This last couple of years I have written frequently about our process of letting go and discarding things we do not use anymore. The letting go is an emotional, psychological and sentimental exercise as well as being physical. We all tend to cling to things that have memories attached to them, particularly if they belong to someone we love. I suppose it is because in keeping these things, we feel as if we have a small part of that person around us which gives us comfort.
Throughout this time of discarding things, I have carefully packed up items I knew our children would delight in having….Memories of times gone by…things I inherited from my Mother, Father and Grandparents were put into small boxes for them to unpack at a later date. But, I asked them first before I did so. No sense in foisting on our adult children something they do not want! Each one tells me what they are interested in and as always, each ones choices are as different from each other as they are.
I have already gifted some of my Mothers and Mother in laws things to our daughter who has them in her home where she can enjoy them now. She was given the choice of what she wanted and there were a few things she loved and asked for. It is fun to go and visit her and see these things when I am there. There are not many, because she did not want many, but what IS there, I enjoy, and so does she. She calls it the Ancestor Section which consists of an antique buffet of my Mothers on which sits a wedding lamp of ours and some photos of both sets of Grandparents plus a very few little collectibles. Not much, but enough.. Looking at these family things brings up all kinds of warm and happy memories of times gone by. I think the joy comes in the feeling of continuity of family through the generations.
Recently, we had our young neighbors over for breakfast in our courtyard as a gesture of farewell because they were moving the next morning to New York! They lived here in Texas for 5 years and now they were moving on. They are a young couple with a 14 year old daughter and as we sat and chatted with them, the subject of packing stuff for their move came up. She told me that they had packed the majority of their things themselves because the moving company rates were outrageous. She continued on to say that because she was a minimalist, the packing was not as bad as it could have been.
In our conversation, she began to talk about the differences between her Mother and her when it came to their homes. While she is a minimalist, her Mother is a collector of all things. She is not a hoarder, but she has a penchant for pretty collections which she can well afford as she is a Biochemical Engineer and her husband is an Attorney,
She laughingly talked of her parents attempt to downsize. Apparently, they had too many gardens to care for which became to much for them and she said they sold their home and bought another home that was the same size as their previous home but on a much smaller lot. She asked her Mother why they bought another big house since the adult children are all off living their own lives. Mother said, “Well, we want to have space for our children to come visit”. The daughter said ”But, no one comes to visit other than maybe once a year”. Mother said, “It doesn’t matter, I want people to be comfortable when they come to stay.”
She went on to lovingly mock her Mothers way of life and commented on how her Mother wanted to pass down a family heirloom tea set to her granddaughter who is the only grandchild on either side. Neither the granddaughter nor her daughter wanted it, but they finally took it begrudgingly at the insistence of Grandma. At this point of the conversation, Mother and daughter looked at each other and laughed.
I found myself shrinking inside to witness how some descendants of our generation see us and think of us. I felt sorry for her Mother because obviously her daughter doesn’t understand the mothers life story. She also did not have the intuition to simply be a gracious receiver of something Grandmother held dear. The “art” of gracious receiving did not exist here. Another thought flitted through my mind that many in our children’s generation do not seem sentimental about generations past. Many in the younger generation see things through a different lens than we did. We valued a loved ones material goods for sentimental reasons. So many of our descendants don’t feel that way and I think it is because a lot of this generation in America were raised in a world of seeming abundance.
As she went on talking about her Moms expensive collections which require display cases and curios, I found myself thinking of my own collections acquired through the years…figurines, artists proofs and prints, lovely dishes… (she said “my Mom has TWO sets of dishes and silverware….can you even imagine that?”)
( Uh, yes…I actually can.) ( 🥰 Lol! )
Then she and her daughter laughed while shaking their heads at their Mother/Grandmothers folly. She proudly said, “I only buy what I need. No excess for me!”. Neither Mother or Daughter recognized the intention of love attached to a piece of history behind the family heirlooms being offered. They were simply seeing the gesture as something to avoid.
Now, I DO want to add that as I describe our conversation that day, it may make our neighbor seem insensitive or unkind. I do not believe she was intentionally meaning to be either one.. She was simply and candidly expressing her thoughts and fortunately her Mother wasn’t here to hear it. She was expressing how she felt and it helped clarify to me how my generation may be seen through the eyes of the next generation. Ouch! 🙂
Heirlooms? These were things we once coveted when WE were young and first married. Beautiful antique furniture and home goods were a much desired acquisition in those days. But, in those days, there were still a fair amount of women who were housewives, raising their children while their husband put in long hours to support the family. Because she spent so much time at home, a woman enjoyed feathering her nest, so to speak. Most women are nesters of one form or another. We are a product of the era we grew up in and it all seemed perfectly normal at the time.
In the course of our long drawn out exercise of seeking the “Less is more” lifestyle, I have seen first hand the accumulation of what nearly 50 years of marriage brings about. In our case, we have moved a LOT of times which allowed for some discarding of certain things along the way, so while we are not buried in stuff, we still have much more than we need.
What I have discovered is that material goods hold very little value anymore because there is so much excess in the world we live in. The thrift shop in our small community built a much larger building about a year ago and it is already FULL of peoples cast offs. The cast offs in this area are very good quality because we live in a city in constant transition with people moving in and moving out all the time. One of the Managers of the store told my husband that they make about $100,000.00 a month in sales, which after paying their mortgage and utilities, ALL goes to local and city charities. All workers there are volunteers. This makes me feel good as we drive over with another load of things for them to sell, things we do not need anymore.
When I first started this project, I often felt overwhelmed as I sifted through years of goods that brought about memories. I was one of those Mothers who really believed in what the Norman Rockwell paintings conveyed. This was what I dreamed about and hoped for. What I did not realize was how much times were changing and how those beautiful paintings were depictions of times gone by, not of what the future would present. My material possessions were always purchased with the intent of serving our family and friends and creating memories. It was all innocently done with the best of intentions.
These days, we tend to gather more frequently as a family at our children’s homes where casual is the name of the day. We LOVE spending time with them at their homes where we can be the company versus serving as the Host, Hostess, Chef, Server and clean up crew. Yes! I like this new way of doing things.
If life were a banquet, I see us starting out as an appetizer followed by moving on to the soup and salad of childhood. Then we grow up right into the main course of adult and family living. When we grow old, it is then time to cleanse the palate before ingesting the next course. We clear away our things much as the hostess clears the table in preparation for the final course. Since we have enjoyed the many rich and varied flavors of the main course of life for so long, perhaps the final course will be a delectable dessert, a smaller and sweeter helping of life as we experience the completion of a banquet filled with so many sensory pleasures.
Well, enough reflections for the day. It is time to get back at the thinning out of worldly goods. It has been a rewarding exercise, allowing me to reminisce upon each item I handle while pondering its future. This ongoing project is being executed for the day I am brought home by the angels, where my children can walk in, make quick work of what remains at our house and get on with their lives. I don’t want them to feel burdened by my worldly possessions. Until then, with every load to the thrift shop, my square footage grows along with my sense of peace that comes from simple living. This has been a extended time of counting my blessings! Less is more! Yes it is!