We are getting a home built in San Tan Valley, Arizona. We will begin spending our winters there next year. In the meantime, we own a very large home in mid-Missouri. Large homes are large containers. We have a lot of decisions to make about this home. The first one, is should we keep this home or downsize our Missouri home. Our home in Arizona is considerably smaller than our home in Missouri. It also will not have a basement, which in my opinion, is only good for storing junk we don’t want to deal with. I like the idea of downsizing the Missouri home. Even if we don’t sell our home immediately, we sure can get rid of “stuff” that no one is going to want after we have left this earth.
I have been reading articles online about the fact that, “nobody wants your stuff.” The articles I have read said that furniture is not a desired thing any longer. Old furniture may not be antiques like they used to be. Furniture today is mass produced. It has no more value than the time it was purchased. Most young people today have filled their homes with furniture from IKEA and Target. They don’t want that “old” stuff. Homes have grown in size since World War II, and people have filled them quite well. They don’t have room to take anyone else’s furniture. I really do not understand people renting storage units to put the extra “stuff” in. If you have done this, I am not judging. I just don’t understand it. I suppose it is because “stuff” overwhelms me. If I am surrounded by overloaded closets, drawers, etc., I start to feel claustrophobic. I cannot maneuver through the stuff, and at some point, I have to stop and clean these areas out.
My husband and I decided that it is time to start cleaning out closets and rooms. I read the first place to start is with paper. I had already done that, and found old tax returns of mine. I checked with my accountant how long I had to hold onto personal tax returns and learned I didn’t need any of these paper returns. My latest few years have been done online, and I have the PDF documents in my computer, and I also have a backup of my computer. When my mom was young, she kept scrap books. I have her old scrapbooks. The paper is yellow with age, and the glue has come undone on a lot of her entries. I have scanned some of the things, but I am thinking of scanning the complete scrapbooks. I love the old articles she has saved about things she found interesting, or about people she knew. I know some of these families today, and scanning these newspaper articles and sharing them with these families is a nice way for them to see some history they may not have known. It is like the email that I have printed and saved since 2000. I found it in my files the other day—I wrote my blog last week about that email. I was glad I found it, and it has real meaning to me, but probably to very few other folks. I think I will scan the document into my computer, and throw away the printed copy.
Of course, another issue is photographs. I have boxes of them. Most of them have been scanned into my computer, and since I have a Mac, they are also labeled per person. If I want to see all the photos I have of a particular person, I go to my Photos program, and find their name, and all photos I have of them pop right up. So, now, what do I do with the original photos? That still has me perplexed. I breaks my heart to throw them away, but my children can have them all digitally from my computer. One article I read said to be of service to your parent by taking something they give you because maybe it’s too hard for them to throw away. They might have an inkling you are going to throw it away, but they are not doing it—something that just might be too hard to do. Thus, all my photos.
Learning to let go is a gift. Sometimes we hold onto things just because it has some “meaning” that if we really think about it, is not in the object itself. When we watch those television shows about hoarders, you see them holding onto a piece of junk because it was their mom’s or has some sentimental meaning, that is not actually in the object itself. They cannot let it go. I’m not that bad, but I know I struggle with some things that have family memories, and wonder how to let it go without feeling bad about it. I still have all the sympathy cards and notes from my parents’ funerals. Do I save them? Why am I saving them? When my mom died, I received only a few cards. I was just recovering from my “dark years,” had been going to a 12-step program for codependency, and had lost connection with many people. I remember thinking that if I died right then, not many people would come to my funeral, or even miss me in any way. When my dad passed away fifteen years later, I received an abundance of sympathy cards, and had many friends and colleagues come to the viewing and funeral. I felt connected to the world again, and it was comforting. I think that is why I hold onto those cards. It shows a reality of my life that I need to remember. I suppose it is okay to pack them in a box to look at every once in a while, and know one day either I or my kids will discard them.
