WE’VE BEEN CLEANING up, clearing out, readying for a change we’ve known for a while was coming. We’re empty nesters now, you see, and we simply don’t need the space. I love our home, our pretty yard, I love the vast collection of things which have come to reside with us over the course of our lives. And so I’m finding the process daunting. It’s overwhelming, really, and highly emotional. Every WHAT DO I DO WITH THIS choice feels as if it carries with it the weight of generations.
They are just things, I remind myself over and over, a thought which should bring clarity and comfort. But next comes a quick yeah, right, things my great-grandmother saved, and my grandmother saved, and my mother saved. Things which are now entrusted to me.
FOR HER PART, my daughter has little interest.
It is a truth of her generation, I think, how they place value on “having less” and “doing more.” Their lives are fuller, more flexible. They are more mobile, better able to take advantage of opportunities and experiences as they come along.
I believe it to be a good, healthy thing.
AND SO I OPEN another box. This one is filled with things that came from my mother’s house, part of a large haul we loaded up and brought here in the busy days, years ago, of emptying her home. I lift out an old high school–or is it college?–yearbook, 1951-1952, and I see tucked below a collection of letters addressed in my hand. I must have sent these to my parents, yes here’s one from camp, a few from college, several from my earliest days as a working girl living three states away. I had not remembered writing even one, and I certainly had no idea Mom was keeping the silly things, the news inside amounting to not one thing of significance. (I would have guessed I was much more profound in those days, but sadly, the letters prove otherwise.) Still I wipe away a tear, I pull them close against my chest and look to the heavens and tell my mother how much it means to me that all these years, she kept them. And in that moment I know they have done what they needed to do. They have reminded me that their existence mattered, and they have released me to now let them go.
I toss the letters to the side, and I reach into the box to discover what comes next.
I just. love this . Your writing is so gentle.
Thank you. I will share this .
I feel your pain, Cathy. But I especially appreciated your thoughts about the younger generation’s attitude about “stuff”
(as my daughter calls my treasures). She is only interested in one end table! sigh.
Swedish artist Margareta Magnusson’s book The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning has given me some insight into the process of decluttering.
Cathy, I hope you’re not going far. We, too, have discussed repeatedly that we need to downsize but the thought of having to go through everything and parting with anything is daunting. I am the keeper of the memories for my grandmothers, mother, and mother-in-law. I find myself taking photos of some treasures that I want to remember but don’t need to maintain physically. And writing about why it matters!
Our girls truly are twins. Sally has no interest in any of the things I’ve saved of hers along the way. She’s like Eliza – doesn’t want stuff burdening them. I envy our girls this freedom. We’ve got a foot in both worlds – wanting to be let go yet wanting to holding on. Let me know when you figure it all out!
There is so much that is the same in our lives! And I love your suggestion of writing about things, which I have done very little of. I will hold to that thought when my life opens back up a tiny bit. And we are not going far! Just to downtown-ish Columbia. Smaller house, smaller yard, a little more urban lifestyle for a change. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here 🙂
I’ve read this several times trying to absorb whatever pixie dust you must have sprinkled over your stuff to allow you to give it away. I’m still struggling with parting with lots of stuff we culled out of my parents’ home six years ago (both are still alive, just living in a smaller place now). I can’t even attempt to start of my own personal boxes of letters, photos, clipping etc living in plastic boxes in my attic. I’ve bookmarked this post and will read it again at a future date when i’m hopefully more ready to start culling thru all this stuff. Thanks for the inspiration!
It is hard, slow work for me, to be sure. But even in the things I am letting go there is the joy in remembering them at all–so much I had forgotten or remember wrong! I am trying hard to soak in that, and then–when I can–release. I wonder if I could have done this one box at a time over a long period. I don’t know. The pressure of much less storage space is doing its work, as well! XXOO
Yes, I, too can relate. I found, and kept, the myriad of postcards I sent my parents from around the world, but now that we live on a boat, had room for very little sentimental items.
I still have copies of mom’s recipes, including one of my all time favorites–Posey’s Chicken!!! I think I’ll make it this week.
I don’t even know what Posey’s Chicken is! Do share! And talk about inspiration–how do you ever decide what to keep with so little space? I love your life, filled with so much adventure and beauty. Girl, you are DOING IT. XXOO
I enjoyed this one a lot. Perhaps because I can so relate.
We did this in Aiken after Mom died. We did it again with stuff we brought from Aiken but were not able to use. We did a bit more before we moved to the Azores and will have to do again when/if we sell our house in Greenville. Thank goodness for Goodwill, for so many reasons. 🙂
Oh my gosh YES thank heavens for Goodwill. It is wonderful to think of the things I no longer need that will bring joy to someone new! Thank heavens Goodwill “recycles” in such meaningful ways! Love watching your journey.
I so needed this today, Cathy! I have been struggling with letting go of my parents’ old pictures & mementos (including several letters from me to them). I have such guilt and angst when I think of throwing them away. And yet, I feel the same at the thought of keeping them in a box for another 40 years taking up precious space. Ugh! Thank you for your insight and, most importantly, for sharing it. ?
I am so happy this helped–it is not coming naturally to me, but I am trying to learn. There is so much I have been holding onto that has done its work. And I think it is good to make room for new. Space is good. XXOO
I’ve been cleaning out ever since Tom died and he was such a pack rat. BUT going through what he saved has been a trip down memory lane – menus from where we ate on our honeymoon, hotels we’ve stayed in all over the country, Brazil, Alaska, Hawaii, etc. plus much memorabilia.
Now I’m looking for an antique dealer to “buy” or “take” the antiques I have. I have just not found where I want to move just yet but when I do, I’ll know.
Wishing you happy packing and an uneventful move.
It is so bittersweet. But I do think it has been a good thing for me, all in all. Thinking of you as you continue the process, dear friend. Yes, let’s share resources! XXOO
I have traveled this road. I’ve sorted the piles of clothes, objects and letters. I’ve made decisions on what to keep and what to discard. This process became an emotional catharsis. I’ve never second guessed the choices I made between what to treasure and what to let go.
I know you have, my sweet friend, and I think about your journey so often. Thanks for inspiring me. 🙂