve been trying to slim all that “stuff,” paintings, illustrations, cartoons, books, papers, and so much more that I have collected and saved for what? I have made a lot of headway only to find the “stuff” continues in a never ending collection of “stuff.”
    Thanks for more “stuff” to read. It was delightful.

  4. Erika Says:

    Beautiful as always…..

    Trust Your Crazy Ideas
    Love Always,
    Your Daughter….
    (It really is mostly my fathers stuff, I mean he has boxes of hair for pete’s sake!!!)

  5. carrie Says:

    Hi, everyone, and thanks for the notes. Glad you like the piece. Why DO we all collect this stuff? When I open the boxes and look at it, it makes me happy – or makes me remember, to be more exact. But then I close the boxes and forget.

    It’s good to have the memories and the reminders, but it’s better to have the people and the sunshine and the family and the friendship. And yes, the Crazy Ideas…

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