Monday, October 15, 2012

Too much stuff

I wish I'd taken a picture of my late sister's sewing room before we dismantled it. She'd been quilting for at least twenty years, and there were boxes, bags, and bins of fabric everywhere. Knowing only a smidge about sewing, I knew enough not to throw out the pieces I would ordinarily consider scraps.

I contacted some charitable groups who made out like bandits with all the goodies, but the family kept some large pieces, just because. We also found a huge bin of quilted tops. All they need is batting and quilting together. We saved those pieces too.

Again, not because any of us want to quilt, but we wanted to keep my sister's labor of love in the family. Another sister told me she has an aunt's silver, Mama's good dishes, Nana's furniture, and a lot of Daddy's things at her house. She claims she has no room for this treasure hoard of fabric we saved.

When we moved back to Georgia about seven years ago, we'd already undergone the huge downsizing purge. We'd trimmed our possessions down by 3/4 because we didn't need all that stuff anymore.

We moved into a cozy cottage in the deep South, and life was good. Then we came-by a few things here and there. Stuff that was useful in some way. Before long, all the closets in our new place were stuffed. I've got new stacks of fabric in my office and I don't know where I will put it, much less the cache of fabric for the "family."

Clearly, I have too much stuff. On Sunday our pastor spoke on the follies of stuff, citing the Bible passage about the rich, young ruler who couldn't give up his wealth. I don't know that I've amassed great wealth, unless you count seashells, driftwood, and good memories, but I'm loathe to part with any of my stuff. I might need it, you know?

I have yoga stuff, music stuff, writing stuff, promotional stuff, festival stuff, newspaper stuff, computer stuff, and more stowed in here. Prime stuff, in my estimation.

I guess if I'm lucky enough to live a long life, I will downsize and move again, but it's not something I look forward to. I really like my stuff.

Do you feel the same way about your stuff?

What are you unwilling to part with?

Maggie Toussaint
www.maggietoussaint.com
www.facebook.com/MaggieToussaintAuthor#

ps -- smoking hot review of Murder in the Buff at Amazon this past week. Here's a snip:

"This is a suspense story mixed with romance and the dynamics of a family. It is a story that will keep you guessing and totally entertained. This is the first book that I have read by Maggie Toussaint and definitely not the last." Marilou George, amazon reviewer


WOOT!

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32 comments:

  1. Like you I downsized when I moved to Florida. I don't have "extra" anymore, except for valuable bibelots that I may give away to the kids if they want them. And a lot of books that I give to the local library every year. Still, too many books around.

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    1. It's hard to part with books, but those things keep sneaking into my house. Even with a Kindle, and thank you Jesus for the person who invented digital books, I seem to accumulate more and more books.

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  2. I perfectly understand this. I'm not a big "stuff" collector, but still I do and could thin it out. Actually both of us have stuff we never touch or look at, and to be honest--my husband is worse than I. They are treasures to him.
    Even so, we began in June making trips to Goodwill about twice a month with stuff to give to them.
    Your post reminded me of when we clean out Mother's house. Good heavens above, you don't know the meaning of stuff until saw everything she had saved. I can truthfully say she never threw anything away.
    Just remember, don't keep any letters you wouldn't want you children to see. But If Mother hadn't been the hoarder she was, we would not have:
    stacks of old black and white, or those sepia toned photos of ancestors. What a treasure. We would not have every card and letter our children wrote to their Granny to say thanks or to say get well. we collected everything that had come from our kids or ourselves, and I separated mine and made keepsake scrapbooks for each of my children, and one for me and Jim.
    But quilt tops, boxes upon boxes of those fabric scraps, boxes of ribbon off every present she ever got----we had to burn "stuff" for days, because no one would want any of it.
    Honestly? I want my kids to find some things in my house. Certain things.
    Great post, Maggie.

