Stuff. It’s all around us, relic after relic, collected over years, houses and family members. When it’s time to downsize, the inevitable question always comes up. What do we do with all that stuff that meant something, to someone, at some point.
I’m not even talking about furniture here. It’s all the little things that add up. But it all has some meaning or memory attached, so it CAN’T be thrown out.
In most families, items are handed down, creating a bigger logjam of things downstream.
Ever been there? Then you’ll completely relate to one person’s whimsical look at emotional real baggage.
It started a long time ago. Sentimentality over small gifts given by much loved grandparents. Then tokens from boyfriends. Notes from friends. Old photo albums of long forgotten school colleagues. A box of old books from a long dead ancestor. And so on.
It evolved like all unwatched untended organisms.
Family who figured me for a bit of ‘collector and protector’ found it easier to give me their precious mementos than to toss them out. “It belongs altogether”, they said. “We knew you’d love this”, they sighed as they handed over the enormous copper pot that my great great great grandmother used to make soup in.
“Where in this house am I going to keep this?” Thinks me. The relatives happily depart having done their duty and now relishing the chance to purchase a brand-new bright-sparkly-fashionable lamp to pop in the copper pot’s spot and update their decor! They have successfully reclaimed a costly corner of their home and somehow, unwittingly I am now paying huge dollars for a square metre exclusive used of a completely useless and dare I say, rather ugly, copper pot.
As I survey my home, which is meant to be my sanctuary, I’m starting to feel like it’s more of a museum of other people’s lives. There are boxes of books stored in the garage, in a language nobody alive (in my family) can read. There are glass beads bulging out of a jewellery box which will never be worn. There are furs, and gloves, and dainty evening bags. There are old paintings adorning the walls, and old furniture peppering the lounge room.
One of the worst collections, entirely my doing, is one of a box full of greeting cards from my grandmother. They ALL declare in entirety… “Love always, Gran”! Now that’s worth keeping, isn’t it. Touching, succinct, beautifully penned! But it’s in her handwriting, and I’m loath to part with them.
Nowadays I’m ADDING to this collection by keeping little treasures from my children. A mother’s whimsy and totally understandable. However I have the feeling I’m adding to the snowball.
Relic Snowballs. Ever heard of them? Each generation adding a layer of possessions to be kept in perpetuity by following generations. On and on it goes, layer upon layer, just like Sara Lee once advertised!
So when I get too old to keep my ‘stuff’ – will I be boxing it up for my daughter’s home? Will I too add my own precious talismans of life to the collection, so that she inherits yet another layer of mostly useless old sentimental things? And then when she passes hers on, another layer again… and so it goes until nobody can really remember where all this stuff came from and why they are keeping it!
Even worse, it occurs to me that some of these collectors items were perhaps not sentimental at all to their owners. Merely there! Like a lot of the possessions in my home are merely ‘there’.
What a horrible burden to pass down. Heavy. Imbued with misunderstood sentiment. Space hogging. Dust collecting. Worry inspiring.
Of course, there ARE some pieces which are lovely to keep. Some much loved items of my home are old. But they are beautiful, and rather special. I adore the character and the colour.
Unfortunately for the majority, however, the same cannot be said.
So with the conviction of a new convert, I am learning to say NO! No to more things snaffling the space from our feet. No to the worthless sentimental rubbish. No to the unwanted furniture. No to the wall hangings, the vases, the punch bowls, the copper pots and no especially to the 30 odd collection of greeting cards. (Perhaps if my gran had known I was cherishing them so closely she would have written at least one profound message on the inside of those cards! As it is, I’m content with one or two “Love always, Gran”s and the rest must go.)
So I urge you, whilst you can, go through that bottom draw, you know the one I mean… and throw some of it out! Let your descendants be free of a load they need not carry. Let them not suffer the emotionally fraught decision making that comes with throwing away someone else’s myriad of treasures. Keep a few special keepsakes, attach a letter describing who and what they are for or from, and then relax knowing you have given your offspring the best gift ever. Less.