Confession time: my basement is still waiting for its moment in the sunlight of my retirement.
Over a year ago I promised that it would get my immediate attention but, alas, the goods and chattels that reside there (aka "stuff") remain untouched. (I suppose that is not quite true. I have moved a few things around while rummaging for Christmas decorations or luggage, and I have even managed to offload a few items on one of my kids. But, somehow, magically, my below-stairs-storage seems to hold a collective mass that remains constant.) Then, there is above-stairs. That is full of "stuff" too.
And I am not alone.
This is such a familiar state for most retirees, that I should not have been surprised to have my ladies' walking group toss around this problem for over an hour while we had a post-hike cuppa at Shirley's house. I blame it on the tea. As we sat in her comfortable living room partaking of her hospitality, someone admired the chinaware and soon every woman had an observation about the contents of Shirley's china cabinet --- and their own. This pleasant but trivial topic hummed along until someone confessed to owning three complete sets of dishes, and someone else added "Me too. I wonder what I'll eventually do with them? I know the kids aren't interested."
The room fell silent as we all did a mental inventory of our houses and apartments, all filled with things our children will have no use for. But there was no enthusiasm for downsizing, de-cluttering, or pruning. Whatever we called it, we agreed that getting rid of "stuff" was hard, though not impossible -- if only we could rouse ourselves to the required decision-making.
The practical women in the group knew what to do (even if they hadn't yet done it themselves). If you don't love something, pitch it. Toss. Sell. Recycle. Re-gift. Donate.
But none of us were half so sure about items of real and/or sentimental value. Our stash of stuff, in this case, had nothing to do with procrastination, bad housekeeping, or borderline hoarding. These were the possessions that contributed to our identities as sports-women, scholars, artists, friends, employees, mothers, daughters, or wives. Carole looked so stricken at the prospect of parting with her 42 year old wedding dress that professional help was suggested. Perhaps an organizer-- part therapist, part efficiency expert -- could talk her through the grieving process, make a photograph of the beloved object, and then post it on eBay.
But some things, we just knew, were beyond the power of a down-sizing consultant, and were destined to wind up in the will. "This is family history!" exclaimed Sylvia. "Do our children really not want our heirlooms? Tough!" We all recalled relatives
who had identified and labelled various bits and pieces for specific recipients. (I
still own a gilded candy dish that came to me from Bruce's grandmother
50 years ago. Note to daughters: Before you throw it out, check the
Theorizing that providing the provenance would make a bit of old junk seem more appealing, I suggested a card attached to each family treasure explaining its significance. (Librarians love to catalogue.) How about: Cloak brush. Beauly, Scotland, Circa 1773. Note: Rodent damage to wooden handle and bristles.
Anne thought this might be worth trying, but she envisioned another note, one she intends to pin to the red satin dressing gown that belonged to her mother. It will read: I loved this robe and I just couldn't throw it out. But it is yours now, so do whatever you want. I'll never know. XXOO, Mom
We all smiled. Now there was a suggestion we could use.