Help me make a decision (or make it for me)

tre3March 19, 2007

I am dealing with items that used to be in the space I now claim as my closet. Many are sentimental. I have four hardback, well loved Winnie the Pooh books inscribed to me by my parents three days before my brother was born. I do not read these, my children are past this age. When they were young these books were too fragile for them to read. THese are not the only items I have from my childhood.

I think I am ready to let these books go. What do I do with them? I can not toss them. My children will not want them. Should I band them together with a note "To a loving home" and donate? Silly, silly bear. Only one of many long posts to come dealing with STUFF! TIA for your understanding and patience (TIAFYUAP)

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I'm the worst person to respond because I'd save them for your future grandchildren especially since your parents inscribed them. If you put them nicely on a shelf will they, for now, bring back happy childhood memories?

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 2:17PM
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I can get rid of anything and everything...except books! LOL

Do you have bookcases; the kind just for books? Is there room to add the Winnie the Pooh books there? Afterall, they are books and if you don't have young children around they should be safe. I'd hate to lose a book from my folks.

Is there a corner or wall in any room where you could put up a simple shelf to hold childhood books?

DH and I ruthlessly thinned our books last year. He weeded out two; I parted with one. We were so proud of ourselves.

I have two 6-ft tall, 30-in wide bookshelves in the den; I have a 4-ft tall, 36-in wide bookcase at the end of the hall; I have a 6-ft tall, 4-ft wide bookcase in the dining room. I have a 2-ft wide wall shelf in the craft room filled with quilting, serging, and Monica Ferris' needlework mystery books. Every shelf of every case is full; there's no room for "artistic diplays" of stuff. Theses are BOOKcases, LOL. I also have three boxes of books in the storage room, waiting for more "bookcases."

Good Luck...and my vote is to find a proper home, in your home, for your books. And enjoy the new and improved closet. Closets are important, too. They hold clothes so the books will have more room on the outside! LOL

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 4:07PM
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I was so sure I'd get a resounding "Toss them"! Now I am having second thoughts. My mother, the youngest of five, grew up with few things. She saved a childhood book that she then passed down to me to give to my children. This book meant a lot to her. To me it was a book that was coming unbound, that my mom and aunt had colored in. Even the story was pretty dismal. It took me many years to realize that it really meant nothing to me. It was a burden. I have a sneaky suspicion that my mom was probably relieved to have past it down. I guess this is a long way of saying sometimes you hold on to something only to realize its not that important. I'm going to go down into the basement (if you don't hear from me send a search squad :))and see what other books are lurking down there. Pooh has a respite for now.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 4:34PM
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OK. I'm back from my trek into the basement "sewing room" aka junk room. I've found four more books that I grew up with including one I used when learning to read. I have a love/hate relationship with that one. In looking over the Pooh books I found one that had foxing(?).
I'm saving three and have pitched the fourth. My reasoning (I'm sure you wanted to know) is I now have seven books. Each child (grandchild) can have 2 (if they want) and the remaining one is MINE! Whew. So much effort, not much progress. If every decision over something of mine that has sentimental value takes this long, it is going to take a really long time. Plus now that I've relooked at my treasured childhood books in their ratty condition I am feeling guilty about my mom's childhood book. Yikes! Did I tell you I have the outfit I wore home from the hospital? Help me!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 6:11PM
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I think I might toss those books--YOU are the only person to whom they matter.

If they were too fragile for your kids, they'll be too fragile for grandkids--UNLESS you have them rebound, which you can do if you like, though of course they won't be quite the same.

In fact, if they were too fragile for your kids, they're almost too fragile for anybody, really.

Do YOU like seeing them? Does it make you smile to run across them in the bookcases, or even in a box, every now and then?

I've developed this "archive" theory of sentimental things. Not ALL supposedly sentimental things; just the real sentimental things.

Example: I have the "Night Before Christmas" book I read as a kid; it's getting worn, but I keep it w/ the Christmas stuff, bcs i get all mushy and nostalgic when I see it. (see, I can get nostalgic and sentimental!) So I enjoy finding it again every Christmas. Sometimes I grab my almost-too-big-for-this-now kids and read it to them right there in the middle of decorating the tree. Maybe it'll mean something to them later, but it's OK if it doesn't--that book, that VERY book, means something to me now.

I've decided it's OK to have some heirlooms that are stashed away--as long as now and then you have to open the box, even if it's just to see what's inside it. If you then get all smiley looking at an individual item, it's OK to keep it. it doesn't have to be out and on display to be valued. It just has to actually BE valued.

(it's when you look at the "happy confirmation" cards from your aunt & grandma and say, 'why?' that you should throw them out--that makes room int he box for OTHER stuff that does matter to you)

I've found that when I run into my "heirloom" folder or my "keepsakes" box, each time I go through it, I discover something that has lost value for me, and I'm willing (sometimes happy) to toss it. And some other stuff, each time I see it, I am reconfirmed in how important it is to me.

You just have to listen to yourself clearly enough that you ONLY keep things that ACTUALLY matter, and not the stuff you *think should* matter.

