November 16, 2011
What do you keep?
It is amazing the stuff we all keep don't you think? Currently we are in the process of emptying our attic so we can lay down a floor. We have been bringing down boxes that haven't been opened since they were stored up there when we bought the house in 1998. There is going to be a huge "attic" sale at our house next Saturday. But it did get me to thinking about what we have kept and why.
A few years ago there was a series on one of the home improvement channels that tackled people's home that were overfilled with stuff. I am not talking about hoarder, that's in a category all its own. The show was called Clean Hose and Neicy Nash was the host. There are a couple of shows like this at the time but this was my favorite. The teams would go into the home and empty EVERYTHING out into the yard. The family then had to divide their belongings into three piles: Keep, Sell, and Trash. The moaning and groaning that went into that process was what made viewers watch week and after week. The attachment the owners had to belongings was something to behold. With the help of decorators/counselors eventually the
patients’ guests’ would realize that their happiness wasn't tied to their belongings. The more heart wrenching moments on the show occurred when the guests had to decide on things that belonged to family members since gone. How many items did it take for them to hold onto their memories?
We had to learn this lesson the hard way ourselves. Back in 2002/2003 both Michael and I lost our Dads within 6 months of each other. We lived in Florida while both of our mothers still lived on Long Island. As I have mentioned before we are the "black sheep" of the family. This came into play as we left both funerals with nothing of our fathers to take home with us. I’llk be honest that was really hard to handle for a long time. My Dad and I had collected Toby Jugs. We were most proud that we had found King Henry VIII and his Queens. There were jugs from my kids as well. While I know that these are things he would have wanted me and my family to have it just didn't happen. (He foolishly died without a will). Michael's Mom passed away a couple of years later, again no will. She had lived with his sister for quite a while and it was up to her to decide how the "memories" would be divided. When a box finally arrived for Michael inside was primarily ALL of the pictures we had ever sent of our kids, costume jewelry pieces (not the nice ones we had bought her over the years), and a few token items. Like I said we had to learn the hard way that our memories aren't connected to things.
As we are emptying the attic we've come to realize that we have pretty much passed this concept onto our kids. Emily was into American Girl so we have those dolls. Patrick didn't have much up there; a box of his back braces and one giant floor turtle. MaryEllen has most of her "keeps" in her closet. We don't have a lot of baby items anymore. We do have a ton of books and puzzles~ have to keep something for those "someday grandbabies". But really there isn't very much else that's new from our family up there.
So what in heavens was in those boxes we've been toting around? Items that we thought were so important we had to keep so their memories would remain alive. We found a box of winery glasses from our honeymoon, a thirty plus piece collection of Precious Moments figurines, as well as our high school long coats (which was a big thing in the 80's). There was a box of stuff from college which contained my wall calendars and school newspapers. What's funny about that one is the box touched my heart more than its contents as it was addressed by my Dad and seeing his handwriting felt like a hug from the past.
Now the one item strictly off limits to this whole conversation is the box that holds my wedding gown. While I don't believe either of my girls will ever wear it I do have plans for it. The lace will be used to add layers to each baby's Christening gown. The fabric will be used to make Bride's Bags. That box will be moved with me forever.
As I look around my house I realize that we don't have many things the kids are going to be fighting over when the time comes to divide up the loot. What I hope I have done is create memories that are more cherished than a piece of china. I used to think how nice it would be to have a piece of furniture from generations passed to pass onto my kids. Now I think that less is more and in the long run less to pass on will mean less hurt feelings and arguments when my estate (HAH) is eventually divided.