Un Pot de Départ for Max & July Vocabulary Roundup
Superhero in French & What SDF stands for

New Month, New Life? We're Packing! On Fait des Cartons!

Jules in roussillon
"Let every belonging see the light" -- an epiphany I had while packing up my Mom's paintings. (photo of my Mom taken in Roussillon, around 2010)

"faire des cartons"

     : to pack boxes

Click here for today's soundfile:
On fait des cartons mais, surtout, on se débarrasse de tout ce qui ne sert plus.
We are packing boxes but, especially, we are getting rid of what no longer serves.


From here on out whatever we have in our home should be living! It doesn't have to have a heartbeat, but it should not be crammed under a bed, pushed to the back of a closet, or flung into the storage room--that horrible magnet for homeless items (and spiders and mice).

We have begun packing in anticipation for our move to La Ciotat. We've not yet signed the final papers, but we are so close we can taste it. Looking around our jam-packed cellier, I wonder if we can still taste what's in all those jars? Do I take the conserves with us? (Didn't I lug them here from the last move, 5 years ago? I lugged a lot of things here 5 years ago, and they haven't served since!).

Rule No 1, when you become hesitant during a packing session move on to another item. My eyes fix on my Mom's oil paintings. What are they doing in the storage room? OK. This morning you are going to gather all of Mama Jules's paintings and deal with them....

Jules bouqet

Mom's paintings are partout. In the guestroom, in the kitchen, in the entry--but mostly in the dusty storage area besides the pétanque court. I assign Jean-Marc the job of bringing all the toiles up to the house, and brace myself for the job I have been putting off for so long: Choosing which ones to keep.

The works are large and many of them are sticking together from the heat. A first wave of guilt sets in. Rule No 2: don't let emotions slow you down! I begin dusting off Mom's paintings, and soon realize the vacuum (with brush attachment) will work better. When the aspirateur runs out of charge, I remember an astuce from the artist herself....Taking the oil paintings outside, I lean them against a sturdy row of lavender and turn on the garden hose!

Jules still life

It's 32 degrees out (in the 80s) and the water feels good. But will it feel good to Mom's oil paintings? I just have to trust her (as I watch her, in my mind, cleaning all her artwork in her bikini--carefree and just a little bit destructrice. Focusing in on one of Mom's altered paintings, I now see how sabotage has its place in creation).

I leave Mom's oeuvres to dry in the sun, along with the laundry and all my pre-conceived notions. And when it's time to collect Mom's paintings and sort them by size, I have the chance to see her art for the first time in years.

Jules art deco
Washing down those canvases a few droplets of water must have landed in my own eyes, clearing my vision in time to appreciate an artist's travail. I break Rule One and allow myself to linger on something I am supposed to be packing away....

By the way, in my new life I do not want to pack away anything!

"Everything in our next home will be alive!" I say to Jean-Marc, an innocent bystander who happens to be passing through during my epiphany. "Nothing should be stored away--dead in a corner, on a shelf, under the bed!"

"D'accord ma chérie," my husband says, pouring some ice tea before heading back out to pack up his wine cellar.

My eyes and my heart (Rule No. 2, broken!) pour over Mom's work. The dark  jewel tones were never right for our farmhouse with its low ceilings and narrow rooms (preconceived notions!). Suddenly each painting is finding a home in our new place as I begin to picture this one in the kitchen, this one in our bedroom, this one in the entry....

A prolific painter at times, there are oil scenes on the back of boards, cardboard flaps, paper (Mom's even painted over the covers of magazines).... Looking closely I see a story of our vineyard life. From the laundry line to Smokey bounding through the vines, Mom has documented everything!

Jean-Marc is back for more iced tea (it takes gallons of thé glacé to pack boxes during a heatwave!). "Why don't you organize a vernissage? You could sell some of your Mom's paintings.

Sell them? The panic I felt earlier over which ones to keep... took a funny new twist: which ones to part with? As I mull over that question, I will try to stick to a new golden rule when we move in to our new house: No more storage. Let every belonging see the light! 

(And if you don't long for it, don't keep it.)

faire des cartons = to pack boxes
le cellier = storeroom
partout = everywhere
la toile = painting (also cloth, linen canvas)
déstructrice = destructive
une astuce = handy tip, trick
un oeuvre = works (art)
un travail = work
d'accord, ma chérie = ok, my dear
le thé glace = iced tea 
le vernissage = art exposition

T-Shirt I Don't Need Therapy I Just Need to Go to France

La Roche-Posay sunscreen - rated top by Consumer Reports

French Macaroons dish towels, whimsy for your kitchen

Harney & Sons black tea, Paris - change up your iced tea...