Those Pooh books could be in the "should" category, easily. They've got all sorts of EXTERNAL reasons why they "ought" to be heirlooms--inscribed, etc. But if you don't look at them and smile, and say, "I'm going to look at the pictures, just for a minute or two here," then they're OBLIGATIONS, and not TRUE HEIRLOOMS.

(sorry for the caps--I'm not shouting--just trying to get those words to pop)

True heirlooms are things you pick for yourself. The rest is just stuff. No matter how long you've owned it, no matter who gave it to you, no matter who signed it, no matter who used to own it, even no matter who used to LOVE it--("used to" is the important phrase here).

So, what does your face tell you when you look at those books? Does a smile come even if you're sort of stopping it? Does your heart lighten? Or soften? Do you like to touch them just a little lingeringly when you move them to dust?

If so, you are entitled to keep them.

If not, you are entitled to toss them--even if it's into the garbage!

I think your story about your mom's book is a very powerful one, and you should pay attention to its lesson. You learned someething that many, many people NEVER give themselves permission to learn.

Does it apply to Pooh?

Only you can know.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 6:13PM
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I have two places for these type of items. I have my copy of The Little Engine That Could sitting on a shelf in my sewing area. Also a stuffed doll that was given to me when I was in the hospital at age 4. They are rather tattered and I enjoy looking at them.

For items I don't want to look at daily, but have that sentimental value, I have a deathbed box. I want to look at it when I'm on my deathbed, but not really before that. It has a baby powder can which is only special to me, my kindergarten "diploma," some of my childhood clothing, etc. It's only the size of a banker's box. It's labeled and in storage. My kids think I'm really strange. So be it.

I find I've changed over time and I got rid of some of the items in my box a few years ago. I realized I was keeping them just because I always had them. My mother also grew up with few items from her childhood, so she kept way too many of mine. I've since pitched most of it. Maybe too much.

Now that I'm older I appreciate having my greatgrandmother's autograph book, her quilt and a few other items. I have a box for each of my children, since I'm not the type of mom who keeps baby books. I have their coming home outfits, their favorite stuff animal if they no longer love it, the really tattered baby blankets. But I'm keeping it just to the one box.


    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 7:29PM
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I read this forum regularly, but rarely post, however this topic has finally driven me out of hiding .....

I can't imagine doing what the OP did, which was to consider tossing "well-loved" childhood books, even a tattered ones, simply to acquire space in a closet. And I am astonished that so many people seem to have this intense compulsion to rid themselves of personal stuff under the current rubric of decluttering.

I deeply treasure those things (often quite commonplace items) from my early life and from the lives of my ancestors even if I don't actively do anything but store them, carefully. To me they are an irreplaceable link to the past history of my family. Every item (and I have many boxes of family "stuff" which I don't display or use in daily life) was lovingly passed down to my household by many generations beforehand. I have things from my family (and my DH's) starting in the middle 1700's on to the present day. I could no more toss those things than I could throw out diamonds, nor could I just flog them on eBay if I didn't find them immediately useful to me, or they required some curatorial effort on my part.

Not every child in every generation likes old things, and it certainly is an appreciation that may take until middle age to develop, but fortunately in both my own family and in my DH's we have had a succession of caretakers of this precious "stuff".

I think the current enthusiasm for constant divestiture must be a symptom of our throw-away culture. The idea seems to be that if an item is not presently useful, it should be discarded because (as I have often seen stated here) if you need it again, then another can be acquired.

Any Target or Macy's is well-stocked with the common items and furniture of daily use, but buying new ones has its own environmental and monetary cost, and no new ones would ever come with a family association, even if that's a couple of generations removed. (Plus as a practical matter, lots of new stuff isn't half as well-made or longlasting as things made years ago.)

I cook with many of my Grandmother's (and Great G's), implements; when my MIL died, I acquired many other useful, and practical, pieces of kitchen tackle; some in use, some carefully stored until I find the right family recipient who will treasure them. My sewing box was my GG-grandmother's, my darning egg belonged to my Father's Aunt. I eat everyday with my husband's GG-Aunt's flatware on my Grandmother's china. I sleep under my Grandmother's sheets on my Mother's mattress. I wear some of my Mother's clothing. I wear my Father's WWII leather bomber's jacket (complete with small shrapnel hole - he survived!) Our furniture is almost entirely inherited (some valuable and some merely useful and/or presentable): the table I type this on was from the sewing room of my Great Grandmother's childhood home (she asked for it as wedding present). It's next to the chest from my DH's GG-Grandmother's dining room. I carry my Mother's pocket knife. My DH carries his Mother's pocket knife. Today as I was doing one of my periodic checks on stored items, I just (re) discovered my husband's GGG-Grandmother's leather visiting card case, which I think I will start to use to protect my business cards in my purse, which on any day could have belonged to my Mother, my Grandmother or my DH's GG-Aunt. Our toothbrushes live in silver mugs that were given to my DH as an infant. Both cups had been successively inscribed to three generations of children at their births before his own in 1945. My wedding ring was an heirloom that had been in my DH's family for more than 125 years - my engagement diamond came from a ring my DH's Grandmother inherited. I am deeply attached to them, not only because of their personal meaning to me, but also because they carry a whole family tradition with them.

