Category Archives: Goodbye to all that stuff

You can’t take it with you, Pt 2 …

So get busy and start getting rid of it–now!

Susan Caba
The Resale Evangelista

“I am not done with my things. I love them, in fact, more and more each year, as I recollect the journey that brought us together. I will cherish them, till death do us part….I am also fantasizing about how I am going to pass my things on to my children. Who, I insist, must take them.”

Dominique Browning, 2015

Browning, former editor of House and Garden magazine, imagines watching over her children through her possessions.  “The cells from my sweaty palms, or the eye beams from my covetous gaze, will reside in my things forever.”

Well that’s creepy.  I picture Jacob Marley haunting Scrooge but instead of chains forged “of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds and heavy purses wrought in steel,” he’s shackled to a dining room table and 12 matching chairs.

I get it–and I like it–that belongings may carry the aura of previous owners. But immortality,  much as we might wish for it, cannot be achieved through household goods. Insisting that someone else cherish our things–all of them–as much as we did, is just selfish.

DSCF2277

My late friend Lisa collected quirky plates

When a friend, youngish, died unexpectedly in her sleep a few years ago, her
husband called me an hour after the paramedics left with her body. He was
wailing with heartbreak. The second or third sentence out of his mouth? “What
am I going to do with all this stuff?”

Beside her desolate husband, she left behind a house she inherited from her father, along with all the belongings he had accumulated in a long life. She couldn’t bear to part with any of it, and she’d added 20 years of her own possessions.

She made her husband promise to keep the house if she died first (which neither of them expected). Two years later, he still has the grand piano, a kayak, and the bicycle she grew up riding as a child in Spain.  Not to mention china belonging to her mother and two grandmothers, among many other items.

wood planers

Old wood planers, well worn and probably well loved, await life with new owners

My son’s generation doesn’t want to be weighed down by possessions. They don’t feel connected to things the way earlier generations did, maybe because things are much more abundant and affordable. Besides, my parents had seven children on which to offload their stuff. I have one child and he’s married to another only child. Even if they wanted to, how much, realistically, could they absorb?

Not only do our families not want our furnishings and memorabilia.  No one else does, either.  The market is flooded with the possessions of baby boomers ready to downsize while coping with getting rid of their parents’ belongings. I think about that every so often as I stroll through a thrift store or antique mall, perusing the discarded relics, remnants and treasures of other lives.

Browning scoffs at the pared-down lives of minimalists. “I would like to submit an entirely different agenda … One that acknowledges that in living, we accumulate. We admire. We desire. We love. We collect. We display. And over the course of a lifetime, we forage, root and rummage around in our stuff, because that is part of what it means to be human. We treasure.”

steiff bear w:boxes 2
Steiff Rock-A-Bear, from the Evangelista’s  family  living room, now in storage awaiting the possibility of grandchildren.

Age and family circumstances have made my mother determined to dispose of possessions while she is still alive. She once told me that the living room–embellished with family photographs, travel souvenirs and small, quirky details–was “the story of my life.” Now it’s an empty stage, sparsely furnished.

We may hope that others will love, desire, collect and display the things we imbued with meaning and treasured.

In the meantime? If you think you are ever going to move–or die–start getting rid of stuff now!  Your heirs will profoundly thank you.

The Resale Evangelista is editing, clarifying and trying to create a more artful life. It’s a two-steps-forward, one-step-backward kind of process. But she soldiers on. Please, let the Evangelista know she’s not alone–let me know if you, too, are dealing with generations of belongings. Especially let me know if you have discovered a workable solution!

 

Gone, bit by bit

Books and photos and stuff … oh, my!

steiff bear w:boxes 2

Susan Caba
The Resale Evangelista

I had reason yesterday to look under my couch with a flashlight. Tip to anyone inclined to do the same: Don’t. Under no circumstances should you look under your couch more than twice a year. Especially not with a flashlight.

The beam of light revealed a harsh landscape of down feathers, dust and various unidentified crumb-y looking things on the hardwood floor. No dead bugs, dirty socks or other major debris, so that was a plus. No money, either—a negative. Anyway, I was looking for my cat, whose tortoise-shell coloring provided the perfect camouflage for hiding under the sofa.

