When Stuff is Just…..Stuff

In the process of selling my parents’ house, there is definitely a line between things to keep, things to offer to friends, things to donate and things to just toss. While I have put a master list together on what goes where, there is always that emotional wrench seeing all those bits and pieces that made up a home.

For example, Mom loved big, tall lamps; I don’t. Mom loved vases; I don’t. Mom loved doo-dads; I don’t. Then there are all the pictures and paintings; I’ve taken the ones I liked, but the rest need homes.

There are some things I’ve kept because I can’t quite let them go, but know that someday I can. I think I’ve gotten past the ‘oh, Mom/Dad loved this so I should keep it’ even if I personally don’t care for it.

Does anyone remember the show where experts went to a home and helped people pare down their stuff? They put up three tents; one for keepers, one for donations or give-aways or selling, and one for tossing. When the owners protested over something, the expert asked why they felt they needed it. The conversations went like this:

Expert: “Why do you want to keep this?”

Owner: ” It was my grandmother’s”

Expert: “Yes, but do you like it?”

Owner: “Not really.”

Expert: “Then you don’t need it.”

It sounds simple, but there is a lot of emotion involved. The Crankee Yankee and I already live in what we call our “*blivet.” We periodically go through our stuff, asking ourselves those same “expert” questions. With this in mind, we have to be careful of what we take from my parents’ house.

So there is always going to be stuff to be dealt with; the bigger question is, do we need it, want it or even like it? It’s a hard and often emotional process, but we just can’t keep it all. When it comes right down it, stuff is only stuff. We have to decide what stuff we really need to keep, and what to set free.

*Blivet: colloquial for ‘ten pounds of crap in a five pound container.”

What to Keep, What to Toss

Since we had a last “gift” on the 31st of March—a blizzard (thanks a heap, March!), we have been inside working on various projects. For me, it’s staying ahead of the housework and keeping things organized. As we now have a lot of stuff from my dad’s house in our house, we are working on ways to merge everything as seamlessly as possible.

My biggest *F*BAR has been keeping my side of the office desk clean and organized. I tend to pile things up that don’t need my immediate attention, and this always comes back to bite me in the hindquarters. So I finally decided to face that pile of **IDWTDWTRN I have ignored for weeks…ok, months.

It wasn’t as bad as I thought, but it did take a lot of time and ate up a lot of manila folders. The biggest part of it was my “Keepers” file. This included cards I love, pictures I love, poems I love, and various mementos I love.

So—what to keep? What to toss? Will there ever be anyone else but me who will cherish the stuff I end up keeping? So I took a deep breath, and tackled the bloated folder full of “keepers.”

There were birthday and anniversary cards with Mom’s familiar loopy handwriting proclaiming her love for me. There were pictures of Mom as a little girl, a young woman, and finally, a picture of two year old me, sitting in her lap. There was a black and white picture of Dad skiing gracefully down a mountain.

There were beautiful sympathy cards from friends and neighbors who had known and loved my mother. There were birthday and anniversary cards from Dad, written in his graceful script saying how much he loved me.

While I kept some, I was able to let go of others. As I go along, I feel that those messages of love from the hands of those who sent them are not lost. They are the pen-strokes of love that are written permanently on my heart. It is enough to have read and absorbed the kindness and compassion from them.

Then, as there always is, there are some things that still pull me to them. This tells me that is not yet time to get rid of them. Now that the “keepers” folder has slimmed down, I can afford to give those last things house-room until I can let them go. Or not.

Before we buried my mother, I filled her casket with dozens of cards, notes, and some of my own cat cartoon drawings, tucked all around her. At her viewing, I heard more giggles than tears when people read some of the cards and notes.

So, sometimes we get to a place where we can cheerfully let go of those things we have kept for a long time. Sometimes we need to hold on to them until we are ready to let them go. And then sometimes we can take their messages with us; literally or figuratively.

*Anyone who has been or is in the computer and/or software business knows this acronym well. It stands for “F*cked Up Beyond All Recognition.”

*My own acronym for “I Don’t Want To Deal With This Right Now.”