I am sure some of these things were not to the taste of some of the people who carefully preserved and passed them down. But things go in and out of style and if everybody had just gotten rid of everything that they didn't love, we would have none of this wonderful collection. Certainly in my family, and apparently in my Dh's family as well, people cared for and preserved what they had because it stayed useful, and when it was not so desireable it was set aside, carefully, for the time when it would become sought-after again.

In a battered-looking wooden box, wrapped in muslin and packed in dry straw, in the attic of my DH's family farm was a little Victorian mahogany sewing table. It was sent to my husband's GGG-Grandmother by her husband who acquired it during the Civil War. (The box it was stored in was the box it had been sent to her in 1862, complete with the chalked-on railroad shipping instructions from the South to New England. It, too, had been saved all these years!) Her granddaughter (my Dh's Grandmother) a very style-conscious woman of the 1930's, found the table's style far too old-fashioned to live with, but she packed it away (with careful notes about what it was) where it stayed for 70 years until it came to live with us in our 1850's house. I couldn't believe our good luck when I unpacked it here: complete with my DH's Grandmother's note about it were also Civil War era letters telling of its rescue from a heap of furniture to be burnt for warmth and its being boxed up and sent, and even the receipt for the shipping was tucked in the bottom drawer of the table. What this chain of provenance does is tell a story, and it would not be as rich or complete without those letters and the wooden box (just a plain old thing hastily knocked together during wartime, but clearly made to fit this one little table) and even something as mundane and likely to be discarded as the bill of lading.

Does caring for these things properly take time and attention from a busy life? Of course! Does it take some fore thought to plan for the passing-down of things to the best person(s) in the next generation? Yes, to that too. Is my time and effort so all-important that I can't invest it in preserving my own family's history along with the tangible things they left behind ? Obviously I don't think so when compared to the value of sharing in, and then passing on, a rich sense of family identity as evidenced by the accumulated collection of "stuff" and the many written and now-faded notes about what it is and where it came from.

The test sometimes suggested, and touched on above, is whether keeping these items feels like an obligation rather than a personal pleasure. I think we have lost a sense of satisfaction in meeting our "obligations" to the continuity our own of personal and family history.

I can't help but wonder what are we modeling for our kids if we relentlessly toss aside anything that asks more of us than we get from it right this instant? Is everything fungible these days?

Now, I realize that this may be a decidely minority opinion here in Decluttering World, but perhaps there are also people out there who rejoice in an Organized House full of family memorabilia, and yes, ordinary family "stuff". An organized house (and life) is not necessarily a "decluttered" one.


    Bookmark   March 20, 2007 at 3:53AM
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Thank you all. Your opinions are helping clarify what is right for me. Molly, I too come from a world surrounded by both the treasures and perhaps the trash of numerous generations. A lot of what I hold is not really mine, it belongs to my children and to their future children. As I type I am wearing my great grandmother's wedding ring and my great, great, great uncle peers down at me from a portrait. Molly you are thrilled to have a writing desk that a previous caretaker did not like. But that previous caretaker saw that it had inherent value. Do I keep the baby dress covered in blood stains? Whose baby, when? I don't know. No one living does. Does this warrant space in my life? How many sets of china should one person care for? Who has use for a twelve foot long linen tablecloth? I am inundated with things. My things and other's things. Some of them make me smile. Some make me cry. Some I'd fight for. Others....? I don't know if past generations were conscious of leaving a legacy. Do I want my children to cart around Pooh books and make their chilldren cart around Pooh books. No. I want them to cart the portraits of me painted by my grandmother. I am fortunate to have so many things. Things of mine, my parents, my grandparents, my greatgrandparents, my great great grandparents, my great great great grandparents and all of their relations. Some (Most) I will keep but some need to find new homes. I want to live my life TODAY influenced by the past. I don't want the past to live my life.
So again, thank you for reading what has been so difficult to write. This topic, for me, will be reoccurring. I hope you'll keep posting Molly as I have lots to resolve. It is always good to hear both sides. Talley Sue and Quiltglo thank you for all your wise words. You challenge me to make those things I treausre part of my daily life! T

    Bookmark   March 20, 2007 at 8:36AM
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Commiserations Tre3. I'm dealing with books at the moment too. I got rid of a few childrens books inscribed from DH and myself. I think it's easier to get rid of books inscribed from you than to you. It was still hard though. I kept most. I like what Talley Sue said - "if you get all smiley" looking at something then keep it. But review it from time to time. I'd like to get to the point where I can enjoy my sentimental treasures, not feel overwhelmed by them.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2007 at 8:54AM
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I think space makes a huge difference. My mom had my Greatgrandma Adams' "chester drawers" in her attic for years, and therefore it was available for me to fall in love with, and to one day own.

But keeping something like that writing dress, etc., is a SPECULATIVE endeavor. One is *hoping* that future generations will be glad to see it. Or that it will be useful--or beautiful--to them in anyway.

In order to speculate, one must have resources one is willing to lose. I am not willing to give up some of the 1,100 square feet of living space that the 4 of us live in, in order to hold onto something in case future generations might think it's neat to own.

To Molly, I would say this: *You* (and quite probably the generations before you) got some value out of the"curating" (great concept, there) of family history. So it had value to them simply because of its history. That's a form of pleasure.