Normally, I clean house only when I’ve exhausted all other forms of procrastination. I do make my bed every day. Whoo-hoo! Lately though, I’ve taken an incremental approach to housekeeping.Not a room at a time, that’s too much commitment. I do just as much as I can, then quit. Doesn’t matter if I’ve dusted but haven’t vacuumed. Next time.

"Kobayashi Issa." AZQuotes.com. Wind and Fly LTD, 2017. 28 May 2017. http://www.azquotes.com/quote/692401

I’ve found cleaning takes a lot less time this way and, overall, the apartment is generally cleaner than under my previous system. The old way, in which I aspired to clean a room at a time or the whole place, took way too long. Mainly because of my need to notice the place was dirty, deny the place was dirty, anguish over my sloth, go out and buy new cleaning supplies, and even, in extreme circumstances, sit down and write something. Then I got around to cleaning—maybe.

This incremental thing doesn’t come easily. I’m definitely an instant gratification gal. It has been said—infrequently, mind you—that I have the attention span of a flea. As a kid, I didn’t mind cleaning the kitchen because, with seven kids using the kitchen, the mess made it easy to see progress. Although it really burned me up if, while I was cleaning, someone came in and started making a peanut butter sandwich or poured a glass of milk. Any progress I’d made was spoiled.

Finally, I’ve realized that, yes, progress can be made inch by inch. Incrementalism works in writing (though a deadline really helps). It worked for me in building an art collection over the last several decades, one flea market or thrift shop find at a time. I’ve heard it works in creating an exercise habit, or losing weight, though I can’t testify to that. And it works in getting rid of stuff.

Decluttering can be done gradually. Don't stress about doing it all at once. Just start.

Storage locker bound

The number of my possessions, compared to three years ago, is significantly reduced. It took me two years, but I finally condensed the contents of a three bedroom house with a full basement and a double garage to one ten-by-ten storage locker. (Alright, there was another, smaller locker for a brief time.) I now live in a two-bedroom apartment. Besides the ample closets and cupboards, the only additional storage space is the shower–yes, the shower–in the second bathroom.

Last week, I tackled the shower storage. I need a place for the cat box, so the shower has to be cleared. Besides various boxes of books, it contains two tennis rackets, a basket of tennis balls, a large stuffed Steiff bear that converts to a rock-a-bear, a plastic bin that I believe contains tools (too soon to tell, it’s at the bottom of a stack) and two sets of diving fins, goggles and snorkels, which I bought at Goodwill, intending to sell. (I don’t do that anymore. At least, not much.) Oh, and a box of Max’s children’s books, which I kept, as well as a box of his comic books, which he chose for me to keep.

The bad thing about incrementalism is that it creates temporary disarray, which can easily turn permanent. In order to empty the shower and get rid of stuff, I have to take that stuff out of the shower. I’m doing it a box or two at a time.

Volleyball signed by Olympic champion Karch Kiraly

Goodbye volleyball & comics!

So far, the diving gear, a shower rack and some books have gone to Goodwill. The comics and a signed volleyball will soon be reunited with their rightful owner.

As regular readers know, my number one rule for streamlining and creating a more artful life is this: If you think you are ever going to move—or die—start now! If you do that, the good news is that you don’t have to do it all at once.

When I was a kid, one of seven ages 1 to 12 years, my mother had a cleaning lady who came in twice a week to restore order in the house. My mother would leave her with the kids and return to find the house clean. Once I heard her ask, “Mary, how do you do it?” Her answer was maybe my first lesson in incrementalism: “Honey, I just start.”

So I’ve started on the storage shower, disposing or dispensing of its contents. Good thing, too. Because when I was searching for the cat, I had to look under the beds. And you wouldn’t believe how much stuff was packed beneath them!

Tortoise shell cat with golden eyes

Marla, the disappearing cat

The Resale Evangelista is simplifying, clarifying and trying to live a more artful life. She’s saying Goodbye to All That Stuff (well, a lot of it) in the process.

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