As the time draws near for another chapter of my life to begin, I’ve been doing a lot of sorting through my things. When you’ve lived in the same place and raised two kids in a house the size of mine since 1995, you accumulate a lot of stuff. A lot! When my then-husband and our two kids moved in, we were coming from a single-wide trailer. The rooms in the new house literally echoed with emptiness. Four big bedrooms, a huge living room, dining room, den, kitchen, and bathroom, plus an additional large backroom and a two-car garage holds way more than is really needed and having so much space kind of discourages you from getting rid of a lot of things you probably should.
I read an article last week written by a woman whose son, daughter-in-law, and new baby grand-daughter just moved into a new bigger house. The author had grand ideas of passing on some family heirlooms to her son and his wife. She dove into her attic space and closets, pulled out hidden valuables, and had high hopes of handing down some treasured memories to the next generation. Turns out, the next generation didn’t want much of any of it and certainly not the things she valued the most.
My current husband and I are planning on downsizing very soon. From this big old 1886 home of nearly 3000 square feet to a modern apartment with half the space. Insert panic mode here. Like the author mentioned above, I too have been digging into all the storage spaces, room by room, closet by closet, box by box. Some of the boxes haven’t been opened in at least ten years, some twice that. I’m finding things I’d forgotten even existed. Doing so has brought an important question to mind time after time – why am I keeping this? Do I really need it? If I’d forgotten it existed in the first place, why should I keep it now? Should I keep it for one of my kids?
So far, neither one seems too interested (if at all interested) in the items I personally value. They barely remember their great grandmothers from whom I got most of the larger pieces that mean so much to me. Nobody cares about my international collection of thimbles or the old dolls I grew up playing with on the farm and why should they? Boxes of toys from their childhood? Most of the time they just shrug and say, “Nah.” Neither has children of their own and I’m sure if/when they do, they’ll want new toys and bedding and the like – not their own old hand-me-downs. Do I really need to keep that large plastic storage bin full of Winnie-the-Pooh crib bedding and room decorations? Probably not. But that’s one of the things I’m struggling to part with. My original Winnie the Pooh I got in 1972 at Disneyland? Of course, I’m keeping that! Silly old bear! But the rest? Really? I mean, I could use that bin for something else a whole lot more important like, say – all that KISS memorabilia I have from the late 70s – early 80s; albums, 45s, dolls, concert shirts and programs, Pez dispensers, a Tyvek jacket, belt buckles, necklaces, photo albums, etc. etc. You get the idea.
My desire to downsize started long before the need to really do so. It began with my books, specifically the collection of over 200 vampire novels I once had. I’d read them all, some of them more than once, and crammed them all in a bookcase. I loved those vampire books! Then, for whatever reasons, I didn’t read so many vampire novels anymore. That does not reflect on my love of all things vampire – just found other topics to read, I guess. The books sat and sat, collecting dust and cobwebs year after year. Until one day I made the decision. All but a select few would go – my first (but far from only) copy of Dracula by Bram Stoker would remain, for example. Although I’d part with nearly all the novels over the course of a few weeks, I kept all my research and non-fiction titles. Now, I very seldom keep the books I read, unless they are particularly amazing or are signed by the author – or both. Instead, I donate them to a library or pass them on to someone else. The book collection continues to grow, sans that fevered pitch it once did. Quality over quantity and I’m very happy with that.
I’ve stopped collecting dolls, teapots, teacups and saucers, teddy bears, too. What I have is enough – more than enough – thank you. Going to antique and thrift stores has lost a lot of its charm for the time being. I still love to go, but I am constantly reminding myself while in those places that my goal is to get rid of things – not bring more into the house. (Unless it’s crow and/or raven related then all bets are off … ahem.)
And for as difficult as it is at times, at the end of the day when I look at the three piles I have created: keep, donate, or throw-away, I feel good about my progress. As the saying goes, the best things in life aren’t things. I don’t need all those broken things, the forgotten things, those things that should have seen the inside of a trash bag years ago. Those items don’t make me who I am and though I have enjoyed finding things and remembering moments I had long ago forgotten – I can’t and I won’t keep everything.
I can only hold on to the items that have meant the very most to me and hope that one day when it’s time for my kids to sort through all that I’ve saved, that they’ll find something meaningful to treasure out of it all. That at least some of items I have loved will continue to be loved, that they will make someone smile or, yes, maybe even cry a little too, as the memories long forgotten bubble back to the surface anew. For even as I downsize my physical holdings, my life becomes fuller and richer with memories of what was, acknowledging what’s important in the here and now, and looking forward to what I hope will be.