And I would say also that the work of curating those things was much less for them, it sounds like, than it would be for me in my life. They had an attic on a family-owned farm--they wrote a label on it once, and stuck it up there, where it sat for YEARS. And luckily the roof didn't leak on it. They didn't have to throw out the kids' toys to make room for it. They didn't have to move it from house to house to house.

Remember too that tre3 is not talking about things passed down from generation to generation. These aren't the books her greatgrandmother read as a child, etc. And I wasn't answering about her grandmother's china, or her ggg-grandmother's christening gown. My answer would probably be a little different in those instances.

She is talking about HER stuff--and about whether she should attempt to *assign* "lasting heirloom" status to the remnants of her OWN childhood--not necessarily her family's history.

My mother used to say, "if your children don't see that family heirloom, they won't value it. "Sentimental" means "full of feeling"--nobody can feel anything about china they've never seen." She felt strongly that we should eat dinner on great-grandma's china, and so we did, and therefore my sister and I both sigh over wanting to own it. I gave up my claim to it, as elder daughter, bcs I have new china, and it felt selfish. But I still pine for it.

I loved that "chester drawers" because I *saw* it in the attic. And because my mother told me it had belonged to her grandma. I kept my aunt's doll blanket until it was literally tatters, bcs it was hers, given to her by a neighbor, then mine.

I'm not anti-keeping stuff that *matters* to you, or even that has inherent value (like that writing desk that a previous generation didn't care about), as long as it doesn't DAMAGE the life you're living right now.

The tricky part is choosing those thingsto call heirlooms from your own life, becaues there are so MANY things. And because--as my "Night Before Christmas" book proves to me--they aren't always the fancy "heirloom quality" things, sometimes they're the inexpensive dime-store paperbacks that you read over and over and over.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2007 at 9:43AM
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Macbirch isn't it funny that I have a much harder time giving up those books that were read to my children than those given to me. I've managed to wittle my books to seven. I still have a shelf full of those that belong to my kids. I associate different books with different children. To me those books are "Keepers". Eventually they go to my grown children or their children, I will be ready to let them go with fond memories. If they mean nothing to the new owners that is their decision.
Talley Sue, as always, you are so eloquent. I am fascinated by each view point on what has value and what doesn't. It is so individual. I love that we have a place here to get opinions, advice and sometimes gentle criticism.
I know that I will refer back to your words many times.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2007 at 11:19AM
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Not just space is important, but the quality of goods. I come from poor people. I remember my grandmother's cooking pans. They were dented thin alum. She would have had better if she could have afforded other pans. I'm not going to save those pans. I'm sure she hated them, but it was all she had. I use her silver thimble daily, it just never occurred to me to post that I use my grandmother's thimble.

I didn't read here about anyone pushing people to get rid of items with meaning. I personally like having some family items around, but I have no desire to live surrounded by an entire house of family stuff. My mom is still using her own furniture. No one else had anything worth using, even though my mom hauled it through a dozen moves. Again, they were poor people.

I guess I don't want to live my life with obligations to material goods. I don't want my children to feel obligations for a household of stuff from people who have been long dead. An item or two is enough. I want them to always value people over things. I want their behaviors to reflect that they value people over things. I don't see this as a poor reflection of a throw away time in society. No one is throwing away our past. We just aren't going to spend money, time and energy saving a ton of stuff. It doesn't change who those people were.


    Bookmark   March 21, 2007 at 1:23AM
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Space, quality and time are so important. Emotions count too. Sometimes it is funny how something can become a "must keep item" even when the original owner did not feel strongly about it. My mother wore a dress to a dance before I was born. It was a fancy pink tulle and lace dress. I hung in my grandparents house. Time went by, styles and life styles changed. As I was growing up that gown was so glamorous to me- a real fairy tale. My grandparents died. The dress moved to my parent's house. Now I could not wear it. The style and the fit were wrong. Not to mention I had no where to wear a dress that fancy. Still the glamour, the day dreams persisted. The dress hung in a closet. My daughters gazed at the dress. Occassionally it would be pulled out and admired. They'd ask their grandmother "You wore that?". My parents downsized. The dress, over forty years old, dusty, faded and a little tattered hangs in my oldest DD's small closet. I am ready to let it go. She is not. This dress has become HISTORY, a MUST KEEP. My mother didn't assign it that status, I'm not sure I did, but my daughter has. Isn't it funny how that happened? Who'd have thought this dress would continue to linger over 40 years. Yikes, I just realized it must be coming up to its 5oth soon!!!
I don't want to live my life with obligations to material goods either. My journey is to find a balance between honoring those before me and honoring myself and who I can be.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2007 at 7:01AM
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I say,if you love it,if seeing it brings a smile or tear to the eye,put those books on display where you can see them. I think everyone is entitled to hang on to sentimental things, just as long as it's not a massive collection. When my bachelor uncle died, they found his silver engraved baby cup. Now this man was a truck driver, he never married or had kids. Yet he kept that cup as a reminder of his past. If you feel sentimental about a few books, arrange them on a table.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2007 at 9:47AM
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My mother didn't assign it that status, I'm not sure I did, but my daughter has.


