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what a difference a decade makes
by michelle von euw

A lot can change in a decade.

As this one draws to a close, it's impossible for me not to look back at the last ten years and consider where we were when we started this millennium mired in Y2K fears, terrified that computers wouldn't be able to handle the switch from our short-sighted two-digit shorthand and consider a world beyond the 19-something-somethings.

Two years later, we were dealing with a different type of fear, one that to most of us, felt much more real than the theoretical scare of the 2000s, inspired by the very real terror of a fall Tuesday in September.

But, this column isn't about how vastly our country, our world changed once we entered this new millennium. I don't have time for the type of research that column would entail. No, my focus today is on how much my world has changed since December 1999.

I did a quick inventory of everything I've owned ten years ago that is still in my possession, and -- excluding books, CDs, and Tupperware -- I've come up with two dressers, two small bookshelves, a George Washington University chair, and a small number of gnarly tee-shirts. This task was relatively easy to accomplish, as I just moved from an apartment I'd lived in for four and a half years to a two-story townhouse, and have been forced to come face-to-face with a lot of the belongings I'd forgotten ever owning.

Sometimes this was a pleasant surprise: my grandmothers cordial glasses, for instance, were in residence on the top shelf of my bedroom closet since my prior move, for no reason at all. Other times, not so much if I hadn't moved, that above inventory would have included a bottle of perfume I haven't used since college. Despite the fact that I'd long outgrown the scent, the frugalista in me couldn't bear to trash a nearly full bottle of anything. I finally realized that I'd moved this particular bottle of perfume no fewer than seven times.

It thankfully did not make move number eight.

But plenty of other stuff did. Our most recent move happened rather quickly -- three weeks from conception to six hours of movers dropping our pasta bowls and lugging some 80 odd boxes a mere mile across town -- and for most of our stuff, we found it easier to pack than pitch. The fast turnaround for the move, which was primarily coordinated by my husband, unlike all our prior moves, meant that we missed out on the fabulous opportunity that moving usually provides: to get ride of the type of stuff you no longer need, no longer use, or just no longer like.

Somehow, in the last decade, we became the kind of people who own 64 pint glasses, 36 white wine glasses, 28 red wine glasses, not to mention countless numbers of champagne flutes, martini and margarita glasses, and even a handful of brandy snifters.

And none of those above numbers include our formal crystal.

We could easily open our own catering company on the glassware we've accumulated. And that's not even accounting for the countless trays, dishes, bowls, vases, and other very breakable products that mostly fall under the category of "wedding gifts."

And here's the thing. When we got married back in 2001 and began receiving/collecting most of this glassware, I don't think either of us ever imagined that nearly nine years later, we'd still be living such a nomadic lifestyle. When I purchased my over-sized blue champagne flutes from Crate and Barrel six years ago, I didn't imagine what a pain it'd be to carefully pack them up, wrapping them in layers of tissue paper and bubble wrap and insulting them against tired movers who'd sling an upteenth box of books into a moving truck right on top of them.

I'm not sure what I imagined for 2010, but I'd guess it'd involve a vast elegantly furnished home that we'd purchased in the Boston area shared with small-sized others or either the canine or human variety, multi-book publishing deals, a life of leisure and happiness, small-sized clothing, a ten-foot tall live spruce decorated by Martha Stewart, and really good champagne.

(Hey, this girl's a dreamer -- why have realistic fantasies about the future?)

Instead, I've got a rented townhouse in Silver Spring, and still have the same eclectic collection of furniture we've been accumulating together from a variety of sources -- relatives, neighbors, IKEA -- and a three-foot artificial tree from K-Mart drooping under the weight of two lifetimes worth of acquired ornaments.

Not that I'm complaining. It's just the turning of a decade gives us all the chance to assess what we've got. Which for me is actually, quite a lot: good jobs, great friends, fantastic family, a nice place to live, a husband who makes me laugh, successful sports teams.

So what if I'm not living in luxury next door to Tom Brady? I'd bet we have more pint glasses than he and Gisele do.


Originally from Boston, Michelle is a writer, editor, instructor, obsessive sports fan, loud talker, quick laugher, new mom, and chances are, she watches more television than you do. Follow her on Twitter at michellevoneuw

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tracey kelley
12.11.09 @ 7:11a

I cringe in terror thinking of what packing up my house will be like. I was nomadic for so long (wicker furniture! foam for a mattress!) that I am still in shock at the crap that has accumulated in my house. I've decluttered before, but apparently not enough - 2010 is the year of The Big Pitch.

BTW, this week marks our 13th year in Des Moines. Had you told me 10 years ago this would be the case, I would have laughed until I fell down. There are days when I still don't quite believe it, and wonder what to do about it.


lisa r
12.11.09 @ 9:23a

I have no idea what it's like to move in a leisurely fashion. Every time I move to a new place for a job they always needed me "last week if not sooner".

Heck, even grad school accepted me at the last minute. I lived in hotel the first 2 weeks until I found an apartment, then slept and sat on the floor, eating sandwiches off paper plates for another 2 before we could get my furniture moved out of storage.

I go through spells (inspired by shows like Clean House, of The Big Pitch once in a while, just to make sure I don't become the quintessential spinster surrounded by nothing but piles of stuff accumulated over a lifetime.

alex b
12.11.09 @ 11:16p

Heavens. After 6 years in NY and 2 years since my last move, I've gotten pretty entrenched at my current place- the first I've cared enough to actually arrange nicely. I'm shocked at how much stuff I own. I came here without much more than a suitcase then, and now I've planted roots that will take at least 3 garage sales to disengage.

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