The holidays are over. The Christmas tree is down; the ornaments packed away. The menorah’s been cleaned of all that candle wax and is back in place inside the china closet. All that’s left is figuring out what to do with all the wonderful (and not-so-wonderful) “stuff” we received as gifts.
Don’t get me wrong. I love getting presents, but like many people of a certain age, I suffer from material overload. I have an overabundance of “stuff” that I don’t want or need, but somehow cannot bear to shed and don’t know where to put.
I know, the term “stuff” is very general. For me it covers—at bare minimum—three categories:
THE SENTIMENTAL STUFF
… like your grandmother’s musty antique furniture, the needlepoint pictures your mother so lovingly stitched, the tens of dusty photo albums, the children’s adorable artwork from pre-K on scattered about the house, and your husband’s junk (I mean high school sports trophies).
THE GOOD STUFF
… you know, things you’re not using it right now, but you might … For example: The gorgeous size 4 black knit dress you haven’t worn since you had the kids … 30 years ago. Who knows? You might lose weight and fit into it again. And what about the skis? You never know. You might want to hit the slopes again … someday.
This category also includes three extra comforters you have “just in case,” two extra irons, and the old—but still working—red toaster that clashes with your new kitchen color scheme.
THE OTHER STUFF
… as in “What the Hell is in all those boxes in the garage, basement and attic?” and “Why is that horrible picture Aunt Sally gave us still on the wall? She’s long gone. Why isn’t the picture?”
THE JOY(?) OF GOOD-BYE
Like you, I’ve read dozens of books and articles about de-cluttering and “letting go.”
One book said to kiss good-bye objects that don’t bring you “joy.” Another suggested taking photos of sentimental objects you no longer want, but wish to memorialize.
One object that definitely doesn’t bring me joy is Grandma’s ornate couch with walnut wood carved cherubs. It isn’t comfortable today and I bet it wasn’t comfortable in 1929 when Grandma brought it back from visiting family in Europe. If I heed what I read, I should just snap a photo and bye-bye sofa.
Well, as a first step toward bliss, I’ve taken the photo, but I’m still struggling with the second step—bidding cheerio to couch and cherubs.
I’m sure you empathize. Now that we’re older, it seems so many possessions tell stories about our lives, the good and the bad times, the birthdays, the anniversaries, the children’s graduations—all of it.
For me, getting rid of even one of my late mother’s 20-plus paperweights means making high-stakes decisions, like choosing between the one I gave her for her 50th birthday or the one my child bought to cheer her up in the hospital after a horrible surgery.
SORT, SEPARATE, DONATE … REPEAT
Yet, I am determined to make headway with this decluttering mission or at least forge a path to the back of my closet.
So, I’ve scanned family photos and digitized home movies. I’ve tossed the DVDs, since it seems everything can be viewed online. I even gave away my record albums and CDs since we’ve downloaded our music to our iPhones. That was tough, but it’s increasingly hard to be old school in a digital world.
I’ve kicked to the curb all my high-heeled shoes. That was easy. Footwear reality set in long ago. I know my achy arches will never again walk, no less dance, in spikey pointed shoes.
And that’s not all. With heartless abandon, I tossed four coffee mugs and multiple mismatched storage containers and lids.
PROGRESS, BUT …
The results are impressive: my closet is streamlined; the drawers no longer bulge; the garage is no longer identified on local maps as an avalanche hazard zone.
And yet … There still is an awful lot of stuff.
You see, this problem isn’t just hanging on to unwanted, obsolete, and sentimental items. It’s the good “stuff,” the “who knows, I might need it again” items that poses the real challenge.
THE COAT CLOSET CRISIS
Take my coats. Do I get rid of one of my three winter coats just because I moved to balmy Berkeley? If so, which gets the heave-ho?
The double-breasted black Brooks Brothers cashmere coat? Of course not. It is elegant and will never go out of style.
The puffy orange coat? Every time I wear it, somebody tells me how good the color looks on me. Who knew I would look good in orange? But, of course, orange is the new black!
The bulky, dark purple, three-quarters length coat? I don’t really like it, but it is waterproof and oh, so warm. What if we go to Lake Tahoe … or Siberia?
AND IT’S NOT JUST ME
Over in hubby’s closet, things are equally alarming. Between the cowboy boots he can no longer wear, the multiple pairs of running shoes in various stages of beat-up and odiferous, and the ties in various widths and patterns, his closet bulges and buckles.
And then there’s all the “stuff” we’re storing for our adult children—the old and obsolete gaming systems which they insist on keeping, the stuffed animals, the cookie crumbs, and who knows what else.
So, between us all, there’s an overabundance of plenty. Perhaps I should be content. I did clear out a lot of clutter and I did donate some very nice items to charity. Perhaps I should be grateful we have so many lovely possessions and wonderful memories.
But instead I worry. I worry about capturing the attention of city fire safety inspectors. I worry about being featured on that TV show about hoarders.
What to do?
Maybe I should tell family and friends not to buy us gifts next holiday season? Well, that’s probably a step too far.
Maybe I should head over to the Container Store and buy pricy storage containers? At least I’d be better organized.
Wait. I know. I’ll buy those gigantic plastic storage bags to vacuum-seal stuff into. Yes, that will do it. I’ll shrink-wrap comforters, quilts, sweaters, and such and make more room.
And then … you guessed it. I can head out and hit those After Christmas sales!