What We Keep

As we are slowly cleaning out my dad’s home of stuff we either don’t need or use any longer, the Crankee Yankee and I are doing the same at our house. Perhaps it’s a case of early spring cleaning, but the fact remains that we have way too much”stuff.”

By “stuff,” I mean old photo albums, newspaper clippings that have gone yellow and brittle with time; magazines we kept because there was one or two articles or recipes we wanted in them and never cut them out, clothing that is out of date but too well-kept to be thrown away, and the list goes on and on.

Before Mom died, she and Dad cleaned out a lot of stuff in their house themselves. They  got rid of a lot of things that were no longer useful or necessary. Great idea—now if only we can follow in their footsteps.

I’m a sentimental person. I keep things that really should be tossed; to this day the sight of my mother’s lovely loopy writing is a soft nudge to my heart. But I can also hear her in my mind saying, ‘throw this crap away! It’s just taking up space; what—do you want to become a hoarder?

She’s right, of course. I used to watch a program about people who had too much stuff, and a professional cleaner worked with them to create three areas for all the stuff they were hanging onto: “Keep,” “Donate or Sell,” and “Throw Away.” They made it look so easy!

But in reality, it’s not all that easy. I have so many things from my mom that I cling to, yet I am well aware that most of it is just taking up space. When I take clothes, CDs, etc. up to our local Goodwill, it gives me a momentary pang to leave them there. But I know that others can use these things, and that way, all these things get a new life with others. And just maybe it may spread some of my mom’s good energy around the planet.

Most of our memories lie in our hearts and minds anyway. As for the things I still cherish, I know that my granddaughters will inherit them and hopefully enjoy them. My oldest granddaughter, who is five and a half, loves anything that sparkles (that’s my girl!!). I told her that she and her sister will have a great time going through all my baubles.

I look at the beautiful (and huge) ironstone tureen my mom used once a year for Christmas chowder; it’s lovely, but has no place in our home. Same with pictures and paintings and household things, not to mention furniture.

I have owned my grandmother’s Victorian sofa for over 40 years. Gorgeous carved wooden grapes adorn the back of it, and the legs are beautifully carved with scrolls. I had it upholstered in spruce green material, which has miraculously escaped the notice of our four cats. As a little girl, I used to sit on it on Christmas morning and unwrap my presents.

But a Victorian sofa is hell on the back. It was made during a time when ladies were severely laced and corseted, and never slouched. Those who sat on such a sofa would never allow their backs to touch its back; I can only imagine how their poor backs must have ached at the end of the day.

So it is far from a comfy couch, it weighs a ton and it takes up valuable real estate in our small living room. So I have contacted a local antiques dealer to have a look at it. I am hoping that someone with want it, love it and cherish it as I have all these years.

As hard as it is to give up some of those things we have lived with for years, we come to an agreement between ourselves and those things. We realize then that the stuff we really keep settles deep in our hearts where there is always room.



The Stuff We Keep….And Maybe Don’t Need To

During this time of helping my parents while Mom is in Hospice, Mom has cheerfully given away her jewelry, and most of her clothing, coats and shoes. Her feeling is that others can enjoy these things and perhaps think of her when they are wearing them. I have been the recipient of some lovely things that I will cherish for years to come.

This got me thinking about all the things I currently own, especially jewelry. I have more rings than I have fingers, also necklaces, earrings, bracelets and pins–far more than I need. I began going through my collection and have started to clear out those things I no longer wear. Thinking of the things I can gift to others makes me happy. The other things I may put on my Etsy site (www.janesjools4u.etsy.com) on sale, and donate the proceeds to a good cause.

I have slowly come to realize that part of the reason why I buy these things is to gift myself when I feel down or discouraged. I could easily feel better doing other things than buying yet one more ring; that’s just a habit I’ve had for years. But how many do I really need?

While it is perfectly ok to collect things we love, in my case I can certainly cut back. How rings and bracelets do I need to feel loved, worthy, special? The answer is inside, not outside. It has taken me years to realize this, and I now know that the real prize is already inside me. I am doing my best now to live what I have learned.

Wish me luck!

“Good Grief–What DO You Have in Your Purse?!”

