For me this is a stroll down memory lane. For you, more likely the antidote for insomnia you've been looking for - if you make it to the end.
When I returned home from boarding school, (probably not how you're picturing boarding school), I had my first experience at "purging my stuff". I was in elementary school and living with my mom when I left, and when I returned I was starting high school and moving to the desert to live with my dad.
Dad had a 3-bedroom house so downsizing was not a consideration. My belongings, acquired over 13 years, were transported in a large moving van. Maybe not Mayflower moving van, but definitely not U-Haul trailer. So purging was really more dividing stuff between "keep to wear and use and look at" and "keep in a box because it's mine and I love it". There were several of the latter. Like there-goes-the-third-bedroom several.
Going away to college I purged again. Kept my bedroom for coming home to visit, but Dad put his foot down about the untouched boxes with four years of dust. This time I really had to Get. Rid. Of. Stuff. What an ogre.
At 17 years old I was going through boxes of dolls and tea sets and frilly dresses and pictures of little kids who had been my friends and whose names I no longer remembered. It was delightful! What a wonderful childhood I had, what great feelings all that stuff brought back. I should put these treasures in a museum!
Or give most of it away to the little girls I had been babysitting for the past four years :-).
I pared it down to a handful of boxes which the ogre (the man was a friggin' saint) begrudgingly found room for in his garage. There was no "feeling lighter", but I do remember thinking I had taken a big step to being a grown up. Remember when we couldn't wait to do that? Suckers.
Not everything went to the girls or the garage, or even the trash. Quite a few things went with me to college. As is often the case, my roommates and I moved apartments every year which meant annual purging. As a result I have almost nothing from my college years but photos. However, many of the things I had taken with me from home found their way into new boxes, now stored with my mom (the other saint).
Graduated from college and over the next seven years: new man, new house, new baby, new job, new separation. Every new brought out the old to get rid of for moving to the next one. Mom and Dad both retired and the stored childhood boxes were whittled down to one or two (to show my son, to give to my grandkids, to remember my history). These were stored in my own garage, along with boxes of stuff from my short adulthood.
I moved north and over the next six years: new man, new ranch, new baby, new promotion, new terminal illness, new widowhood. My first experience at purging someone else's stuff. Less delightful. His older kids only wanted a couple items. There was only me to keep his things (to show my sons, to give to my grandkids, to remember his history). I had a ranch. With a barn. With out-buildings. I kept a lot.
12 months later Dad passed. He lived in Quartzsite, AZ. He passed in July. See? - Ogre. I miss him.
An acre of big stuff with a two-story garage (he thought I had issues with boxes??), multiple vehicles, a lifetime of documents, photos, and tools to rival Sears, gave a whole new meaning to purging. Did I mention it was July? In Quartzsite? I learned to go through wooden crates with gloves and a pot holder.
I also learned the value of asking for help. Cousins and friends bought most of the big things and I gave away a lot of sentimental items to those who wanted them. When I sold the property to a family friend I left a lot of stuff. I still had a ranch. I took a lot home. He was my dad, I was his only child, there was only me to keep his things (to show to my sons, to show his grandkids, to remember his history).
A couple years later I left the ranch: new fiance', new suburban home, new hobbies, new job location. One of the draws of this large home was the storage - built-in cupboards, attic in the garage. Although I went through the boxes again, I got rid of very little. Moving from the ranch meant unloading "ranch-type" things, but everything else came along.
A couple more years and I moved south again: same fiance', new house, new friends, new schools. Making that move necessitated the second big purge. I learned I like doing yard sales and I had many. For the first time I assessed the "why" of some of the things I was still hauling around. The antique bedroom set with the dressing table was for my daughter. I had two sons. I was 40 years old. I sold the set. Somewhat painful, but the reason I had kept it didn't exist, so I had to let go. Still, the very, very large moving van was full when it pulled out.
