Welcome back to Homegirls!

I wish I could start on a more bouyant note, but the fact is that I've been waylaid by images of the homes were devastated by Hurricane Sandy. As residents begin to grapple with the future, their questions have been along the lines of: What do we do now? How do we start over? Can we get our lives back?

As someone who physically, as well as psychologically, moves back indoors this time of year after a summer in the yard, on the porch, or on the boat, I'm often struck by how "close" my surroundings feel. That usually inspires a tear of sorting, purging and, ideally, simplifying. (Every single year, so you can see how this is working for me, heh.)

But what if life had been brutally simplified for me? What if I was starting over from scratch? I wonder if I would make different choices about what seems necessary. One of the challenges, I imagine, would be separating what I "deserve" to have back, versus what I need.

For instance, I was married back in the day when it was a given to have a set of china on the bridal registry. And I do use my Noritake, right down to the gravy boat -- more and more often, frankly, as it's become less and less precious. I mean, it's not as if our daughter is waiting for her heirloom china -- not when Ikea offers perfectly serviceable plates for something like 89 cents that she can doll up with all the tablescape ideas out there today. Hah! The word "tablescape" didn't even exist when I setting up housekeeping. So would I need that set of china back to feel whole again? Probably not.

Still, sentiment can't be denied. We have few "family heirlooms" -- everyone's still alive! -- so there's little emotion wrapped up in our possessions. Or so I think. If I imagine my parents' home ruined by wind and waves, I can tote up a whole list of things I'd dearly miss, not because I need their utility, but because I like their presence. (I still can't believe my mom ditched her old (dying) Sunbeam stand mixer without checking with me!)

In other words, if I lived on Staten Island, my kids and I likely would be mourning different losses.

So as I begin my annual chipping away at "stuff" this fall, I suspect the sorting process will be colored by the images of warped dining room tables, waterlogged books and sandblasted knick-knacks. If I had to start over, would I make different choices? Are there things I should bequeath right now? (That plastic tub of school art projects comes to mind......)

So, with the luxury of this not being "real life," what could you live without? Is there a purchase that made sense at one time, but you can't imagine what it was? A lifestyle you imagined that never panned out?