Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Taking TIME to Declutter

My grandmother's home, at her death, was very streamlined and her possessions were few. Many of her drawers contained only a few items, leaving loads of empty spaces. Her storage shelves in the garage had a few kitchen appliances (waffle iron, blender, etc.) that were clean, wrapped within trash or other bags, and closed with twist ties. The areas/items that were "full up" were her china hutch, her desk, and her clothes closet. It fell to me to pack up and ready her home for my parents to come through and bring me her furniture in a trailer. I did it in a weekend. 

(At the time, sadly, there wasn't room in the trailer for everything; not imagining he would do so, my dad arbitrarily chose to leave behind her desk and I still feel a pang about that. Had I been more proactive I would have somehow wound up with that desk. Essentially it was abandoned, so I don't know what became of it. Years later my father gifted me with a desk his father bought in the 60s, but although it's nice to have, it doesn't tug on my heartstrings the way my grandmother's desk would have.)

On the other hand, it took me an entire year to go through and empty, via one method or another, my parents' house and garage. I was over there almost every evening after work, and for several hours on Saturdays and Sundays. The house had three floors, and even the garage had two extra rooms.

So I can't help but think what it might be like for my son when my time comes (far down the road, I hope). And how inconvenient it will be for him to have to dispose of or liquidate my belongings. So little by little I purge. Actually, I've been purging off and on for many years now. Because what I purge will at least be that much less for him and my daughter-in-love to deal with. I'd like my home to be a lot closer to being cleared out in a weekend, rather than a year. Not that it would take a year; it's a very small house. But I figure the fewer decisions my son has to waste his time on with regards to my possessions, the better. It's a gift I want to give him.

I doubt I'll ever be as streamlined as my grandmother, but these days I do think in terms of "one layer" of possessions in any given place, excepting clothing. And my piano music. And my Victoria magazines. So over the years that I've had my blog, I've donated many things, and simply disposed of some. I can't be bothered selling things because their monetary value is not worth my time to do so. I would rather read, write, sketch, play a little piano, and do needlework when my shoulders let me (which they'd rather I didn't). 

So, for example, the Christmas Bears and The Bunnies Take Tea bunnies have long been gone (Goodwill); many books I've shared have gone to the library; clothing to Goodwill; and surplus kitchenware to Goodwill as well. Letters I've saved for as long as fifty years are being reread and shredded. Some from friends and family were returned to their writers (they are about their lives, after all). Some I still can't part with. But rest assured, if letters and photos make it to auction, someone will probably be curious enough to pay a pittance for them. (Strangers reading my family's letters does not appeal to me.) Photos are being gone through and a box has been sent on to my nephew (the new family historian), with at least another to follow. Annually I try to shred any insurance, bank, and "tax" documents that don't impact anything that might come up.

I have a ways to go, but I'm gaining ground. I bought my bedroom furniture in the early 80s when I was still married. It's oak and massive with large, deep drawers. Out of fifteen such drawers, only three contain clothing. The rest are full of "keepsakes" or paperwork that I will continue to go through and pare down.

Why? Because besides loving my son enough to want to spare him the ordeal of going through what was, perhaps, important only to me, I have come to the point where I feel It's Too Much Stuff. I don't want so much stuff. Most of it was not of my choosing anyway. It came to me via great aunts, great grandmother, grandmother, and mother. And I loved that it did, and I enjoyed it for years. But now a simple representation will be sufficient, I think. 

The excess has to go. And I'm not even a hoarder! Just a steward of the keepsakes that I've inherited, and what few interests I've indulged in. The weeding out is a process best begun while one has the energy, don't you think? Not when we're on our sickbeds or deathbeds wishing we had done thus and such with our homes and belongings.

I guess I have this on my mind because I've let go of enough already that I'm getting closer to making the really tough decisions (from my perspective) on what goes and what stays. When I can look in my drawers and see "one layer" therein, and the same for my shelves, I will be one happy camper! (Even happier than I am now!)

Do I have any like-minded readers out there?

Be happy!


  1. A thought provoking post, Bess. My mother kept family history paperwork and everyone came to her for information. It's important to me and as an only child I'm the custodian of these archives. Likewise, items and heirlooms are treasured. I know from chats with our children that they will appreciate these items when my husband and I have passed on so I shall keep them. When I got sick last year the thought of doing some decluttering and simplifying our lifestyle was on my mind. I have been unable to do much about this because of being incapacitated. Many objects in our home have meaning for us and help us keep a sense of identity. Who knows ? - they might bring comfort if I develop a gradual loss of memory - that's if I live long enough. We just don't know and must leave the future in the Lord's hands. I believe that you have written down and published aspects of your life which I have not done. I think this must have been a help to you and you can let go and think of what will benefit your son in the future when you go to be with the Lord. As always thinking of you prayerfully dear friend.

  2. Hi Dearest Linda! I must apologize if this post seemed insensitive, and in retrospect I can see how it might to someone seriously ill. I should have mentioned that my son has told me he doesn't want anything. Plus he lives over 800 miles away. I have had many of my family's keepsakes since 1978, when they began coming my way. But I'm now being more particular about what I'm keeping. I'll still have plenty enough to make my house a home, and your comment about our treasured objects bringing us comfort as we age, and a sense of identity, is brilliant. Like you, for years I felt I was a custodian/guardian of my family's past. But our family is very small now; some only children in our family, too, and we have no first cousins and only one living uncle. I am not a grandmother and never will be. So if something isn't important to me anymore, I'm hoping someone else might like it. Linda, my prayer is that soon you will be well enough to do whatever it is you'd like to do. I'm only a bit limited because I can't lift a heavy weight (taking out the trash is about my limit) and my knees will only let me go up a ladder one time every now and then. But mostly it is the smaller, duplicate-type items that are going out the door. Well, I will stop here but might email you before long about just how astute you are! ;O) Blessings! Bess

  3. Bless you Bess for you thoughtful response to my comment. You are not at all insensitive my dear friend. On the contrary, you are a kind person doing what you feel best in your own personal situation.I meant to say, of course, our identity firstly is in being a child of God, which gives us so much comfort now and in the future. I have had problems in connecting to the internet as my connection was down during the last two days so I haven't been able to communicate with you. I'm connected again now and will keep in touch when I can. Every blessing my dear.


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