Less than a year and I moved to the desert: newly single, new house, new schools. It was a quick move and by necessity I unloaded a lot of things. And yet when I had a garage built on the property I made sure there was plenty of storage room. The small storage building in the back was completely full.
The oldest graduated from high school and moved to a small apartment in the city. Too small for most of his stuff so it stayed with me (to use later, to show his children, to remember his history).
My job changed and not long after, I moved again: still single, one son, rented house, same boxes. The house was four bedrooms with a three-car garage. Yep, filled it up.
My god parents passed and left everything to me. They lived in the same place for 30 years (fortunately just an hour away) with two huge garages. Her wardrobe would have clothed a small country. They were collectors - one of the garages was wall-to-wall model train set-up including the lighted villages. It took me over a month to get everything out and most of the big things sold - including their modular home. I periodically apologized to my dad, the saint indeed.
That experience changed my relationship with stuff. Going through boxes not opened in over 20 years (dates on newspaper), photo albums of un-identified people and places, years of pay stubs and greeting cards and contracts and receipts and other documents - it was such an eye-opener! Pantry items with expiration dates over five years old. Many things had been their parents' and stored so long they were disintegrating. Clothes and linens were discolored with age. No children, so no grandchildren. Why would anyone keep stuff for so long and never use it?
I spent the next three months going through everything I owned, doing a real purge. Every cupboard, every closet, every garage shelf, every box. The hardest part was that I not only had my own things but also stuff from four people who had passed. And two kids. That "responsibility" is a heavy one. There is a legacy in stuff.
I took two weeks vacation when I moved to the new house in Wildomar. When I went back to work everything had a place. Two cars were parked in the garage. There was no separate storage place.
There were still boxes of Christmas decorations. There were boxes with baby blankets and kindergarten drawings and handmade cards. There were boxes of favorite toys and books. There was one box each of "mementos" from those who left. I kept two collections, undecided on whether to sell or not.... Everything else was put to use or displayed.
Geez, this got really long, really fast. I won't blame you if you bail, but it's almost done. Really.
We bought the house we're in now (told you it was almost done), and I got rid of the Wildomar house. Big yard sale, opening the house to friends to take what they wanted, two loads in the pick-up. Done. Two households combined into one. Car parked in the garage one week after moving in.
We have an attic and large closets and a good size 2-car garage with lots of shelves and cupboards. There are still boxes. There are still furniture and books and wonderful things used and displayed. It is not a large house but it holds a lot. And it's definitely bigger than an RV.
So after all those moves, all the memories I made, all the memories my children made, all the memories I was given to hold on to, all the history I felt responsible for keeping for others - and all the subsequent sorting and reducing and purging - what's left? And why is that stuff still with me?
Two reasons I think. One is: for my sons, for my grandchildren, for history.
Admittedly my sons have enjoyed their own strolls down memory lane when boxes have been opened over the years. They haven't wanted to take them, but their enjoyment was worth having kept them, and I don't regret it. I don't have grandchildren yet. My sons are adults now and it is up to them to decide if they want to keep anything for themselves and their children. It took a while, but I'm good with that part now. For history?
That ties to the second reason: that 17-year-old still lives inside me.
No longer dolls and such, but certain items still evoke that delight of decades ago. What a wonderful life I've lived, what great feelings that stuff brings back!
One thing is from as far back as my own kindergarten. (How did it not break through all the moves?)
Some things came from my parents and my kids over the years. Others are very recent that Bill gave me.
|Worn by me, then Brian, then Jeff.....sweet|
The stuff I've kept is of very little financial value. That hasn't even been a factor in keeping them (well maybe the kids' trading cards and the native american jewelry).
Instead, THAT stuff is memories and feelings and legacy.
I'm not taking it with me. I may keep a few things. I will photograph all of it and safely store those photos.
And I'll re-read this very long post that has somehow spun itself into a kind of purging of it's own. I enjoy sharing it with you. But this one's for me.