Jules fish unfinished
Some of Mom's painting are unfinished. "Just toss them all together and I will sand them down. It'll be a new canvas to work on!" Mom enthuses. (I'm glad I'm the one dealing with the artwork. Now to hide the sandpaper!)

Mom used Jean-Marc as her model for her "Tango" painting, below.


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What a beautiful story that showcases Jules's beautiful artwork! I have always loved the "Tango" and it's a pleasure to see the photograph that inspired it. Wishing you and Jean-Marc a smooth and enjoyable transition.

Bruce in Northwest Connecticut

I've seen the photo, but I'd assumed it was a candid glimpse of a sweet moment between mother- and son-in-law. I hadn't realized they were posing.

But the painting is my favorite (of those on this page, anyway), so bravo!

Leslie NYC

I love this post and all the different views on the same things. What could be more emotional than a loved one's art? Brava for beginning to let it all wash over you, in every sense!

Lynda House

Moving is a great time to get rid of things we don't need, use or love. I have just read a book called the Life Changing Magic of the Art of Tidying! Or words to that effect. I have implemented some of the suggestions and it has made life easier. The author recommends only keeping those things that bring you joy!!

Good luck with the move. Be ruthless with the throwing out. Having said that, I still have my sons first shoes, the drawings he did when he was small, his report cards, his favourite teddies - he is now 45! ....... well, they do bring me joy!

Carla Drain

Your mom's paintings are lovely, so vivid, so ALIVE - not surprising after all the stories you've written about her. What a treasure is is to have her document the moments of your life. I especially like the blue vase with flowers. Best of luck with your move, wishing you & Jean-Marc many decades of happiness in your new home.

Joan jackson

Love to read about you..
My dream is still to visit la France..
But I,m 77 yr old... .. but still dreaming😂

Kristin Espinasse

You are correct Bruce. It was a candid glimpse. The photo taken from it became the memory--or the model--Mom painted. 

Mim (Richmond,VA)

Art work is definitely a problem. We have the largest collection of our own work! As artists, we continue to create, sales do not match output! I've solved my storage situation by becoming a postal artist. My husband has to find more ways to store his. If we moved, we'd be in your shoes, but with our own art work. Your mom's pieces are such memories. I do hope you find places for them, if not, others might enjoy them. A friend and I did a pop up exhibit of paintings that a friend of hers needed to dispose of. We put a notice up on the community online site. People came and chose pieces. They were all taken by people who were so excited to have original art.


Kristen, your musings on packing up and making decisions about what to keep sure strike a cord with me as we are in the same position. I am trying to be ruthless but, alas... I will add "Let every belonging see the light" to my mental mantra. I might even have to say it out loud now and then. In seasons of change my mother's words continue to resonate: "When a chapter ends a new one begins. Embrace it!" Bon courage!

Cynthia Gillespie-Smith

You make it sound so easy, but we know it's not. Even after ALL the MANY times I've moved (lost count years ago) I know that the triage is the most difficult part of it all; it brings back all those memories! I sincerely hope everything you keep, Kristi, finds your bright light in your new house.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Carla! 


This might entail too much work, but maybe you could post pictures of some paintings that you would like to sell on FWAD. I imagine that a few your many fans (and your mom's) might be willing to buy them and pay the postage to have them sent.

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristi,
Jean-Marc and I think alike...haha...I was thinking you hold a FWAD auction or something and some lucky FWAD followers could end up with one of your Mom's paintings! :-)

Eileen deCamp

Good luck with the move! We moved on average every two years when my husband was in the military and that was ALOT of moves in 26 years. All the moving forced me to be very selective in what I kept because I know how much work it is to pack up everything! Wishing you all the best for your move to La Ciotat!


After visiting La Ciotat earlier this year, I am happy to hear that is your destination. Perhaps I will see you at Kitch next summer! My sister and husband just completed the sell of their home and moved back to Texas. They have not picked their destination yet so they are living in my house much to my delight. She also purged things when packing, a cleansing experience. I'm also a want-to-be artist so your mom's paintings are great to see. Inspiration! Your blog is wonderful and shows your creative side. Thank you for writing.


I agree! Post her paintings! I do not need any art, live in an artist town (Taos, NM), but would that ever stop me? I think her paintings are beautiful! Good luck packing. We just finished moving into our newly-built home, and yes, we still have things stored in the garage (including 7 bikes). But we did improve!

Kristin Espinasse

Bon courage, Alice ! 

