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Becoming Goldilocks: My Dumpster Journey to Just Right

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I recently sold my house. It went on the market right before the start of the pandemic and stalled for some time. But then the real estate virus volcano – fueled by an urban exodus – blew and swept us up in its frenzy. It was a great relief unloading our oversized frat house but it happened so quickly we found ourselves without a place to go.

We took a deep breath, put all our stuff into storage and moved into a small furnished seasonal rental, a few houses from the ocean. We began living a simplified life using other people’s stuff and it caused an interesting shift. Turns out isolation plus a storage unit made me realize just how unimportant most stuff really is.

We slept on strangers’ sheets. When I served soup it was poured out of a blue dinosaur plastic ladle because that’s all that was in the drawer. My family photos were replaced by a charming assortment of mermaid kitsch and polite Thank You for Not Smoking plaques. I drank wine out of teeny tiny timeshare-type glasses and used the laundry detergent leftover from last summer’s Airbnb occupants.

I had very little of my own stuff around me and no lie, I really didn’t miss it.

With space constraints coupled with work-from-home seclusion, I only unpacked one box of clothing: an assortment of leggings and tees that were worn in a constant rotation of who the fkkk cares? I shared a bed with my husband but not a closet – it was way too small. His stuff was somewhere else in the rental and I wished them all the best.

I didn’t require much of anything really. I haven’t worn a pair of actual shoes in almost a year (with nowhere to go and no one to see, seriously: who the fkkk cares?) I kept out two pairs of jeans (one tight pair to keep me honest and one loose pair to keep me real) but I can’t remember the last time I wore either. I haven’t worn less makeup since sixth grade so naturally I carry adequate anxiety for Revlon and wonder who might be keeping them afloat (I so miss you, Super Model No.45 matte lipstick, but since you are unseen under my mask… farewell for now).

Downsizing into a small space has been refreshing. No big surprise: the more space you have the more you fill it – many times with unnecessary things (looking at you, filing cabinet). With our chicks flying the nest we’d spent the better part of last year purging but even after being dumpster-happy I still feel we have more stuff than we need.

So from the start it felt good to embrace a simpler way. To even the scales of stress that came with the uncertainty of what next? the sun gods winked at us as we settled in, offering up a remarkable Indian summer autumn. During our first couple of months we walked the shore at low tide and pondered our next move. It was mah-va-lus.

Alas, as the weeks churned, our carefree, no-strings-attached mood started changing. When the cold weather came and the days got shorter, our beach turned ferocious. No joke: with every storm the water swished in the toilets. The New England winter set in and with the blustery outdoors now a limited option we soon felt the constrictions of our tiny lifestyle. Big time.

A family of adults working/schooling from home and living in tight quarters makes for long days. Darkness beginning before the nightly news makes for long nights. At times we found ourselves a bit, I’ll say, testy with each other.

When Crosby Stills & Nash sang Love the One You’re With they had no idea.


No. Idea.

I cannot sugarcoat, it became a genuine struggle staying positive or (FINE) even civil.

But we kept the doldrums at bay by looking ahead. We may have shifted from too big to too small but like Goldilocks, we may have found something on the horizon that feels just right to resume some normalcy. Before the next Airbnb visitors arrive here to enjoy the blue dinosaur ladle we hope to be heading back to our loyal storage unit to see how our things have fared.

Hopefully we’ll soon be hauling them to a new location for a fresh start.

I’m going to keep purging (farewell, filing cabinet) but I’ll also be keeping things simple.

With or without Revlon.

Stay tuned to see if/where we landed!

Update: this blog was duly unpacked! We have landed in our not-too-big-not-too-small paradise and have turned a page on a new chapter! I know there’ll be days when I miss some of the amenities I took for granted (like coat closets – GAH! why are houses ever built without them??? Stupid!) but I’ve got room for visiting kids and plenty of space for post-pandemic parties and well…. I should be all set as soon as I replace some of that stuff I madly tossed in a dumpster. See? I’m almost ready for my friends!


Tina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and has been featured in Huff Post. S he appeared in the Boston production of “Listen to Your Mother: Giving Motherhood a Microphone” presenting her popular essay The Thinking Girl’s Thong and her work has been featured in NPR’s “This I Believe” radio series. That said, she still places “Most Popular 1984” on top of her list of achievements (next would be as the $100,000 winner on that home improvement reality TV show of 2003 but her kids won’t let her talk about that anymore). A witty mother of four, she takes on cyberspace as @Eyerollingmom on Twitter and Eyerollingmom on Facebook & @Eyerollingmom on Instagram. Her collection of essays, A Momoir, can be found here

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