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    1. It would be great to make those twice a month trips to give something away. When we first moved in here, my plan was to give away stuff when we got new stuff. For instance, 3 new shirts? Donate 3 shirts. But life happened and now the closets are jammed too.

      How lovely that you have those pictures from your Mom's place. I can understand your need to burn a lot of the things she'd saved. It's overwhelming when you start to think about it. A lifetime of stuff. And you only have a few days to go through it all and make decisions.

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  3. After my mom passed away my dad began transferring all of her "stuff" to me, along with the job of seeing it properly distributed among the family. Then my widowed mum-in-law passed and, as an only child, my husband got everything that was hers. One lesson I've learned while I try to dispose of this inheritance is it's a lot easier to get rid of my own stuff than it is to get rid of theirs. It just seems wrong to throw out (or give to Goodwill) things these ladies cherished enough to keep all these years.

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    1. Hi LD,

      I hear you. I found myself saving stacks of postit notes my sister had squirreled away. They were the bright colors we both love, but they were so old they weren't sticky. Who knew those things lost their sticking power?

      I'm not the Depression generation, but I was raised in a blue collar home with the same use it until it can't go no more mentality. It was hard sorting and deciding on the fabrics, yarns, threads, and more.

      But I'm really glad you placed a high value on your family's possessions. That say a lot about you, LD!

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  4. Maggie,
    When my grandmother passed away, I went to help my aunt clean the house and get things ready for an estate sale. I was only there for a few weeks and didn't get through half of the stuff (old mason jars still in boxes, Readers Digest from the 1940's, her quiliting stuff, tons of Depression dishes and my grandfather's lapidary equipment) there was over sixty years of memories stored up in their house, never gotten rid of whether it was usable or not. I knew coming home I had to make some decisions in my small townhouse that was busting at the seams. I picked a mantra, "Less is More"... but as I seem to shovel out some stuff, I end up with more. I won't get rid of my books (much to my hubby's dismay) and my cross stitch materials are still corralled in my craft boxes on the shelves. Art work/pictures from my kids' school days, etc. are memories to cherish... I know, take a picture, it'll last longer. (I've heard that in countless organizing mags.)
    But everything has a bit of sentiment...figuring out if I can keep the memory without the object is the next thing.
    Thanks for the post, nice to know I'm not alone. :)

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    1. Loni - a kindred spirit!It's easy to adopt that Less is More mentality, harder to put it in place. As we downsized my mother-in-law into skilled care, there were things I loved that reminded me of visits to her place. IT's hard to be practical when you're sentimental. I still have boxes of my kids stuff from elementary school. Saving it to pull out for the grandkids. I keep feeling I can make it fit if I get better organized. Mercy.

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  5. This all sounds familiar, very familiar. When we lived in Poughkeepsie, we had a two-story house with a full basement (I saith not what it was full of) and three attics. I sold off a few of the better (allegedly collectible) books, and took 14 station wagon loads of books to the library to take the tax deduction on. Also many station wagon loads to Goodwill. And we put out so much trash they wouldn't take it, made us rent a dumpster. You'd think that in a small house in Florida, no basement and a mini-attic we'd be OK, right? That 2-car garage is a 1-car, 1-pileofjunk garage, we had to put a shed in the back yard, and the spare bedroom/sewing room is ... well, I won't even try to describe it. Got to get rid of SOMETHING!!!

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    1. I feel your pain, Jim. We're thinking of adding on another shed outside to help capture all the stuff we accumulated. Before the move, we sold off all the tools, lawn mowers etc. Now we've needed all that stuff again and have it stuffed into a doll-sized shed. And a lot of stuff like clippers you have to keep indoors because of the humidity and rusting. In the cabinet over my dryer I've got clippers, jumper cables, paint doodads and other miscellany. Have to put it all away each time or there's no room. Downsizing isn't all its cracked up to be, but on the plus side, our kids won't have near the trouble we had because the space here is so much less. Theoretically it will hold LESS stuff. That's what I keep telling myself anyway.

