Several of the blogs I read regularly have featured posts recently about the feeling that you have too much “stuff” (here and here). This was definitely a timely issue for me as I face the chore of unpacking the last few boxes after our move 4 months ago.
These boxes contain things that were stored in the basement or a closet of our old house. With no basement and minimal closet storage in our current house, where will this stuff find a home? If it’s been packed away and out of use for 2 or 3 or more tours of duty, why am I even holding on to it? It would seem logical that our military lifestyle, with the frequent moving into housing ranging from 1500 to 3000 square feet, would prevent me from accumulating and hanging on to a lot of stuff. Sometimes, though, I think just the opposite happens. The curtains in one house don’t work in the next. No central air means you pick up a few window fans. You need more or fewer shower curtains than you had before. Now you have wall-to-wall carpeting, but at the last house you needed area rugs. At some point I guess I figured it was less expensive to hold on to things “just in case.”
The harder issue concerns what to do with the mountains of sentimental stuff. We have boxes full of yearbooks, scrapbooks (the old-fashioned kind with newspaper clippings, greeting cards, and pictures), report cards, kids’ artwork vacation souvenirs, and so on. I rarely open the boxes to look at this stuff, and it doesn’t really flood me with warm, fuzzy memories. These take up space we really don’t have. But it also takes up energy to hold on to these things. Unpacking after each move would take a lot less time if I didn’t have all of that wedding crystal that we’ve never used in 18 years. Maybe I could breathe a little easier if I didn’t feel like I had to find a storage space for all of those mementos.
Why is there so much guilt involved in getting rid of these things that really aren’t giving me any pleasure? Will later generations hate me because I didn’t pass down any heirlooms? What makes something heirloom-worthy anyway? Am I a bad mother for not keeping the kids’ old report cards for posterity? How can I tell if something will be an artifact someday or just junk?
My immigrant not-so-distant ancestors came to this country with basically nothing. They started whole new lives without worrying about “things”. I don’t know if they grieved about leaving family treasures behind. It’s more likely that they were so poor in the Old Country that there were no treasures. So is it that important to keep things to pass on to future generations? How much of a loss will they feel if they don’t have any of their grandmother’s things?
The magazines make it seem so easy to get a serene, uncluttered home. The covers scream at me every month to “Simplify!” The professional organizers and life coaches quoted in the articles gives lots of perky tips for decluttering and eliminating excess. So why am I still stuck with these last couple of boxes?