In all of this process, taking these steps on this thoughtfully sought path of ridding the excess, this marathon of which I feel I am just at my starting line, I have suffered two great losses. My beloved grandmother passed away in February and my grandfather followed shortly thereafter in July.
Let us not address the emotions right now. Let me bypass the discussion on grief. Let me bring down that wall, for now, so that I may continue on with our discussion of Stuff and minimizing and jettisoning and becoming unstuffed.
Let me be cold about the pain for a bit while I focus on the steps I’m taking towards Minimalism.
Other People’s Things
My grandparents had multiple lifetimes’ worth of Stuff in their 3 bedroom, 2 dining room, 2 living room, 2 bathroom, 2 car garage house. Lucy was in her late 80s and Frank was in his mid 90s when they passed away. They had two sons. Each of their sons had two children. They came from large families where each member in turn had a large family. My grandfather was a veteran of WWII and my grandmother was a sentimentalist. And a clothes horse.
Dear Lord did Lucy have a lot of clothes!
Holy Mother, I wasn’t aware how much she had until a trip to their house shortly after her funeral. My grandfather led me into the front bedroom to show me the closet. I picked through blazers and lightweight jackets to see what fit my body and my lifestyle*. Then he took me into the back bedroom for more of her clothes, the casual wear and sporting wear (golf and brisk walking, people, really). Then we went into the walk-in closet in their bedroom.
Seriously, what on Earth was this little old lady doing with ALL THESE CLOTHES!? Holy crap, people. I think I took 5 or 6 totes FULL of clothes, the great big totes, and maybe five garment bags stuffed with coats and such…and took maybe only a third of what she had.
She made her own stuff or bought really high quality clothes. She didn’t own a stitch of denim, everything was very classy and smart. She was my height with a similar build, albeit with much less butt and thigh, at her healthiest. But she shrank and twisted as the years went on, so she was a rather short and boney lady in the end. I’m not. So most pants and skirts plus shoes and accessories were left behind. I’m told a charity connected to the Catholic church came in, boxed it up, and took it to where it can do some good.
Picking Through the Pieces
It was 5 months later, after my grandfather passed, that I finally went through those totes. I had to! With all the other household Things we acquired, even with all the shedding of Stuff before this happened, I needed the space. Things had to go!
I re-applied the Konmari approach. I tried on everything. If it didn’t fit, needed mending (or shoulder pads removed), or truly wasn’t my style, it went in the discard pile. Also, there were a lot of sets, like she made a jacket, skirt, and slacks out of the same material. If the jacket fit but the two bottoms didn’t, I put all three into the Donate pile. Someone somewhere will have some really high-quality suits. If the whole suit fit but the jacket had shoulder pads, I first thought I could one day sit down and do the necessary tailoring to remove the pads. Then I realized that was a pipe dream because (a) I don’t want to make the time for that nor (b) do I have the skill necessary to do it right.
I’m quite happy with, and know I am very blessed with, the items which do fit me: my body, personality, and lifestyle. I also know that just about every item has my tears on it because it all smelled like Lucy and some pieces even had a tissue in a pocket or a jeweled pin on the collar.
Hold up, gotta bring that wall back down!
I know, this is a lengthy post about Stuff and I’ve given you way more details than necessary about going through hand-me-down clothing, but this is cathartic and healing and you’re still reading. Thank you.
So after Grandpa died, the situation at their house was much different. After Grandma, there was still someone living in that house, using those Things, looking at Stuff. What Grandpa wasn’t using, like Lucy’s clothes and the Christmas decorations that were still out, was what could go. As the only granddaughter, that meant to me.
After Grandpa, the whole house needed dissected, split apart, divvied up, whatever you want to call it. Three bedroom suites, two sets of dining room tables and chairs, two living rooms’ worth of furniture, a combined 180+ years of photos and memorabilia.
There was just. So. Much.
I came home from the 3-day trip with a box truck full of furniture, beds, linens, a vacuum, THREE SETS of ancient wedding china, TWO SETS OF CRYSTAL THAT I HAVE NO EFFING CLUE WHAT TO DO WITH, these damned totes full of toys from when I was a kid AND WHEN MY DAD WAS A KID, and lots of odds and ends like incomplete sets of silverware, FIVE NUT CRACKERS, table lamps we’ll gratefully use, and so much more.
Thank God we began Unstuffing before all of this.
So we picked up our pace with cleaning out Stuff and getting Things to various donation centers. We sold nice things for cheap on Craigslist and Facebook. We made hard and fast (very, very fast and surprisingly not so hard) decisions on what stayed and what could go and what must go.
Don’t Tarnish the Memories
I’ve personally had to learn to let go of things I wasn’t even aware would hurt until I said goodbye. It was hard going through Lucy’s clothes just like it was hard to walk away from the really nice furniture in the front living room that had so many memories attached to it. It was hard not taking decorations off their walls that I knew they cared about and that had stories to go with them. It hurt to turn around and sell the one bedroom suite we have no room nor need for, just because I know what it meant to them.
There was just so much we had to let go.
I just had to remember that the people I love are not in their Things.
Have you clung to some Thing in your home that is not necessarily yours but rather an item which you feel you MUST hold onto?
What have you considered ridding yourself of only to keep it because of guilt? Because you think it would hurt their feelings? Because you don’t want to seem ungrateful?
What bit of clutter is just as much a Thing in your house as it is Stuff weighing on your mind?
*I later joked with my father about how going through Lucy’s clothes was like shopping with unlimited credit at Librarians R Us. Librarian Bryant? J.C. Library? Libraropostale!