A few weeks ago I shared a link to an article, Nobody wants your stuff, (and within the article, a link to Nobody wants your parents’ stuff) and it really spoke true to me (not about my parents’ stuff specifically, but other people’s stuff). Now, before I go on, I want any family members who might happen to read this, to know that I mean no hard feelings and to still ask me if I want something because I just still might. I do have limited space for sentimental items and photos (I love old photos!). But big things? Not so much, unless I actually have a need for it or a place for it within our house. This is just how I feel, and apparently I’m not the only one.
Many boomers and Gen X’ers charged with disposing the family heirlooms, it seems, are unprepared for the reality and unwilling to face it. “They’re not picking out formal china patterns anymore. I have three sons. They don’t want anything of mine. I totally get it.” –Susan Devaney, The Mavins Group
This, it seems, is 21st-century life — and death. “I don’t think there is a future” for the possessions of our parents’ generation, says Eppel. “It’s a different world.”
As a person, as a homeowner, as someone who likes to keep a neat, clean house where everything has a place and purpose, I can not for the life of me stand useless clutter. More specifically, I can not stand other people’s useless clutter that they no longer wanted so they passed it on to me instead under the guise of a gift, or plainly because they didn’t have the heart (or guts) to just throw it away themselves.
And the funny thing is, is I totally know what they must have been feeling when it came to not having the guts to throw it out. There’s some things I can’t bare to throw out either, and if I was faced with moving or downsizing and I couldn’t bring it with me, what would I do with it? Just the thought makes me sweat. But if you were to ask someone else to throw it out for you, they’d have no problem. Why? Because they have no sentimental connection to it.
People are connected to the memories the items gives them and that makes it hard to throw away, so what’s the next best thing do to with something you don’t want to throw away? Give it to someone else and let them deal with it. Then, clap your hand together and say AHA! NOT MY PROBLEM ANYMORE!
So there is one specific incident that stands out in my mind, when we were living in Pennsylvania within driving distance to our families (which thinking back, this would never have happened if we were still living in California, because how in the world would they have conveniently gotten two giant tubs of Christmas crap out to us?) So this family member left these two giant tubs in our garage during a housewarming party with the hopes of us picking out some decorations we liked enough to keep….telling us three daughters-in-law to share them amongst ourselves …. Only I didn’t like any of these things. I already had my own Christmas decorations and Christmas villages and Christmas stockings. I only had so much space to work with and specific tables to put my decorations on. (My spaces were already claimed because when I shop for decorations, I go in knowing I have a 2 foot space to put something on, on this one specific table, or I have a small empty space on the wall perfect for a 12×12 picture frame). So I didn’t want any of it. Not only because of not having room, but it wasn’t my taste. But I also didn’t want to seem ungrateful so I chose the least ugliest thing and said thank you. And now we still have it, because my husband connects to it since it was from his side of the family, and it still doesn’t have a place to go so I feel resentment every Christmas since while placing it on my end table, which is not a place I want to put it but have no where else to put it.
But the main point I was going to make about this one incident was that I especially didn’t want the baby ornaments with someone else’s name on them. Can you imagine, here we are, starting our OWN family, and hanging a baby ornament on our tree from 1980 with some other kid’s name on it? And the thing that really gets me angry over this blantant dumping-of-the-crap on us, was that this family member had probably offered the Baby’s 1st Christmas ornaments to the person who it was actually intended for, whose name matched the name on the ornament, but they said no. So guess we were the next rung on the ladder!
But I also didn’t have the heart to throw these giant tubs away. Some of this stuff could probably sell on eBay. They may have been worth a decent amount of money to make it worth the effort of taking photos and putting up a listing. But I didn’t have time for all that. No, I’m sorry, I didn’t have the patience for all that. Why were they dumping this job on me? So now I was either stuck with this crap in my house that has no place to live, or feel guilty for throwing it away cold heartedly. Why couldn’t they have thrown their own stuff away themselves instead of passing it on to someone else to do? Or had a garage sale? Or given it to their own next of kin being as insistent as they were with us on keeping it? You know, the owner of said Baby’s 1st Christmas ornament!
Well, sad to say, in the end, I was forced to become the cold hearted bitch who threw the remaining decorations away with the next week’s trash pickup. I didn’t want to be, but I had no choice unless I wanted the clutter to win and take over my house which I would not let happen.
Another time, which has actually been in the works for the last 5 years or so, has been getting my grandma’s German dinnerware out to me. It’s a topic of conversation every time we visit NY. She is no longer living in her house, and these plates are worth a lot of money, but I’ll be the one to take these plates on as the oldest granddaughter once they finally make their way out to Colorado.
But I already feel guilty because I don’t have space in my kitchen for them. Every space is already in use. We don’t have space in our house for a hutch to store them in. We have an eat-in kitchen, no dining room, so limited space as it is. The plates aren’t practical for everyday use, they are fragile and an heirloom. So they will probably end up in our storage space in a box down in the basement. And if I remember to pull them out for Christmas, then that will be the only time they come to light. Which I suppose is better than nothing, but don’t they deserve a better life than that? I certainly don’t feel right about selling them, and I won’t.
I just don’t like stuff. I don’t like useless things. I have a hard enough time with Lachlan’s toys being everywhere, but at least he plays with them, it gives him something to do and me some quiet time while he’s playing with them. So I make do and don’t mind cleaning them up at the end of the day. But all the shelves and cabinets and closets in our house are strategically full and in use. I like to use all the things in my house and the things that don’t get used, get tossed or sold. I want to love all the things that come into my house. Something I could either use or couldn’t live without.
And unless it was my mom’s or dad’s (or Brian’s mom’s or dad’s), I can certainly live without someone else’s Baby’s 1st Christmas ornament on my tree.