I am not a “stuff” person. Hubs and I have surprisingly little amounts of boxed treasures or doodads, displayed or hidden. Our decorative taste can best be described as minimalist. This has been an intentional decision, a continual process of de-cluttering after cleaning out our parents’ residences. My parents not only kept everything from their lifetime, but also their parents, as well. Their garage was filled with wall-to-wall filing cabinets from my grandfather’s lifelong insurance business. Mom was a worshipped only child, with the mounds of childhood photos, mementos and riff raff to prove it. She also was a big shopper, and never got rid of anything. She had four large closets bulging with clothes, more in the basement, and a footwear collection that boggled, including multiple pairs of the same shoes. My father kept every bit of paperwork from his forty-year business … all now stored in the basement. My sister and I spent three months of daily clean-out to get the house ready to sell.
My father-in-law’s hoarding was a bit different. He was more of a boxes of boxes and bags of bags type. It took the rental of two dumpsters to clear out his home.
Less is more for me. Once, my mother-in-law, a stellar shopper in her own right, walked into my bedroom closet and asked, “Where do you keep the rest of your clothes?” “That’s it,” I answered. “They’re all right here.” I own about ten pairs of shoes, I wear maybe five. I have three purses, one for summer, one for winter, and one insulated one to store my frozen wash cloths when I attend St. Louis’ infamously hot outdoor summer theater. I guess I can get rid of that one.
Son 1 is completely moved out of the house, with just one large box of childhood treasures that I told him I can’t part with until he has a house and a spouse.
Son 2 is mostly moved out, but has left us the task of getting rid of the things he doesn’t want. Yes, I am keeping his “baby box” hostage, too.
As is true with everyone, our basement is the vacuum canister of our home’s flotsam. I discovered three still sealed boxes that we moved over from our first house, twenty-two years ago. One was filled with early 1990’s sweaters (think Cosby) and toddler clothes. The other two were mementos from my childhood.
I decided I needed to keep one box of my childhood memories, so I began sorting. It took me two days to wander down that lane. First tossed, letters from old boyfriends. After thirty plus years, I finally took Hubs off probation, so the letters seemed somewhat moot. Okay, I did keep the Christmas card from an old flame and his wife, their first year of married life, a sort of “screw you” missive that I still admire.
Out went a middle school slam book. This was an autograph book sent around to chums, who wrote, anonymously, whatever they wanted with no repercussions. I like to think of it as the precursor to twitter. I really don’t need anyone’s help in pointing out my foibles; I am pretty good at it myself. Also out, various assorted programs from variety shows, singing concerts and other acts I barely remember, and boy-crazy notes from childhood friends that have drifted away over the years. Keep: angsty, self-obsessed, teenagery trip journals from various family vacations, and a few report cards and college essay exams, to remind myself I used to be smart.
I also have a collection of small, mostly ceramic horses that was a shrine to my childhood passion. I am saving a single representative. I’m keeping a horseshoe, as well, to put up at the entrance to our new house for good luck. The to-go box also includes my old, beat-up cowboy hat and remembrance cone and candle concoction from my favorite summer camp (just a few scant miles away from my new home). Pitch: ceramic things from my childhood dresser that hold no meaning; I’m not sure what all of them are …
I discovered six yellowed envelopes, filled with coins from different countries, from my grandparents’ world tour in the 1960’s. First, it amazes me that this small-town, rural, hardworking couple from Nowhere, Iowa, had the desire and chutzpah to undertake such a journey in their senior years. I also love that each envelope has the country’s name written on the outside, in my grandmother’s handwriting. It also brings back fond memories of my grandfather. I know each of my siblings and my cousins received the exact same envelopes, with the exact same coins, as he was nothing but fair. If distributing gifts, he not only would make sure all grandchildren got a Frisbee, but that we all got a RED Frisbee so there would be no favoritism or fighting. (He liked me best!) Keep.
Last is the eye-watering afghan from my childhood bedroom. My other grandmother let me pick out the colored yarn I wanted for my bedspread. She then made it for me, with no judgement or comment as to the color scheme. I hope she would be happy knowing that I have gracefully evolved towards a less-intrusive decorating palette.
Moving away from the comfort of a city you have lived in all your life is daunting. Moving from a home of twenty-two years is emotional. One of the hardest things to leave behind is the boys’ growth chart, from knee-high to over six feet, on the door frame of my pantry. But as I tell Son 1 (who is weirdly opposed to our move, although he lives in Washington, D.C., and I can guarantee will never move back to St. Louis) “A house is just a house, we are the family.”
I have known two families that lost everything in fires. It helps put into perspective that ultimately, stuff is just stuff. St. Louis has tornadoes, Colorado has wildfires, other places have hurricanes. There are no safety guarantees anywhere. Ultimately, the family in the house is the only thing that truly matters.*
I am so looking forward to starting a brand-new, exciting-but-scary adventure in the mountains. I have Hubs and my trusty canine companion by my side, and an extremely ugly afghan at the ready, should the need ever arise.
*And yes, family does include dogs, of course!