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  6. That kind of stuff is not of the rich young ruler. He valued his stuff above Jesus, and you don't (unless I'm wrong). You are honoring your sister's memory, which is a lot different than hoarding riches on earth. I love family stuff, especially old photos and family anecdotes.

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    1. I hear you, Caroline. And I don't value stuff over everything, but I seem to keep acquiring stuff. Maybe in a few years I won't need to hold my sister's things so tightly. Who knows?

      All of this has made me take another look at my bookshelves, file cabinets and bins. Some of it I haven't looked at since we moved here. Makes me question how valuable it really is.

      I'm with you on being sentimental about family stuff. It helps us to cope with loss and remembering.

      God bless!

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  7. I also have.two much stuff, although I have done major purges twice now. Next house I get is going to be a cozy cottage so I won't be tempted to accumulate more.

    The quilts should be easy to finish, Maggie, and if you don't want the trouble of batting and quilting, sew them to a blanket. Wash it first so it doesn't shrink then just goi wild with the "quilting" part.

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    1. Keena,

      I never would have thought to sew them to a blanket. Good suggestion!

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  8. Regarding the quilt tops, a quilt is aged by the date the last thread is sewn into it. You can easily find a quilter to finish your sister's quilts by finding someone in a local guild near you, or by contacting her old friends who also quilted. Someone there can advise you on whether you want it made into a bed quilt, a wall-hanging, or a tied quilt, and whether you want it finished by hand or by machine, depending all on what state of "finish" the quilt piece is in. If you can't find one easily, check with NQA (National Quilting Association) and they'll give you the mailing address for a quilt guild near you that is also an NQA Member. Those guilds tend to have more professional quilters in their guilds, so you can easily find quality quilters (both machine and hand) there. You can also donate anything you have related to quilting or sewing to a guild for use in their annual potluck and auction. Your "junk" is someone else's treasure.

    I agree that we have to be careful about what is left behind, and it helps to reduce your own stuff so that your children don't have to.

    I don't know if my children will want things that I liked, and given that they're boys, their wives might not like things I do, and that will limit how much of things I do have that they will want to keep like doodads and knicknacks.

    Like in our books, maybe keeping only one or two unique things is the way to "characterize" our life with pieces of theirs.

    For me, a bowl my grandmother made her grits in, the cup she heated hot water in, the chandelier from the dining room of my other grandmother; these things remind me of them whenever I see them, and I can use them daily, too.

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    1. Hi Diane, It's wonderful to have your knowledgable repy here. I am certainly going to check with NQA. One of the things I was wondering was if we could find someone who would do the quilting and do a keep one, give one kind of deal for us. That would be fabulous.

      All of the fabrics went to a local sewing group, and all of the yarns went to a knitting club, so I feel confident that those supplies will be put to good use. Its the quilt tops that are bugging me, so now I'm happy to have a good solution.

      I love the personal choices you made. I have the metal wash basin my husband's grandmother used to wash all her dishes in. And I'm glad I saved that. I've used it a couple of times and its always attracted comment. Makes me feel good.

      Thanks for the visit!

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  9. When we moved from our large house to an apartment a few years ago, I literally cried. The hard part was deciding what to take and what to give away or junk. Since we lived in our house for 40 years, you can imagine what was there! And our children really didn't want to take much of anything.

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    1. I'm with you, Jacquie. When you look at your stuff through your children's eyes, its humbling. We had a devil of a time paring our stuff down. We moved from a large house to a two-bedroom condo while we were supposed to be building, but that fell through and we were left to come up with a new plan. Even so, the whole amount of stuff we ended up lugging south took two moving trucks. That's a lot of stuff, even for a cozy cottage.

