Everything Must Go!: Inside Oprah's Yard Sale
Auctioning off these pieces would be a fantastic opportunity to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to further the education of all the graduates of my Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa. It would also be a chance to pare away the things that no longer go with my life. Those pine library stairs over there? Well, I bought them in 1988 because I liked them in theory, but the truth is, I never really had a library big enough, so they've been sitting in storage for more than 20 years. That basket? Believe it or not, I used to keep my financial papers in it—the smallest home office on the face of the earth! The French Empire chaise with gold-leaf, melon-shaped feet; the 19th-century tole-decorated washstand; the set of six 18th-century Louis XVI à la reine Jean-Baptiste Lelarge armchairs with hand-embroidered upholstery—all of this was purchased a million somebody elses ago. What can I say? They seemed like a good idea at the time—and times change.
When you're just coming into your own, nobody ever teaches you how to ask for less. But over the years, you begin to make distinctions; you start to focus on what's important, and you start to release what's superfluous. You realize that a single piece of art that really speaks to you can be far more powerful than a wall filled with "important" works, that a meal eaten with feet up and pajamas on is usually a lot more pleasurable than any fancy-shmancy food at a black-tie gala, that good conversation with an old friend beats just about everything—that less actually is so much more.
In a perfect world I would end on that note. But here in the real world, I'll admit that I did feel a midlevel anxiety attack coming on as I paced up and down the lush lawn of the polo grounds, saying my goodbyes. For just a split second, I considered bidding on my own folk-art needlepoint rug with the lovely leaf design, but knowing what you need is more than knowing what you want. And what I need is dogs and books, light and space. Instead of feeling walled in by stuff, I want to feel surrounded by calm. As for all those gifts given by all those people? Well, I took a deep breath and opted to hang on to the generosity of the gesture. But I was finally ready to let somebody else enjoy all my stuff.
Next: You'll never believe what Oprah finally got rid of...