Things get heirloom status because of what they mean to the person looking at it. That's why I love my "Night Before Christmas" book, and perhaps why my children will, bcs they will see it every Christmas, and it will be part of their memory of me, and my joy in that book and that poem.

Loving that once-worn dress as it hangs in the closet is not, as tre3 knows, an "obligation to material goods"--it's an indulgence in dreams, in fantasy, in an image of grandma as a glamorous and stylish and frivolous-even-if-only-for-tonight young girl. It *is* about people, and meaning.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2007 at 9:58AM
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I wonder if some of the difficulty derives from the anti-book prejudice of most professional organizers.

This is a sore point with me - books are the tools of my work, in a somewhat obscure field. The fact that you can borrow books from the library doesn't help if you need to refer to the books throughout the day nearly every day.

And yet we hear TV-show organizers declare, "No one needs to keep more than 10 or 12 books," or even "There is no reason to own any books."

So what I'm asking is, does the fact that they're books rather than something else make you feel more pressured to deny them space in your home? No one would say that you should get rid of your grandmother's christening gown (say), but to a lot of these yahoo organizers, a book is a book is a book and EVERYONE HAS TOO MANY!

Now, it is not rational to say (as people like me are are wont to) that every book absolutely must be kept, nor is it rational to say that every book absolutely must be discarded. For any object that is not currently useful and that you do not really think will become useful, there are two questions: (1) Does it give me more pleasure to own it than not to own it? (2) Am I able to store or display it appropriately?

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 7:00PM
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Normally I'd lurk since this is a tough issue to address and what makes something an object of sentiment is completely subjective. As a reader, I do like books. The older I get the more I find I refer to some of my books. I also like seeing book cases that contain some books rather than being filled entirely with collectables or assorted objets d'art. None of the books I saved after multiple cullings from several moves have monetary value; no first editions, no inscriptions from the author, nothing to recommend them other than I occasionally find them useful. When the day comes that I no longer do, out they go.

I'm beginning to feel the same toward other possessions as well - I have no children to pass things along to so I can't look at family pieces and some of the beautiful things I've inherited over the years with the same eye as someone with direct heirs.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2007 at 1:35AM
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okmoreh, I haven't watched the shows, but what I have seen in other people's home is lots of paperbacks or book club type books which no longer serve a purpose after they have been read. They really are just dust catchers.

I rarely keep books. That doesn't mean our house is without books. My DH works from home (he's a CPA, CFP, business appraiser,) so we have some fairly large bookshelves packed to the gills. But he did learn that he had to give up How to Play Bridge, which he has never done, if he wanted room for more work books. I have my collection of fiction with quilts as a theme as well as reference books for dating fabric and quilts. Gardening books, as well.

As far as fiction, there are a few I keep and I read them every couple of years. Otherwise, I consider most books to be consumable items. Both DH and I go through several novels a month and we pass them on or take them to the used bookseller. I consider most books to be consumable items which I will not read again, so I don't want them taking up space. Just like I don't keep VHS or DVDs. Very few movies I would ever want to see more than once.

In Karen Kingston's book, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, she talks about why people keep items. With books, she feels that many people keep more books than they will ever read or use because having books around means they are intelligent and that other people will view them as intelligent. I think that's an interesting perspective.


    Bookmark   March 25, 2007 at 2:04AM
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OMG, the decluttering campaign/propaganda gets even sillier; and I thought the nadir was the wholesale prejudice against inherited stuff!

Now, some pea-brain "organizer" has reportedly declared that more than 10-12 books is too many? I hope she never visits here because I happily keep company with nearly seven thousand books. I'll need to call an ambulance when she walks in, for there are 200+ in the entrance hall alone.

My books are not kept for any other reason than I enjoy living with them; I inherited many of them so they are dear to me by association or memory; but most importantly I keep them because I read them, often many times over.

Two bookworms, children of many generations of booklovers who marry and get old enough to outlive their parents naturally tend to have large libraries.

Does my treasure trove of books require attention and care (not to mention reinforced floors!)? Of course! But, to assume they are just dust catchers or stage dressing would be to underestimate them, and their value to me in my life.

How many TV's in your house? Do you have one in your sitting room, your kitchen, your bedroom, your car? Of course we have TV, too, but only one rarely-watched set in my DH's office. In our leisure time, we both read, constantly: for fun, for information, for mental stimulation, for wisdom, for comfort or for simple relaxation.

Over on the Home Dec forum there are frequent posts from people struggling to fit their monster TV's into their sitting rooms. To me, those behemoths are the true dustcatchers and the sure sign of a mind in urgent need of decluttering, if only to counteract vapid TV organizers who think 10-12 books is enough for any household.


    Bookmark   March 25, 2007 at 4:35AM
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It's very likely that the TV organizer who said "10-12 books" was thinking of mass-market books for pleasure reading, and expected that most would be read once and then be rotated out. My own limit for read-once books is closer to zero; those are the books that I can borrow from the public library.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2007 at 12:06PM
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We have one wall of bookcases that are overflowing, some of which are series that we've collected over the years. And we've gotten rid of books in the past.

