I used to think I came from a long line of packrats, but as I age, I realize that there's more to it than just keeping things. There is stuff that we keep. Yep, stuff. You know what I'm talking about. Stuff.
Stuff takes up space in the physical world even when space is limited. We all have it, but what do we do with it? What do we do with all those things that mean something to us (or we just can't let go) but take up space? So. Much. Space!
In her later years, my mom used to tell us to not buy her THINGS or more stuff. She only wanted gifts to be things that would be consumed. This desire came from being overwhelmed with stuff - you know - pictures, an old safe, trunks filled with old letters from one or both of her parents, correspondence from relatives, newspaper clippings of recipes, steamer trunks with old college papers, china, crystal, figurines, furniture, jewelry, knickknacks, etc., etc., etc. - the list is long, really long. It's not that she didn't enjoy some of the stuff, it's just that there was SO MUCH of it. How does one individual (no siblings) process (and part with) so many things left behind by loved ones?
When Mom passed in 2000, the four of us had to clean out her house. It was obvious that she had been overwhelmed by the stuff, because she still had so much of it that had been moved out of her parents' house when it was sold. At least there were 4 of us to split the stuff among, not just one. Amazingly (or not so amazingly), we did just trash some things. You wouldn't know it by the boxes and piles of stuff that got moved into the house where I live now, but we did spend at least one day taking boxes out of the basement and garage, rummaging through them, and deciding to toss them - the piles of trash ran the length of the sidewalk in front of her house. Not only did we find unmarked photos of relatives, we found farming records from my grandfather who had passed away in 1960. Even now, 20-plus years later, I'm still going through the stuff and it can be physically and emotionally draining.
When Mother-step passed in 2016, there were 6 of us to split things among, along with some adult grandchildren. There was a lot of stuff but most of it was Dad's and Mother-step's, not older stuff. We still had a lot of stuff to sort through - flight logs, a TRS-80 computer in the original box, tools, nails, screws, towels, furniture, dishes, flatware, etc. - but not near the quantity and generations of stuff as Mom's house. I had also learned to be a bit more discerning in what stuff I wanted to keep and I think we all had to a certain extent.
In the past year (thanks to being at home so much more), I've started the process of becoming un-stuffed. With the help of my husband, I've hauled boxes full of Mom's stuff out of my basement. I've done cursory reviews of what was in the boxes and just started burning it. No, it wasn't anything of real importance - I'm talking about Mom's divorce papers, bank statements, financial records, and so many random things she had saved that I understand how overwhelming it can be. I have taken photos of some things, saved a few others and donated anything worth anything, but a lot has been burned or simply trashed - constantly asking myself what would my children do with it if I were suddenly no longer around.
It. Has. Been. MARVELOUS!
And I haven't stopped there. Some of the boxes that were pulled from the basement were my things. I've burned, sorted and donated loads of stuff. I still have stuff that was my Mom's, my Dad's and my Grandparent's, but I am a bit more discerning in what I'm keeping. I still struggle with what to keep and what to permanently remove, but it is happening and it is liberating to know I'm opening space for the new - not just physically but mentally and emotionally. It's a process - a long and slow one - but it's happening. I am becoming un-stuffed.
Are you stuffed? What are you doing to become un-stuffed?
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