I am famous in my little circle of family and friends for having the heaviest purse. Oh, no–it isn’t that I carry wads of cash, gold bars and the odd uncut diamond, it’s just that I like to be prepared for anything from diapering a baby to launching an invasion (well, you just never know, do you?).

No matter how many purses I have, they are all pretty much the same design; squarish, large, shoulder straps and a zip across the top. I prefer microfiber to leather–as much as I love leather, it makes the bag too heavy (yes, even for me). As a matter of fact, it could be that after carrying heavy purses for years caused at least one of my rotator cuffs to snap.

So what makes my purse so dang heavy, you may ask? Besides my wallet, keys, cell phone, several neatly folded flowered hankies, my reading glasses, notepad and two pens (in case the first one poops out on me), address book and two hand fans, one paper, one sandalwood, there is also a pretty pink and green flowered makeup bag. I believe that this item alone is the culprit. In it is the core of my personal emergency stash, consisting (today, anyway) of the following:

  • two lipsticks, red and pink
  • one Burts Bees lip balm
  • an extra eyebrow pencil and brush
  • a pillbox
  • breath mints
  • small dental floss (again, one never knows)
  • moist towelettes
  • my lucky moonstone
  • nail clippers
  • tiny Swiss Army knife
  • a jewelers’ loupe
  • cough drops
  • a goodish-sized compact mirror
  • a packet of crystallized ginger
  • a small tube of hand cream
  • a 6″ ruler
  • sunscreen
  • a few bandaids

The front of my current purse (lime microfiber) also sports three buttons, one that features a surprised-looking black cat with the word “Dang!” over his head, a yellow button that states “Piss Off!” and a pink button featuring a cute purple kitten with a discreet little cloud coming out of its butt (cat fart, get it?). Now these and everything else in my purse in and of themselves aren’t all that heavy. But put them all together and it makes a pretty heavy bag.

I can hear you saying, “why do you want all that stuff in your bag for? Plus it’s probably not doing your shoulder any good!” to which I reply, “But I might NEED any or all of these things!” Also, people with me may need my stuff–again, you just never know.

Sigh…I was probably a big snail in a previous life, and now can’t shake the habit of carrying all my stuff with me. That’s my explanation, and I’m sticking to it.


I Have a 63 Year Old Teddy Bear

I’ll admit it–I still have my original, given-to-me-when-I-was-a- baby teddy bear. Mom named him Percy, and Percy has been with me all these years. He went from lying in my crib with me to leaning against the pillows of my big-girl bed, and even went to college with me. He’s tagged along through several moves, three different states, many jobs and two marriages. In fact, he’s sitting on my craft table right now.

I have never been able to let him go, even when my two step-daughters were little and might have liked him. I now have a 3 and a half year old granddaughter, but she’s seriously into Minnie Mouse and Sheriff Cali, so I don’t know how they would get along. He’s an old and well-loved bear, and is used to being with me. Even as the Crankee Yankee (my husband) and I debate paring down our belongings as we get older, I still consider Percy valuable and want him with me.

I know, I know–I’m all grown up now and don’t need a teddy bear any longer, but what if he still needs me? How could I leave him? I could do the adult thing and donate him, but how will I know where he goes? I have lost or given away so many of my things from childhood and adulthood; some that have meant a lot to me. Some things I passed on to people who I knew would like and appreciate them, but who in the world will cherish my old Percy as much as me?

It’s silly sentiment to think that any of our beloved belongings have feelings, but there it is–I do think so. Percy certainly isn’t the bear he used to be; he is threadbare in some places, and both eyes have been replaced several times. The center seam down his chest now looks like a triple bypass scar on an old man, and his ears are a little thin because I used to rub them so much. I don’t even know where he came from or who gave him to me, but we have been buddies ever since. Each time I think I’m ready to let him go, I’m not ready at all. I can’t explain the attachment I have to him; I just know I still need him. He has absorbed all my kisses and tears and confidences over the years as a good friend does–I guess you could say that we have a long-standing bond.

Honestly, can you just see me in a nursing home years from now, poor old balding Percy still clutched in my wrinkled old chicken claw? But you know, I’ll bet I won’t be the only old gal who still has their first friend with them.

Just sayin’, Percy old pal.