Patricia Sands

Kristi, as you and Jean-Marc faites vos cartons, your post is an excellent reminder to all of us about dealing with "treasures" we insist on keeping. I know what I am doing this afternoon in my seriously cluttered office! Mille mercis!
p.s. And thanks, too, for the showcase of some of Jules' art!

MJ Gavenda

Ah yes, I am going through the same thing right now and it is a painful process, clearing out our "stuff". If you have decided
not to keep them all take digital photos of those that no longer serve you so you have a portable memory, then give
away or auction the others. Right know I am feeling burdened by all the things in my house. I like the advice that it must see the light!


Her paintings are wonderful! I don't think I would be able to part with any, but find places in the house to display them.


I love the idea of VERNISAGE. And here's an idea: with the money that was made, start a "Travel Love Fund" for Jules. Any money raised put aside for her trips to come visit. And as someone who downsized and moved after living in the same home for 30 years (where you can pack a lot of stuff), I came up with this motto: "When in doubt, THROW OUT"... which is a good one for everything EXCEPT your Mom's artwork. Bon courage mon ami! xoxox


This is a really good idea. For the art you don't have room for, you could have a give-away event so others could enjoy your mom's artwork, and the pieces would live on.

Eleonore Miller

Don't give up on your dream, Joan. I beat you by one year and I've been many times. The French and Europeans in general are tres gentille with us older folks. Lots of respect and help with luggage everywhere. Look for airline deals and just go for it! I found RT SFO CDG last year for $650. Have confidence!


Fabulous idea (the sale, or giving to neighbors). I am the keeper of hundreds of my mom's oeuvres and I have hundreds of my own sculptures. Slowly but surely I am donating the art to fundraisers and other causes where they can auction off the work.

Bonne chance Kristin with the signing.

Pamela Harnois

Wow, Jules is a beautiful painter! My Mom was a painter too. Through all my moves I have only a few left -- some got damaged and some I gave to my niece. Since my Mom is on the spirit side - these bring me closer to her when I see them. I know she is with me guiding and lovingly watching over me. I would keep all that you can! Love them all!

Lin Burdett

Having moved so many times, I sympathize; it's emotionally as well as physically exhausting! Bonne chance! (BTW, I'm still hoping to run into your mom when we're at our Puerto Vallarta home!)

Kristin Espinasse

Robin, That is a helpful motto--one I will use along with Lyndas *Be ruthless! Mottos are proving very helpful (JM and I have just filled the car with another load for our local Goodwill. Keeping all of Moms paintings, bien sûr. Will organize that vernissage !) 

Karen Cafarella

Finding all those lovely paintings must have been so fun. If you lived closer I would take everyone you didn't want. I love them all!

Clearing out now is the best thing to do! Taking things with you that you will not use will just clutter you space. Of course, I am speaking as an organizer ha ha ha! Rule of thumb if you haven't used it in a year, out it goes.

Wishing you joy and love in La Ciotat!



Thank you for sharing your insights about what to keep and what to let go of when moving - or down-sizing. I love the idea of nothing in storage and keeping only those items that can 'live in the light' of your new home.

Kristin Espinasse

I second Eleonores comment. Go for it,  Joan! 👍👍😘😘

Anne Umphrey

I'm 76. Would you like a travel companion?


From New Orleans, you will treasure those beautiful paintings even more when Mom's no longer around. So be sure to display them while she's here to see how much you appreciate them and her.

As a Mom, you know, we are often the last to be shown appreciation--kids just expect Mom's to know, and kids know that Mom will love them always and forever, no matter what. I'm guilty too.

By the way, they're beautiful paintings, especially the Tango!


Quel dilemme. It always surprises me to see how much "stuff" one can acquire in a few short years. My last move was almost 15 years ago and now the storage room is bursting. Bon chance with this most difficult task, especially with your mother's paintings. I love the idea of an auction. Many of those who have been part of your lives for so long would be delighted to have one of Jules' paintings.

Look forward with delight to your new home filled only with those possessions which you love and need. It can be one of the most satisfying and enlightening things you can do.

Lis Steeden

As an old door closes, however painful that might be, that old door closing behind you...a new and freshly painty door opens...and where you're going to live is a pretty wonderful place...Bon courage with everything...❤️


What an inspiring (and daunting!) idea to 'let every belonging see the light'!! I doubt I'll get there in this lifetime, but it is a wonderful new way to think. Possibly I will make some progress. ( :


We just moved about 2 1/2 weeks ago, and still have junk at the old house that we need to get rid of and are NOT bringing into the new house -- downsizing and purging are the worse! Good luck with your venture! :)


These are extraordinary paintings. I love the heavy layering and intensity of color. These are all beautiful pieces. What about an online auction for your readers? And good luck with the culling -- it's such a rewarding exercise!