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  10. Maggie, the quilt pieces are beautiful, and I love Diane's idea about contacting a guild to have them made up. Those are lovely bits of 'stuff' to keep!
    As for my own 'stuff,' I've moved so many times in the past few years, I'm ruthless about it. Now that our last move is our FINAL move ever (at last!) I thought long and hard about what to keep and what to let go of, and also what my children might want to keep. My sister and I also had the contents of our late parents' house to sort through too, and we made some careful decisions with that, so....the things that mean so much to me are things like my Mum's baking spoons and my Dad's tiny screwdriver set - things I grew up with and which I now use almost every day. I have some of my aunt's needlepoint, and my uncle's copy of the poems of Robert Burns, which is full of my uncle's notes and bookmarks. We must have shifted through hundreds of photographs over the years, but I have one very precious one of my Mum and Dad in their 'going-away' outfits on their wedding day, and it's travelled everywhere with me over the years. I don't collect much myself, unless you count my own sewing/crafting bits, but I know the things my children find dear and have found fun as they've grown up, so I'm hoping those things they'll want to hang on to. But clearing out someone else's home is hard, I know, so I'd rather shift my 'stuff' while I'm here, and try not to be too precious about belongings.

    Jane x

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    1. Hi Jane! It's always so nice to hear from my across the pond pal! I thought this was the last move I'd ever make, but now we've got the desire to move to a place that would be great for us and the grandkids. Don't know as that will happen in today's economy, but you never know. Things have a way of working out.

      I love the utility in your Scottish soul. Baking spoons and screwdrivers are indeed handy keepsakes. I think that's why I keep my wedding gift jumper cables still. Very useful item.

      Nice of you to "shift" the majority of your stuff and not have your kids faced with a houseload of stuff. I love the idea of a single pic of your parents. We keep thinking we're going to digitize the horde of pics we have of family, but its such a huge project we keep putting it off.

      Hugs!!!

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  11. HI Maggie - I understand where you're coming from on "stuff." We've lived in our house for 25 years now and the attic is full of "stuff." I'm now on a project to sort through every bit of it and eliminate what doesn't need to be kept.
    Karen McCullough

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    1. Hi Karen,

      The attic, yes. ((clears throat)). We planned not to put anything in our attic, but every couple of months or so, something makes its way up there. Christmas stuff. The card table. Spare pieces of flooring from when our home was constructed, empty storage bins, clothes two sizes too small.

      I know we could ditch the clothes. And we need to work on our closets. Seriously work on them. No reason to have so many things tucked in here and there.

      Wishing you a discerning eye as you sort through your attic.

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  12. Our approach to "stuff" is heavily influenced by the fact that my husband's uncle died in a hoarder apartment. The police could not even find the bed under all the shredded papers that made the place look like a gerbil cage. We lost irreplaceable family documents in that mess, but most of it was pure trash.

    Haunted by that tragedy--which it turns out is very common--we keep our ownership of stuff, especially papers, under stern control. We weed out unnecessary duplications. We try not to acquire, and we constantly recycle. And we still have too much stuff, much of it inherited. Before the next move, there'll have to be another purge. I've already made a list of over 100 decorative items that can be the first to go. It might seem like a lot, but in an adult lifetime that spans many decades, it's only two or three new pieces acquired per year.

    One recent solution has been to photograph items before disposing of them. Keeping a compact digital record softens the pain of parting. Another has been to reduce the volume. We keep one embroidered towel and recycle the rest. But it's still an uneasy truce with the past.

    Another solution is to give useful or decorative pieces to young people as they are setting up their homes, not later, when they've already acquired for themselves.

    Oh, and of course, use the good china.



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    1. Taking pictures of stuff before you recycle it is a good idea, Irene. What an image you painted of your uncle's gerbil cage-like abode. ((shudder)) I hope I don't get that bad. Those decorative items have a sneaky way of creeping up on you. For the longest time I refrained from decor items, but life happened and now I'm loaded up with them. Lately, I've cut myself back to purchasing refrigerator magnets as souvenirs. Those inevitably break when they fall off the fridge from too many papers being stuck under them.

