Stuff by Mary Lou Sanelli

I’m a Professional Organizer. And that does not, cannot, and will never mean that I make people get rid of their Stuff. Many many many times more often, it means I help people discover their thoughts and feelings, their values, about their Stuff. Decisions about what to keep, or not, follow from those insights. And, with dedication to the process and habits of organizing, decisions about what to acquire become more purposeful as well.

When I came across “Stuff” on page 5 of the March · April 2019 edition of ArtAccess (, I was stunned: Ms. Sanelli captured what I try to teach my clients, in a story I could never tell as movingly. I have Ms. Sanelli’s gracious permission to reprint the piece.



I was flipping through a magazine when a line jumped out at me: “We fall in love with objects not only for what they are, but for what they allow us to believe we can become.”

It was three summers ago when I spotted a set of six vintage long-stem aperitif glasses at the Bigelow Block Sale on Queen Anne. I picked one up. I blew on it, though it wasn’t dusty. I set it back down. “Ah,” I said, more of an exhale than a word. I didn’t want to seem too interested.

I continued to walk up and down Bigelow because, as any shopper knows, joy is in the pursuit, not in the prize.

Unless the prize is six vintage long-stem aperitif glasses that belong to a woman who wears a turquoise pendant, turquoise rings. Her love, her pride, for her home was obvious, but her car still had Arizona plates. All this meant to me was that maybe, just maybe, she was moving back to the desert and I’d be able to get a really sweet deal on the glasses.

The second time I passed the glasses, I knew I had to have them, a response I have never been able to talk myself out of when it hits, and near the corner of Boston and Bigelow it hit hard.

I told myself I’d gift one to each of my friends, but every December I convince myself my friends would probably not love the fragile stems as much as I do.

The oddest thing about seeing the glasses is that during all the years I was actually looking for vintage long-stem aperitif glasses, I could never find one. Not at a rummage sale. Not at Goodwill or Value Village.

I was remembering all this, when the glasses caught my eye for the third time. The way they gleamed felt like a sign – nothing smaller than a billboard.

But this is not what made me walk closer.

My own mother had a set of aperitif glasses, but I can’t remember ever using them, and I have no idea what happened to them. The glasses brought back a whole stage of my girlhood. Suddenly I was no longer an adult writer with deadlines of her own, but thirteen again scribbling, “So, Diary, I met this boy today and he is sooo cute.”

When I finally decide to buy the glasses, the sale is slowing down, with some people folding up their tables already, but there were my vintage glasses, unsold, flashing me knowing smiles. I imagined that along with those smiles would be tête-a-têtes cozy and intimate, so many things to talk about.

Some of my friends keep telling me that it’s getting too expensive to li in the city, that they need to down-size and move to god-knows-where, so I’ve decided I don’t want to burden them with any more “stuff.”

And though I would never label a vintage long-stemmed aperitif glass as “stuff,” I know there is a personal fine line between treasure and tchotchke.

Besides I need the entire set now that I do believe I have developed into someone who will serve aperitif at her small, but stunning get-together.

Even if this is Belltown, circa 2019, basically an Amazon campus, which must hold the record for the fewest vintage long-stemmed aperitif glasses.

But I’m okay with that. I have become.

vintage aperitif glasses



Ms. Sanelli voices what I hope for my clients: make purchases with care for yourself, with deliberation, looking to the future, and, with good fortune, honoring your past.



Mary Lou Sanelli, author, speaker, and dance teacher has published seven collections of poetry, three works of non-fiction, and her forthcoming novel, “The Star Struck Dance Studio (of Yucca Springs)” will be published in September, 2019 (Chatwin Books). For more information about her and her work, visit

About Lauren Williams

Lauren Williams, Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Virtual Professional Organizer®

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