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