      I'd love to use my china. What a grand idea

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  13. As someone who is buying her first house (today is closing!), I think I need more stuff for my new house. We are moving out of a 2 bdm apt where we are busting out of the seams. Except I want my new house to be organized and neat, so I'm trying to think with cleaning out and purging, and not just bringing all this stuff to clutter up the new place.

    You all have given me lots to think about...thanks!

    Great post, Maggie! :)

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    1. Hi Beth,

      My renters are minimalists and the look is fab. You walk into their place and it all matches and yet looks tidy, even with two young boys. If you take charge of the clutter from the start, I think you are much better off. Wishing you many cozy nights in your new place!

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  14. So my friend as this great phrase "that xx doesn't owe you anything anymore." It's the way I can justify getting rid of a chair or sweater or other precious object. The piece has served me well and now can be of service to someone else. This doesn't necessarily make it easier to downsize, but it does help me plow through the guilt of letting go of Nana's handkerchiefs and the country-pine-style-blanket-holder-I-don't-actually-have-room-for,-but-Grandpa-burned-my-initials-into-so-I-really-should-keep-it (okay, so I still own that one, but it's on the chopping block for reeelz).

    I really like the idea of setting up a recurring monthly appointment for a trip to Good Will. I lost a lot of weight this year. My first trip to donate clothes saw me shedding 17 bags of psychic weight. Very freeing!

    Last thought - because purging sounds ominous to me, I like to think of this process as "editing the collection." Doesn't that sound sharp? I don't have to get rid of all of Nana's hankies. I can edit them down to the three I really love.

    Aren't we writers always in search of a good editor? :)

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    1. Keely,

      I love your analogy about editing the collection. I need some serious editing in here. And I like the idea of guilt-free downsizing. You're not throwing something out, you're allowing someone else to enjoy it. Makes perfect sense to me.

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  15. Sorry to hear about your sister, Maggie. Hugs.
    About the stuff, I totally understand. I have my stuff, my mom's stuff, and zero interest in doing what's needed. I do okay as long as neither paper nor fabric is involved--but books, notebooks, sticky notes are always coming into my house and not leaving. Fabric comes and goes, as long as I get rid of some of the quilts I make.

    One suggestion if you have any quilt tops that you really don't want quilted for yourself is to donate them to "Quilts of Valor" (quilts for returning war veterans--some in wheelchairs, some not--so many sizes are needed)or "Project Linus" (provides small quilts for children) or similar charities. Whatever quilt shop is closest to you will most likely have the contact information for these and more and often there is a group willing to take tops and finish them but not return them to you.

    For quilts you want to have quilted and returned, there are professional "long arm" quilters which means the person quilting it has a large machine and quilts for cash. Again, your local shop will know who is doing that--ask about the quality because there some really bad quilters all the way through those making works of art.

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    1. Barbara,

      How nice of you to offer these suggestions. I should have thought of asking you in the beginning. Some of the projects are for youngsters, like the airplane quilt top, but there's also a handbag quilt top and other funky things that interested her. There is a person about an hour from here that does a nice job with machine quilting. I was planning to approach her for several of the pieces.

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  16. I have too much stuff as well. If I start clearing things out today, I might be able to downsize about the time I celebrate my 100th birthday.

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    1. Me and you both, Patricia. We moved my mother-in-law from a two bedroom apartment to a single room apartment a few years ago and she had two external storage areas packed to the gills. It nearly broke our hearts to set aside so many of her things. Then, her health deteriorated further so that she moved into a nursing home setting. More stuff out the door; more stuff in our car for the trip to Georgia. I love her stuff. Most of it. But the things I don't love, her son (my husband) adores. So we have that stuff here as well, a bit in every room. There's no sense of unity in decor, but every piece has a story behind it. That works for me.

      Thanks for the visit and the comment.

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