Kristin Espinasse

Lynda, I needed to hear this part about being ruthless. Be ruthless, will be one mantra as we pack. Thanks! 

Diane Young

I am faced with a similar quandary. I have tons of photos, a whole shelf of photo albums of trips to

Europe, high school and college yearbooks (mine and my late husbands), dictionaries in French, Spanish and German,cartons of tax returns and other files, books, two shelves of framed photos, a garage full of junk, and all my mother's paintings. Cartons of piano music, etc, etc. I don't want my poor executor to have to deal with all this, but I can't get started. So proud of you for starting the painful project. Bonne chance!

Jacki in Boise

Hooray for your forward progress to La Ciotat!

One other reader mentioned taking pictures of the paintings you have to let go. I have read that is a good way of dealing with the sorrow of giving up treasured items - even baby shoes or kindergarten art! (I am a grandma now so there is a lot of that.) Another thought occurred - the picture of the painting AND the new owner! Memories for you and your Mom.
I have two sons. One is a pack rat like me and my mom. The other hauls stuff to the donation center almost as soon as they get it! (He does this when his wife is not home!)

Bon Chance with this and everything else in your joyful new home.

Kristin Espinasse


Mary-Audrey Mellor

Good luck in your new home, Kristen. Another milestone in your life which is exciting. Now at 84 I am at a beautiful retirement home in independent liviving. When I moved in 5 years ago had to get rid of a lot of "stuff". My kids live a different life style, as most do these days, so they did not need anymore things in there smaller homes. Kept a few precious items my grandchildren might enjoy sometime.l

We have garage sales here in the USA and also sales on commission and donation to charities. Anyway. BEST of
Luck to you and your dear family. Mary-Audrey Mellor, Scottsdale, AZ


Our dear Kristi,
Well,once again(!!) you are my hero!
First of all,for this wonderful news about your new home!
SO happy for you,Jean Marc and your sweet family!
Answered prayers!
And! Especially for how you are now facing the cleaning out of stuff with great courage,AND tenacity(no small feat!)
We can SO relate to everything surrounding dear Jules' gorgeous paintings.
Years ago,on one of our previous moves,out of necessity for lack of space,we were forced to put (too) many things in storage.Many of them were family pictures,Mama's needlepoint, and 'heirlooms'(really meaning only the most to us).
We were going to be expedient about their retrieval,but unfortunately we were not fast enough and ALL of them were ruined with mold.
They still live on in our hearts and memory but I'd be less than honest if I said it was the same.
I know you will make all the right decisions;most importantly,Jules will be proud of you for whatever you decide,just because your are her beautiful daughter and you share a bond blessed by God.
Please know you are in our thoughts.
Natalia XO

Cate Salenger

There is such peace in emptiness. Love the paintings!


Charlotte West

Hi Kristin

Heartfelt agreement with you about what to dispose of and what to take. After the earthquakes of 2011 in Christchurch when we lost many of our breakables, we realised that we also lost our attachment to "stuff" even, unbelievably, the heirlooms! We've been slowly decluttering ever since, although it's very tempting at times to buy on impulse. I wouldn't want to part with artwork, especially your mother's, and I loved all of the paintings you posted, especially the first. I can almost feel the texture of it. Wonderful news of your move and happy packing!


Linda Karber

Dear Kristi,

Good luck with your packing and move. It is hard to part with treasured items filled with memories. I started Marie Kondo's book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing a while ago and only read about half-way through it but I took away from it the fact that if an item does not bring you joy, it is time to toss it! I found I was saving things just because I thought I might need them sometime down the road, when in reality I didn't even like the item! This holds true for most things, but....not with your Mom's art! Our daughter is also an artist and we just move them to another spot, maybe the laundry room. I remember when she was in college she nailed a huge collage to our inside garage wall, and it really did bring joy to us when we drove in the garage.


P.S. Thank you so much for putting the photo of you and Jean-Marc (Courtship at La Cloche à Fromages restaurant in Marseilles. The year was 1993) on your blog. I have saved the post from 020404 in my French Word a Day folder. It and your beautiful wedding photo are my favorites. They bring me joy!

Linda Karber

Oops, I meant Feb 2, 2013.


Beautiful! The second one is my favorite, but they're all great! Happy packing!

Chris Allin

Dear Kristi,
I am so excited for you and Jean-Marc! A move can offer a new perspective. After packing up, the challenge will be where to put everything in the next house! I hope you will be able to find spaces for many of your mom's beautiful, colorful paintings and a special place for all Jean-Marc's wine! Here's to your new home and new adventure...


