I just took 13 huge trash bags of stuff to the dump. One of the workers commented that that was a lot of bags since I’d been there with our regular trash just this past Saturday.
“I was storing a bunch of stuff for someone who’d passed away,” was the most concise explanation I could come up with on the spot.
It’s true. I was basically using one room and one closet in my house for storing things that belonged to people who had passed away. Since I enjoy sewing and knitting, I’ve been given a fair amount of crafting supplies over the years. Usually it’s because someone’s grandmother or aunt passed away, and the loved ones going through all of their stuff thought of me when they came to the craft stash. I honestly do appreciate the kind intentions behind it, but when it gets to the point that I have the knitting needle collections for 5 people, not including my own knitting needles… it’s just too much.
It was hard bringing myself to throw all that excess stuff away. Part of me felt guilty because a fair bit of it had belonged to people I knew and loved. Part of me thought that it was terribly wasteful to just discard it when it’s possible that someone else might be able to use it. In the meantime, I had a closet and a sewing room overflowing with boxes of stuff, to the point that I didn’t even know what was in most of the boxes anymore.
An argument can certainly be made that I could have tried to re-home all of the stuff I just tossed. The problem with that is the sheer amount of stuff. Who wants to haul 13+ trash bags of craft stuff to their house? Trying to find a new home for each individual item would take far more time than I have to spend at it. (I suspect that’s why I’ve been the recipient of bags and boxes of random craft stuff over the years!) The stuff that I wasn’t actually going to use myself just had to go all at once.
What about that guilt over tossing my great-aunts’ knitting needles, or that yarn that my Mom had that I’ll never use because I don’t like knitting with it? I had to realize something very important: People are not their things. Throwing away those knitting needles doesn’t mean that I didn’t love my great-aunts. Discarding yarn that belonged to Mom doesn’t mean that I didn’t value her. I don’t have to love and value the belongings of someone who has passed away to prove that I loved and valued them.
Oh, part of me still feels a prick of guilt over throwing away “perfectly good stuff”, but a bigger part of me feels relieved and somehow lighter. In throwing away stuff, I didn’t lose any of the things that were really important to me. I still have the memories of the people I cared about, and what is left are the things I will actually use and enjoy, and the room to do that!
I’ve been thinking a lot over the past week about the future as I worked through all of that stuff. Someday, my grandkids will be going through my stuff. I can’t think of anyone that I know and love who I’d want to burden with things that they don’t like or need, just because it belonged to me. I hope that my friends and family would all feel comfortable saying, “I loved Teish, but I don’t love her stuff. I’m happy with just the memories that I have of her.”
I don’t think I’ll ever truly be a minimalist. I love my books too much! I am learning to be more selective about the things I keep though. Sure, some of the things that I keep are strange, like the faded NY mug that Mom brought back from a trip. I’m sure the grandkids will look at it and wonder, “Why on earth was Gram keeping this old thing?” It reminds me of Mom every time I use it, and so it’s worth something to me because of that. I don’t expect it to be worth anything to anyone else though, and I’m OK with that! I don’t want my family to end up storing stuff for someone who has passed away and isn’t going to be needing it anymore. I’ve done too much of that myself, and it’s not worth it.
It’s an interesting shift to look at it from that perspective. Am I just storing this for someone who has passed away? It does sound pretty silly when we frame it like that. If you’re using part of your home as a storage space for someone who won’t be coming back for their things, then it’s OK to bag it up and take it to the thrift store, or even throw it away! If it’s like the NY mug of mine and you keep and use it because it honestly means something to you, then don’t feel bad about keeping that item instead of one of the “newer” or “nicer” ones.
So, what’s the weirdest thing that you keep and value? I’ve shared about my faded NY mug, now I want to know what item your grandkids will chuckle over! Let me know in the comments!