My dilemna would be my 2 shelves of "how to" books purchased before or at the beginning of the internet. Part of me says I don't need them because of the Internet but they were all chosen very carefully.

The same goes for my several shelves of cookbooks. Of course the internet has any recipe I could ever need but I'm not that good at recognizing a good recipe. If I find a good cookbook, the author's tastes are similar to mine. Besides, I also like reading cookbooks.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2007 at 12:47PM
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If you love them, use them and have room for them, keep them! If I had a 1500 widget collection and needed help making it work in my life, I know you'd help even if you hated widgets or didn't own one. We are not all the same. To my mind this forum does not promote a one size fits all philosophy. Thank goodness! Some have a deep passion for books..for the reading AND the owning. Some can reread a book over and over and still get pleasure and gain insight. Some people don't read. Some prefer to borrow a book from the library and use their resources elsewhere.
I have books saved that are cheap paperbacks because I love the story and I do reread them. I have how to books and recipe books because sometimes I don't want to hassle with the computer, I like paper and I refer to them. I have old books that have meaning (and some that don't have as much). As the years go by some books I thought I wanted, I don't. And for me, those books need to leave to make room for others. My shelves of books are not pretty or valuable but they are what I want now.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2007 at 4:31PM
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Molly - Your post is not pertinent to my situation. I have not inherited any hierlooms and I have no children to whom to leave my things. But it was thought-provoking and beautifully written.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2007 at 11:37PM
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marie26, I'd say keep the how-to books (carefully chosen, therefore MUCH FASTER to use than stuff you have to wade through on the Internet!)

Ditto the cookbooks, for the reason you have given.

people go on and on about how much stuff is on the Internet, but that's part of the problems--too MUCH stuff. so much so that the valuable stuff is hard to find.

the EDITING of the material is what matters--how the info is given, what standards and tastes are applied, etc.And most of the stuff on the Internet is not edited.

I still remember a letter to the editor I once admired--a high-school honor-roll student said, "I'm a big technogeek; I love computers, etc. I find that the most EFFICIENT way to research any topic I need to research is at the LIBRARY!" And the reason is because the librarian EDITS what goes on the shelves. No crummily written books by people who don't know very much.

My DH has a wallful of books, double-deep (here's a pic--know that about half his books are in storage bcs we decluttered to sell our home). And he culls now and then, but he's not willing to pare down more. He regards these books as a reference library.

(there's another wall just like this, only longer)

I have kept books, mostly paperback, bcs I *did* reread them--mystery series I enjoyed. I was decluttering awhile ago and realized, I don't want to reread them. I'd gotten to the point that every time I started to reread, I remembered so much of the story that it wasn't enjoyable to read them. Out they went.

I can't imagine actually rereading 7,000 books; most books aren't good enough for me to read them more than once. I'll keep SOME heirloom stuff, but honestly, I'm not going to reinforce my floors for books someone ELSE picked out.

Oh, and another thing about heirlooms--my aunt once sent me all sorts of stuff my Grandma had owned. My mother pointed out that the rose-decorated tissue box and drinking glass, etc., weren't things that had some deep emotional attachment for my grandma--they just HAPPENED to be the ones she owned at the time she happened to die--they weren't even things she'd picked out because they charmed her; they were a gift from someone who knew she liked roses. I'm not cluttering up my home for stuff she just coincidentally owned.

That coinciding facts that someone owned something and then they died, doesn't somehow consecrate that object. There'd better be something ELSE going on (as w/ that party dress) before I think it deserves "hallowed" status.

It's sort of like what I said about the Internet--I'm a big fan of EDITING the collection.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2007 at 12:25PM
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Even though I have no children to pass things to, I absolutely LOVE Molly's so beautifully sums up my defense to what people have made fun of me for in the past. Yes, I know some of my mother's or grandmothers or great grandmothers things aren't necessarily stylish today. Yes, I know my house is very small & storage space is at a premium. But someday someone will be glad I saved them and preserved them, just as I am glad that someone took the time to do that for me. And my ancestors weren't wealthy people either, which to me make saving these items even more important.
Now, I'm off to find some printer paper so I can print out Molly's post and save it forever :)
P.S. I don't think it's possible to have too many books.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2007 at 8:28PM
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Wow, so many answers here to learn from. Having lost both my parents this last year, I've spent so much time going through there things. My children were particularly close to them and they went through the house to point out what had meaning for them before I dumped anything. One thing I've learned is that I need to start downsizing so my children have an easier job of it... then be brutal with what I keep from my parents. I have learned to let go of things I thought I "should" keep - my mother's large copper collection. She loved the stuff, I just see all of it as way too much work to polish. I've saved a few pieces that have meaning for me, but let go - it actually went to the Salvation Army - of the rest. Throughout this grieving process I've had much advice. One thing that was important when I was so overwhelmed (54 years of stuff), was that I could always "lose it later". If I found myself stuck on the decision, I kept it and took it home. I got to the point that I was trying to get rid of more and more, but if I wasn't sure after too much time, I could decide later. Some of those things I've already disposed of, because once home I tried to figure out where to go with it. Monetary value has very little to do with what I've decided to keep, sure I did sell some stuff and I'm glad I did. Both my kids have pretty complete kitchens and workshop tools - they had at least 2 of everything and they will use those things with memories of these special people in their lives. I'm not one who can realistically offer any advice on this subject because I haven't decluttered my own house, but I have learned from the experience and when I've had a little more time to heal, I intend to start on my own house. My children will appreciate it....

