It started innocently enough. The winter closed in and the rooms did too. I looked around at the stashes of accumulated boxes and drawers full of things and wondered, "Who is going to want this?" There needed to be a letting go of things that had been collected --and collecting-- through the years. How did it all happen?
First, you inherit things from others: photographs in magnetic albums which you already know is wrong wrong wrong. Then it is a vase here, a set of plates there, and pretty soon you have a nice accumulation of both the valuable and not-so-much. Who needs ten hammers, instruction manuals for discarded appliances, and 300 plastic hangers? It was time to pare down.
Clothing was tackled first. Pretty soon there were bags of things I was never going to fit into again. Yes, I had bought into the "someday" wishful thinking, but looking at my driver's license expiration date, I realized that I might before the license did. Someday was here and the muffin top was still there.
It was easy to select the "what was I thinking?" clothes. They hung at the back of the closet because as soon as I had tried them on I realized I was not a Hot Tamale anymore.
It was liberating to see a whole closet emptied of seasonal clothing because now everything fit into a single closet. No more dragging bags and hangers up and down when hot turned to cold.
Books? Easy! The local Friends of the Library gets my reading material often for book sales. Even so, there were 12 bags of books trundling merrily up the road in a single hour's worth of sorting.
Kids put on the Skids
Let's see now, what next? Oh yes----the kids' stuff. As each child left home with the expectation of never returning to the nest, I compiled a nice cardboard banker's box of their selected crayonings from grade school, yearbooks, sports trophies, and documentation necessary to enter the adult world.
They each, when setting up their own households, received their box of goodies. I thought I had washed my hands of being the Forever Depository. But no! One child decided to enter the military, and having no home to call his own for many years, was careful to return from all his travels with even more tchotchkes. The pile grew: outgrown uniforms and deployment books. It began to look like an Army-Navy store--only in Marine Green.
Each visit ended with "Why didn't you mention it before I was getting ready to leave? I'll get back to them next year" And so it went. This time I thought a plan was in order. I decided to mail his stash.
"Whaaaaat?" another son put in, "That would cost a fortune. I'll take photos of everything and he can email me what he wants to keep. That will make the pile go down. Next time he visits it will be a little less." Sounded good to me. However, the son decided that it was easier for him to pack it all in his car and take it to his own home to await selection by his brother.
"Problem solved," he said as he drove away. I have yet to hear from my daughter-in-law about this aspect of problem-solving.
It wasn't long before the family ties that bind (aka Facebook) announced that Mom Is Cleaning Out.
Anyone want the Fisher-Price toys from the 60s and 70s, I asked? Anyone want the electronic horse race set? That was a good game. The players seldom caught on to the fact that it wasn't the color of the horse that was important, but the position on the racetrack that determined the outcome. Made me feel smarter than them for a while.
Answers flooded in on my phone. "Sorry Mom, I have all the toys I want" replied one. "Hey, where's my Hoppity Horse? I want it back" joked another. "Do you still have my Rosebud doll? Please send it" was the latest . Everyone was having fun with my good intentions.
Back On Track
I am happy to report that the cleansing of "stuff" goes on. Less to dust--or dust around-- for me now.
I took a hint from a current organizational maven who suggests "Keep only what brings you joy."
One daughter-in-law took me up on my offer of the good china. Yes, it brought me joy many times, but now it is time for someone else to be happy with it-- and to use it.
So joy is what I am feeling this cold winter day: joy for the many treasures that I did keep, that are not so much valuable as full of sentiment and happy memories. Of course someday there will be a real cleaning out. "Who wants this?" someone will ask, holding up my bronzed baby shoes. There may be takers...and maybe not.
For today, my joy is in wanting to give some "stuff" away. I hope it will go where it can be used, is needed, enjoyed or loved...with a few exceptions. The Fisher Price toys and the horserace game were lugged back upstairs.
There have to be a few surprises for cleaner- outers.
My thoughts? We come into this world with nothing, and we leave with nothing. In between we have the chance to collect memories friendships, love and things. I vote for ditching the things.
Well, except for the Hoppity Horse!
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