Thankfully I’ll likely be dead when my kids face the chore of cleaning out my house.
From AARP to Pinterest, sites with tips on getting rid of possessions in our golden years are plentiful. Although safety and downsizing are excellent reasons to eliminate belongings, so our children won’t have to do it is a huge incentive.
Long before I became a senior citizen I wrote in a humor column that I knew and appreciated the difference between clutter and sentiment. I still maintain that I am not a hoarder. You could walk into my house any time unannounced and find no pathways, off-limits rooms or stacks of reading material on the floor. Nor would you take a picture for a magazine cover. Kind friends call it homey. I concede to being more sentimental about stuff than most people.
When my teenage grandson was visiting last week, he asked how I remember who gave me what. My heart knows, I told him. When I’m gone, others will know from the discreet notes all over the place. Plus names on things, I continued, showing him the undersides of a crucifix and snowman mug he and his sister gave me years ago.
Notes in my china cabinet explain that the stemmed glassware was a wedding gift to my parents 70 years ago and the pig pitcher came from my great-grandmother’s house in South Philly.
This treasured bowl is stored with the card that came with it.
My father’s card to me on my first Christmas says “I love you, Punkin” in his handwriting. It’s in my living room.
My boyfriend of more than three years jokes (perhaps not) that one reason we don’t marry or live together is because he doesn’t want my Chambersburg stuff in his house. Actually, he uses another “s” word. He is referring to my hometown Cat’s Meow collection in my kitchen that includes the old train station that later served as the newspaper office where I worked and a landmark ice cream stand …
… and lots of other mementoes:
I have earnestly tried to declutter. When I retired four years ago I used my new free time to do a serious purge. Or so I thought until my daughter-in-law shared “Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui,” a book by Karen Kingston, when I was visiting them in California. It made me want to rush home and toss more. Using the recommended trash, repairs, recycle and transit boxes I made decent progress … until I got to sentimental items. Kingston preaches to “keep the best and fling the rest” and don’t get hung up because things were gifts or you might need them someday. Let them go, with love, she says. Ouch!
Even more ruthless, in my opinion, is the much-hyped book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. She advises sorting everything you own into categories, then holding each item to your chest and asking yourself if it sparks joy. If not, dispose.
I embraced Kondo’s system of rolling clothes and using shoeboxes in drawers for visibility and neatness—very cool storage tricks.
But I balked at throwing away treasure boxes like these:
There’s more. Like the box of all of my newspaper clippings. And the cedar chest packed with scrapbooks, high school memorabilia and other keepsakes. Though seldom, I do look at these things, cherishing most of the memories. I’m not ready to part with them yet. Maybe by the time my children have to go through my possessions there will be fewer of them.
Those who knew her agree that I have become my mother in many ways, particularly her sentiment. Now that she is gone I also hold onto some of her keepsakes, most in a plastic bin but others on display with mine. These plastic Glick’s Shoes promotions from the 1950s—joy sparkers, for sure—sat on Mom’s dressing table. (My note is showing in the blue one!)
Like my mother, I have shelves of photo albums. Several months after she died my brothers and I gathered around a large table and looked at every page of every single one of them together. We had fun reminiscing. Some of us took whole books but for the most part we each pulled out individual pictures we wanted and slid what was left of the desecrated albums into a large trash can at one end of the table.
If I could do that, I fear my kids will have no remorse trashing my photos without even opening the albums. Please look. Read my notes, too.