On Not Getting Rid of “Stuff”

There are those in our family–on both sides of the aisle–who are pressing us to “get rid of stuff.”
They themselves, in their sixties, are getting rid of “stuff.”
Why are they doing that?
“So my kids won’t have to.”
Oh.
But my heavens, they’re talking about thirty years from now.
That’s what I call a sleeveless errand.
I am keenly aware that I am regarded as–one family member called me—a collector.
But I am not a collector. I don’t have a collector’s mentality.
I’m not driven to bring unto myself every piece of a set of a period or an issue.
I’m merely an appreciator. I appreciate beautiful things. Interesting things. Charming delightful amusing inventive whimsical marvelous things. Things that may have no function except to give pleasure.
Anyway, the campaign for us—ME—to downsize (that’s a corporate word…I am not a corporation) has been fierce.
The gloves are off. “How’s the garage coming?” sort of thing.
“We’re not giving you anything for your birthday because poor Bill already has to deal with too much stuff in his house…”
There are those who find our house warm, welcoming. I’ve heard the word cozy.
Just now, cowed, trying to be a good wife/mother/person, I reached for something I love looking at that doesn’t have a function—it’s what’s called an object of art—“stuff ”–and reflected upon putting it in the Salvation Army box.
But then I stopped. Thought, Hey, if I live another 5-10-15 years, I’m depriving myself of the pleasure of enjoying it.
That’s crazy. Not the right value.
I have friends who tell me, “I’m cleaning out my closets so Joan/Nat/Mary/Sam won’t have to when the time comes.”
Excuse me. Why in hell can’t Joan/Nat/Mary/Sam do the kindness of mopping after Mom when she’s dead?
I did it for my mother.
When I returned from living away for a year my mother, then in her early nineties, took me through the living room, her bedroom, and her storage closet and made me record the origin, the story, behind each and every treasure. There were a lot. All beautiful.
Truth is, when she died, everything was so chaotic I didn’t check the recording device. Time after time when I held an object in my hand, I simply took pleasure from my mother’s pleasure in it.
After family went through and took what they would like, I donated the most valuable of her treasures to her favorite charity then had a yard sale. Painful but essential. Watched mutely while strangers carted off treasures.
My children can do the same for me. Why not? It wasn’t a terrible experience. It took a week. I had a week to give my mother.
So, kids, back off.
It’s not your business that my house is crowded. Not your concern.
I’m not thinning out my house. Not getting rid of stuff.
I’m enjoying it.
I’ve earned it.
I don’t care what happens to it when I’m dead…that’s up to you.
And thus the wheel turns…

4 Comments. Leave new

  • Yup. They can call an estate specialist and have them sell it.

    Reply
  • Mark Tarpey-Schwed
    February 22, 2022 6:18 pm

    Oh Sylvia, I love this essay! Because I find so much important wisdom in it. Last year we said goodbye to my mother, aged 86, and with her all her many treasures and possessions. Spanning ultimate
    Generations, her “stuff” was what we loved about her house and what gave meaning to who she is and where she had come from. But once someone has died the rush to “get rid” of everything becomes paramount and it is a tragedy. I find myself thinking of my mother’s desk and the tidy organized contents of its drawers: pens and pads, notes and souvenirs, a letter opener from my grandfather, a pile of AA tokens speaking to her life of sobriety, letters, file folders, the lot! We were so hell-bent on clearing things out I didn’t take time to sit with her desk and enjoy all that it represented of my mother and her many days. We stuffed it into wastebaskets and sent the furniture away. In moments, years of her careful days was obliterated and I didn’t know then how sad it would make me that I didn’t take time to savor her in those places where she remained even after her passing. I wish I had.
    So the heck with Marie Kondo and downsizing and preparing for your ultimate departure! Enjoy your stuff! Surround yourself with happy memories and stories and things that make life enjoyable. There’s plenty of time when we won’t be here, but while we are here, make it BIG!!

    Reply

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