One of the consequences of our older generation downsizing is that we are the recipients of the castoff stuff. Some of it is useful -- I just brought home from my dad's house a large dresser for May, our chief clothes horse -- and some is of sentimental value, such as photographs. (Boxes and boxes of photographs.)
And some of it is in that middle ground where it might be useful to someone, but not to me, and at the same time it might have sentimental value to someone. Ugly but old jewelry. Oversized furniture. Clothing that will never fit anyone. My feeling is that we ought to take a picture of it and then find it a new home, but I have to tread softly. People's feelings are involved.
At the same time, I'm trying to clear out our own stuff. So much stuff. I feel weighed down by it. Ella is 12 and doesn't want to part with any of her toys. I don't want to make her give them up until she is ready, but maybe the tricycle could go? The half-colored coloring books? I have to sneak things out of the house, and even then, somehow, She Knows.
And she's not the only one who has trouble letting things go. All the projects Big A and I abandoned when the kids came along are still in boxes somewhere. I keep thinking that someday I will finish the Christmas cross-stitch I started in 1990 (I kid you not). We have squirreled away scraps of fabric and wood, parts of old dolls and lamps, ancient craft magazines, waiting for the day we have leisure time. At this point, I could get the instructions for those projects off the Internet, yet I hang on to the magazines.
I know I shouldn't hold on to things that "might" be useful someday. That way lies hoarding. It's no different from our neighbors who have five (five!) nonworking cars on their property (and the street), except that craft supplies take up less room. I'm sure they think someday they'll fix those cars up again. That's what all hoarders say.
Everywhere I go, people are drowning in stuff. Nobody parks their cars in their garages because their garages are full of stuff. There are two storage facilities in our tiny town. What's in them that's worth paying rent for? I thought about storing our baby furniture and toys for grandkids, and then I realized that by the time we paid rent on a storage locker for 20 years we could have bought new furniture many times over. So I gave them away.
Lately I feel the urge to clear out more and more stuff. Is there a name for that urge? It seems like the opposite of nesting -- is it de-nesting? Or maybe it's a form of nesting, making home more comfortable by carving out some breathing room, admitting that our lives have changed and our surroundings should too. In the last week we've taken three van loads to the thrift store and one to the dump. And it hardly seems to have made a dent. I'll take a few more loads after school starts (when no one is watching). It's a start.
May and Bess, by the way, are no problem. They dump their school work on me in June to let me sort through, and they clean out their closets in September without prompting. They live very much in the moment and would be happy to toss it all. I keep things on their behalf. Each girl has a large box of keepsakes. I kept napkins from their baby showers, the airline tickets from our trips to get them, toothpicks with Chinese characters on them, their first shoes. I do this because I missed their births and their infancies (and, in May's case, the first eight years of her life). I don't have any sonograms or certificates with tiny baby footprints on them or receiving blankets or newborn baby pictures. So I keep what I can. Those little artifacts are both useful and of sentimental value. They are staying.