When my daughter-in-law was moving I suggested three questions to ask herself as she packed each item. Have I used it in the past year? Will I use it in the next year? Does it give me pleasure?


I'll be 73 in December and have been looking for someone to go with me to Paris, Provence and maybe other parts of France. It looks like we might be forming a group! I also have hesitations of traveling alone after losing my husband, my travel partner, two years ago. But, I haven't lost my dream of going back to France again. I live in Southern California - if anyone is interested in a trip! Maybe Kristi can introduce us via email!

Kristi - love your packing with ruthless abandon! I so want to simplify and finding it difficult to even know where to start. A move just might light a fire under me! Good luck with your packing. I would be all crazy trying to decide which of the beautiful paintings to part with!!! They're not 'just paintings' but they are Jules!


I am in exactly the same boat as you are - with boxes and boxes of photos, as well as albums, and framed photos, a ton of travel books, a whole file cabinet of travel places/ideas. I'm trying to do something about it so my daughter doesn't have to suffer this mess when I am no longer here, but, except for donating a few pairs of jeans, I have not been very successful. But, I do think about it every day, as I am still going through the paperwork that is necessary after a spouse passes away. It's been almost two years and I keep thinking just one more name change on financial things and I'll be done..... just haven't qite gotten there yet. I know my blabbering doesn't help, but know you are NOT alone!


I am just so happy for you and Jean-Marc. A new beginning is very exciting! I wrote some things above in a reply to some others (maybe even get to know them, through you). The best of luck in this daunting task of knowing what you want to take with you and what you want to say 'good-bye' to, and what things you can just 'toss out' (and wonder why you hadn't done so before!). I so wish I could come to Ciotat and visit with you again. Our visit in Paris was wonderful, but too short a time! Maybe my dreams of returning to France will come true - I'm targeting 2018! Bises, Judi

Marianne Rankin

A very interesting and relevant post. After 26 years in the same house, I realized I've maxed out the space, and need to do some serious paring (and I don't have a cellier!) I do donate to charities - so, Kristin, maybe you can give away some items you no longer need, as well as some of your Mom's paintings.

I don't want to sound negative, and I certainly hope the move to La Ciotat will happen and will bring joy to your life. But -- a few years ago, while unemployed, I did odd jobs to earn some cash. One of them was helping an older gentleman move, and I packed up many boxes. He had already arranged for a transfer to an independent-living place, smaller than his two-story house with basement, back porch, and garage. The deal fell through the day before settlement was scheduled. He never did move to the place where he'd reserved a space. So I'll be praying that your papers will be signed and that all will be well.

Generally speaking, I find the hardest things to part with are those with sentimental value. I've saved items my son made, such as Christmas ornaments or some drawings. But except for a few exceptional ones, the school papers can go. And it's easier for me to let go of things (say something that belonged to my mother at one time) if I either donate it to charity or a friend, and, sometimes, take a photo of it first.

Bonne chance!


I sent you a little donation, forgot to mention. Just wanted to make sure you got it... I haven't used PayPal for many moons - their recap of the transaction seemed right...so hopefully it went through. Use the money to buy nails to hang whichever photos you decide to hang in your new house! Judi


I have the same dream at age 72, Joan! Isn't it fun to dream and read Kristi's beautiful columns!

Kristin Espinasse

Hi, Judi, Yes--I just saw your donation via Paypal and am sending a private message to you next :-) Many thanks!


I've just read this book as well. I, too, am bringing things out of hiding and storage to enjoy! If it's packed away it's "invisible" as the book says. Then I have to ask myself, why would I choose to keep it? If it has served me, I'm not using it....let it go and bless someone else instead of remaining hidden. This is a perfect project this time of year in Arizona. TOOO HOT to be outdoors. Feeling free!!! :-) Excited to see pics of the new house Kristi!!

Lorna Peterson

Salute cher Kristin….l am also packing and moving to Santa Rosa, Ca. area from Oregon !!
To live closer to my son, also a painter like my dad and some how have been storing most of their art work……what to do with it all!! Determined finally to be a minimalist which is soooo liberating.

Hoping to have an art sale too, on the Santa Monica Pier Merry-go-Round where my dad worked as Harbor Master for many years. So, l too am picking out the ones to display and the ones to share with the world….not easy, as you know!
It was delightful to read your post which I can relate to strongly!
Bon chance and happy moving……whew!! xo Lorna


Chere Kristen,

I to am waiting to sign the last papers on selling my house, a big load off my shoulders.
I am taking all your advice on things to get rid of and things to keep. Much good and happiness on your move.
Thank you for your wonderful blog. I've been enjoying it for quite a while.


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