    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 10:07AM
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This thread reminds me of the one regarding Christmas decorations last year. Someone asked why there was so much emphasis on getting rid of decoration when decorating her home was a great joy to her. Some of us are looking for affirmation to let stuff go. That it doesn't add to the emotional value of our lives.

I think this board is a good place to learn that we can live and have our surrounding however WE choose. Keep it or not keep it, the choice is doesn't have to be dictated by someone else's values.

deirdre, I'm sorry for the loss of your mom. I know there really will not be time to clear out my mom's things when she is gone, so some items I might have wanted will not be saved.


    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 1:07PM
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Gloria, can you make a list for yourself of the things you know you'd want to save? Then, when the time comes, at least you'll know what to head for, and you can ignore all the rest?

Deirdre, my sympathies as well.

And you make an important point about ALL decluttering projects--it's a particularly potent point in an emotionally charged situation like yours, but it's true of ALL decluttering projects:

" One thing that was important when I was so overwhelmed . . . was that I could always "lose it later". If I found myself stuck on the decision, I kept it and took it home. . . . if I wasn't sure after too much time, I could decide later."

Sometimes, you "wear out your decider"--or you just don't have a clear decision, and you need time for it to percolate. Later, you'll have a better idea, and so it's OK to stash the stuff and make the decision later.

My mother once told me, "sometimes, not saying 'yes' is 'saying no.'"

Not saying "I can toss this" is *actually* saying "I don't want to toss it, at least not yet."

    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 2:18PM
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I think a theme of this discussion is what is appropriate for us to keep differs from person to person. I believe that our "stuff" should not hold us down (I used to think that I "should" or "had to" keep certain things). Instead, the items we keep should enhance our day-to-day life, as Molly has shared.

My husband of 11 months and I realize that our basement is full of dead people's stuff -- things belonging to my parents and his late sister. One of our goals is to be able to use the space in the basement and not just treat it like a storage locker. So I'm learning to let go of the things that don't bring me joy, utility, etc.

Until recently, I have not been able to part with much of my mothers' stuff -- just the thought of doing so brought up such raw feelings.

But with time, the grief has subsided and I am able to let go of more things that do not offer positive contributions to my life.

For example, I've sold or given away most of Mom's sewing notions -- if I need seam binding or lace, I'll buy some new stuff that matches my fabric. But I kept her thread and had her heavy duty Singer 15-91 straight-stitch-only machine overhauled. I own a more modern sewing machine with a variety of stitches and still use it. But I decided to keep both machines -- the old Singer sews like a champ and it brings back good memories of Mom when I use it. Plus, its cabinet serves as a nice little table in my ell.

My siblings and I cleaned out my mother's house, at her request, when she moved into a retirement facility. While that was a huge task (she was a bit of a hoarder), I am deeply grateful that we were not in the throes of grief while sorting, pitching, and claiming treasures from her decades of accumulation. Mom was there to consult with and delight in what we'd unearthed.

When she passed away three years ago, there was little left to clean out. That was a blessing.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 2:19PM
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Deirdre I am so sorry for your losses. This forum is so valuable as quiltglo said because we find permisssion to give up those things which are dragging us down. It is hard when grieving to have to make decisions. I'm glad that your children were able to help you a little by indicating what has value to them. This whole thread has brought up how unique we are ; what one person needs or loves versus another's burden. Don't be tough with yourself right now about decluttering. You know that this loss and the realizations will stay with you forever. Take care of yourself. Someday, in the future, when you are ready, this forum will be here to cheer you on.
Quiltglo, those things that are important to you, is there no way to ask for them to be put aside even packed and shipped? This is making me very sad to think of you losing something that may be special and bring smiles or memories.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 2:27PM
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Before my late mother moved to a retirement home, my siblings and I helped her to go through all of her things. It was my mom who wanted to get rid of most of the things, saying that they weren't important. Being the person I am and needing "physical" memories, I took her box of recipes even though she wasn't the best cook as well as any documents there were from my late father when he was a child and came to America. Mom found it so easy to throw away most cards and letters.

When she passed, it was almost too easy to go through her belongings since she seemed to keep mainly items we had all given her through the years. We just ended taking back what we originally gave to her.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 2:39PM
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tre, one of the problems we are dealing with is mom is 89 and her memory is failing fast. She and I have frequently spoken about items like my grandmother's wedding gown, but she honestly doesn't remember to send the items. Getting things packaged and mailed just isn't very easy for her and my brother travels 80% of the time with his job. She's also getting just a bit of dementia. She and my grandmother raised my cousin, yet when I mention that my cousin would want some of Grandma's things, Mom actually gets angry and says that she isn't family. I don't want my cousin to ever hear any of that kind of talk, so it may be best to just wait until after Mom is gone so we can do it together. It will probably be best that some of these family items go to my cousin and be passed down with her children.