Books are also a huge issue. When I married Dennis, we downsized books. We donated 1,500 paperback books to the St. Louis Book Fair. We have 12 floor to ceiling shelves of books with 99.9% being hard bound books. What do we do with them? Do people buy used books? Do we try to sell what we “think” are the rare ones and donate the rest? What to do? Although I love the feel of holding a book in my hand, picking it up, being able to highlight something in it, and reread it again, books are becoming harder for me to read. Who would think that I would admit that I am not seeing as well as I used to? So, for me, downloading an electronic book on my phone is so perfect. I can adjust the size of the print, I can lighten or darken the background to read it better. The sad, sad thing about electronics books is that I can’t hand a favorite book to a friend to share in the reading. I miss that. I love when someone hands me a book. In my downsizing world, though, electronic books are the best.
I am not one of those people who owns everyday china and good china, but I have to admit, I am one of those who owns Christmas china. Christmas is my favorite holiday, and about 15 years ago I found this dinnerware on sale, and thought it was really pretty, cute, whatever, but I decided I wanted to celebrate the holidays with this china. When my kids came over for Thanksgiving, after the dishes were done, I had them help me move the china. My kitchen was adequate in size, but not huge. I stored the Christmas dishes in the cabinet above the refrigerator. So, Thanksgiving evening, one of my boys would get on the step stool and pull out the dishes and hand them to me. I would hand him my everyday dishes to store until New Years. I did that every year for a long time. When I married Dennis, and moved to our home in mid-Missouri, I inherited a kitchen beyond my dreams when it came to cabinet space. The kitchen is 24’ x 12’ with a 8’ island in the center. I don’t know the exact number of cabinets, but I do know when we were updating the kitchen and I wanted to change the cabinet and drawer pulls, the number I counted was 56! Yeah, that’s a lot of space to store “stuff.” I also have a walk in pantry between the kitchen and the dining room, and that is where I store my Christmas dishes, glasses, mugs, and serving pieces. Now I don’t have to swap out the dishes every season. I will be sad when I decide to say good-bye to the Christmas dishes. That will happen one day, not sure if it is sooner or later.
I have two things of mine that I am not sure what to do—they both have meaning to me, but maybe not to anyone else. The first one is my Howdy Doody doll. He is actually not the original, but I found him years ago on eBay, and I had to have him. When I was about 2 1/2 years old, my parents were going to a wedding in Detroit, Michigan. They delivered us three sisters to my grandparents to spend the weekend, and apparently, I was distraught at them leaving me. They decided to take me with them. Of course, I don’t remember any of this. This is the story my mom told me. While in Detroit, my mom bought this Howdy Doody doll for me, and my photo was taken there. I have the photo and the doll on display. I remember playing with that doll for years. I loved watching the “Howdy Doody Show.” It just makes me feel good when I see this photo and the doll. The other thing is a photo of myself that is framed and hanging in one of our guest rooms. I am probably about 9 months to a year old. My mom saved the dress I wore in the photo. It was always stuck away somewhere in a box. Years ago I got this brilliant idea to frame the dress with the photo, because who has the exact clothes they wore when their baby photo was taken? I am not sure anyone will want that in the future. The Howdy Doodie might be valuable because this particular doll is rare, but do they want these photos and this dress? Who knows? Those two things will stay with me until my days are done. Then they (my four sons) can do whatever they want with all my “stuff.”
When I first moved to this home, I was coming to a home that my husband and his wife (who passed away) had lived in. The cabinets were filled to the brim, along with the closets, and every room. I told him there was no room for me, even though this house was huge. This sweet man cleared room for me, mostly by giving much of the stuff to his wife’s family. They were appreciative to have many memories of their sister. There are duplicates of some kitchen stuff, but on the whole, I brought my things. I know my kitchen things, and I like using them. We do own five colanders, and I use maybe three of them, depending on what it is for, but my favorite is still my mom’s old Tupperware colander from the 60’s.
This winter we will be clearing out closets. We decided to do a closet at a time, and we will do it together. My husband is very sentimental, so this will be a difficult project for him. I will give him room to grieve, to hold onto whatever he needs to hold onto. He will give me room to do the same. In the end, though, we both know it is just stuff. If our house burned down tomorrow, and he and I survived with only the clothes on our backs, we would be okay. We know we are blessed.
Letting go voluntarily, is another issue. It takes time and patience. Wish us luck—we a digging in!