I feel very selfish when I worry about time. I'm a middle-aged woman with a young family and we just won't be able to devote a huge amount of time to going through household items. Mom currently lives in a co-op, so they may give us a month before we need to resell the place, but even that amount of time is difficult when you are talking long distances.


    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 3:30PM
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Gosh quiltglo I'm half (ok a little more than 1/2) your mom's age and I feel my memory fading FAST! Seriously, I understand you wanting to protect your cousin. I would be wounded to hear that even if I knew it was "age". And it sounds like your brother has his hands full with job related responsibilities. I am sorry.
Many have mentioned the small almost insignificant items of day to day life that they treasure after the loss of a loved one. Isn't it funny that what brings back memories for us and the people who love us are objects related to "doing" not "having". The thimble mentioned or the recipe box, the pan used for brownies or the favorite spatula with the burn mark. These everyday items, incorporated into our lives can sometimes mean the most. You'd think it would be the item the owner was proudest of or saved the most for. Sometimes it is. Mostly it is about "doing"; making the brownies or hand stiching or even burning the pot roast.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 5:22PM
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When my dad died, the only 2 things I took of his at that time were a ring he always wore (and I now wear all the time) and a cutting board. We had chosen that particular cutting board many years earlier as a gift to my mother and it has a very pretty design on one side. He ended up using it to cut bread on it every single day. My mom gladly gave it to me and I have hung it up in every kitchen I've had and it will always be very special to me.

When my mother passed, I took another cutting board that my sister had purchased for her when she visited Russia. I have that hung as well but I think I was just trying to even out my tribute to both parents because this board has no particular sentimental value but it also is very pretty.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 5:36PM
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Mom currently lives in a co-op, so they may give us a month before we need to resell the place,

they ought to give you as many months as you can pay the maintenance.
They might not let you LIVE in it, but they shouldn't force you to sell.

If you have any worries, you could ask someone on the co-op board behind their back.

Also, if you (and your cousin and brother) make the list now, you can each keep a copy, and then you can hopefully trust someone else to help you locate the things that matter most to you.

tre3, it's so much fun to get so much input and insights from you on this board. You are right about the 'doing'--I swoon with happiness sometimes to think I own my grandma's cookie jar AND the crinkle cutter she used to make my favorite cookies. And I thank God (and my mom) that my mom thought to snag those for me.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 5:49PM
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Are you serious!! 10 to 12 books??!!? I guess I'm doing a good job avoiding those decluttering mavens and their shows.

I know I have too much stuff. Way too much. But it is all stored, not piled in my bedroom or anything. But if I'm going to unload clutter, there's a lot of other junk (kitchen cabinet pulls, old hardware chunks, dated renovation magazines, illfitting clothes, wrapping paper and ribbons, craft supplies, abandoned hobby projects, stupid kitchen gadgets, etc) that's going before my books or things I inherited from family!!

Keep the Pooh books from your parents!! Throw away something less meaningful that is the same size if you need space. Surely there is a pair of ugly shoes whose time has come.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 6:27PM
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Here's another idea -- choose three or four of your favorite illustrations from these books, cut them out, and have them framed.

- Maureen (visiting from the Decorating Forum)

    Bookmark   March 28, 2007 at 7:03AM
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Mclarke thanks for visiting. I did think of an idea along those lines (another project!). My all time favorite book growing up it almost in tatters and it is something I would consider having rebound. Before I do,I'd like to color copy(copy infringement??) a few of the illustrations (I remember poring over them during naptime) and laminating them or something to use in making one of those cute tote/handbags you see being used so often now. Or I've though of framing a few copies to hang in my dressing room.
Guys, thanks for the Pooh input. One pooh gone because of foxing. Three kept. I like these books. But I have several others inscribed from parents and other family memebers that I love. I am at peace with the decision I made for ME. I truly thank all of you for helping me take the time to carefully consider my options. For me, clarity is a type of organization.
PS TalleySue thank you :)

    Bookmark   March 28, 2007 at 8:05AM
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What a thought-provoking thread!

    Bookmark   December 14, 2010 at 2:35PM
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I was very pampered as a child. Toys, dolls, books, you name it, I had it. My Mom saved a few of my Little Golden Books.(The Pokey Little Puppy,The Saggy Baggy Elephant, etc.) She gave them to me to keep when I got married and had a house where I could store them. I think she was de-cluttering more than anything. I held onto them, looked at them once in a while. I eventually had two daughters. When one was a toddler, I gave her one of the books to look at. She started tearing out the pictures! Tried again when both were older and in school (more responsible) but by then they were not interested. They liked their school books better. So I donated all my old books to a local charity (Salvation Army). I went back a few days later and saw them on display. I don't know what happened after that but I knew my kids didn't want them. And I was rid of them without actually throwing them out.Maybe a young mother with little money bought them for her child. At least that's what I'd like to think.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2010 at 3:35PM
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I didn't realize this question was posted in 2007.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2010 at 11:36AM
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Jannie...I didn't either, but it is worth still having access to and reading, isn't it?

I think I'll print it out and make a booklet of it and refer to it everytime I need to sort, clear out, store, etc. my STUFF!

Lots of good ideas and wisdom here!

nola anne

    Bookmark   December 19, 2010 at 10:35AM
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