Beyond Indifference: letting go of the cherished (long post)

peegeeMarch 19, 2009

For some time I've been mulling over Lilydilly's post, "I'm de-cluttering 'indifference'" and want to bring it a step further. Some history first. Thanks in large part to the intesting and helpful posts here providing much needed inspiration and motivation, over the past year+ I've made great strides eliminating a lot that I've held onto for many years. One poster recommended asking yourself something like "would I buy this today?" - and that one tip helped me move through bags of old but serviceable clothing...But getting rid of things I didn't love got me only so far, in part because unlike the overload of clothing, I generally only let into my life things that really speak to me - and then I get really attached.

So it must have been the momentum from letting go of inconsequential possesions that allowed me to move beyond into an area that until this past year would have been absolutely inconceivable to me: to let go of cherished belongings that don't fit into my life any longer. For example, when I moved from a large home into my small place, I held onto my lovely formal furniture, storing my comfy casual stuff upstairs. It took me a long time to finally accept that the really nice quality formal stuff no longer served me and had to go. About 6 months later it dawned on me that my beloved 75 year old living room rug that I owned for over 25 years and still admired each and every time I looked at it - didn't work well in the only room it fit in; the dark rug really seemed to suck the light out of the room. Now the brightness of the room from the glow of the oak floors is enough. Better example: grandfather clock - always loved it. This house so small ticking clock can be heard no matter where I put it and kept me up at night so I had to stop the pendulum. Years later it finally occurs to me that having a clock that doesn't keep time doesn't make sense - and I hadn't even heard the Westminster chimes in years!!!!!I think that I held onto these and many other items because I couldn't imagine them out of my life/or my life without them, and that maybe I was holding on thinking someday I'll have a bigger house again, etc. Well, I guess I have made a decision that I need to live my NOW life in the best way NOW. It helps - and suprises me - that I don't miss these things, and the increased space from fewer possesions is awesome. I have a long way to go but I'm really proud of my progress and thankful for those that have helped me on this forum. How about others...are you holding onto possesions because you love the items even though they may not be so useful anymore? Penny G.

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Yes, Penny, that's exactly what I'm doing. I can't help myself. I am happy as can be using old stuff of my mom's and grandmothers'. I love that it has come to me, one way or another, and I feel like the curator.

I've given my kids some choice pieces that they wanted; I'm delighted to eat at an old table that was an old ancestors when we're in our daughter's new kitchen. It looks right there. My hub was charmed to see a DIL drying a goblet with an old towel his grandmother had embroidered when he was a boy. Alarmed at first, he said, "Should Betsy be using that towel?" I smiled at him. He said, "Of course she should; it was meant to be used. Actually, I'm touched that she is." There is now a fifth generation of children using dishes dried by that cloth. To us, that means something, silly as that may sound.

I would never be able give up the grandfather clock if circumstances didn't force it. I have a cuckoo clock in my living room that my hub cherished from his aunt, who brought it from Germany. It hasn't kept time in years, but the grandkids love to hear it cuckoo, and it connects them to their past, even if they have no idea who Papa's Aunt Betty was.

I guess that's what makes the world go round - there are so many different kinds of people. I appreciate the help I've gotten here about daily clutter and organization, but I can't part with my treasures.


    Bookmark   March 20, 2009 at 9:54AM
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These 2 posts are really what it's all about--you keep things when they are serving YOU and you let go of them when you are serving them. The curator analogy is okay, but shermann wasn't describing a passive, dusty museum--she has integrated the objects into the family's life and finds a benefit that justifies the upkeep.

So it's always personal--one person's treasure is another's burden, and only the individual can make the distinction. But, sharing ideas on the forum can help us individuals make better choices!

    Bookmark   March 20, 2009 at 11:43AM
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I think Peegee made a foos point. Are we living with tosday or yesterday?

    Bookmark   March 20, 2009 at 2:39PM
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Typo alert-I mean "Good" not "foos" What are my fingers thinking?

    Bookmark   March 20, 2009 at 2:40PM
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If I truly cherished an item, I don't think I would give it away or sell to a stranger. I could give it away to a younger family member who truly wanted it.

And it depends on how you define the word "cherish." I am fond of many things in my house, but I can't say I cherish any inanimate object. When I think about what items I would grab in the event of a fire, there is nothing I would take beyond the practical or expensive.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2009 at 9:37AM
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Fortunately for me, the possessions I've loved & became not useful have been smaller decor-type things or household items that came from family. I could store these things in a closet & not be in the way. Nothing large like furniture.

I have gone through the thought-process of whether the loved things still fit into my life. I have rid myself of 99% of them because...NO!...they didn't fit into my life & where I was going with it.

Some interesting tidbits I learned about myself and the stuff:
1. A few of these items were passed down/given to me by family. It was SOMEBODY ELSE who decided I should have it because grandma would have wanted me to have it. After hard thought, I realized I WAS TOLD to love these things, I was told to take them. I would not have taken them on my own. I have my own memories and preferences of remembrance & those things didn't fit into my life and space. I got rid of them and it didn't change MY memories one bit.

2. I also learned on other things I couldn't get rid of...I was able to pinpoint the reason / the memory / the feeling I got from the object. Example: I had this pottery bowl. I loved it as a kid. I kept it when the family member died. I hung on to it. It was in a closet. It didn't match my style & nothing I would select on my own, but it just gave me a memory of that person's living room & how fun it was to go over there. I realized I didn't need that bowl to remember the fun, and I didn't need the bowl to remember what her living room looked like. I already had those feelings & memories in my own head. Let it go. Didn't change a thing. I still have those memories.

I think for me, it comes down to whether I'm giving up my time, money, and/or efforts into something I do or don't use, care for, and enjoy regularly.

On the other hand, it it truly is something you love and it's a pleasure to have / tend to / revisit regularly...then keep it.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2009 at 11:33AM
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i am in a similar position, i am parting with things that are beautifl and i love them, but they just aren't serving the needs i have and they are in my way...

today i had a call about a beautiful antique easel i have on craigslist for sale, i love it and would love to use it..but it is just too needs to go..there is no where to use it here.

i have a whole lot of things on craigslist for sale..anything that i'm tripping over in the house..beautiful items..just don't them..can't have everything i love..just no room

    Bookmark   March 21, 2009 at 7:39PM
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1. A few of these items were passed down/given to me by family. It was SOMEBODY ELSE who decided I should have it because grandma would have wanted me to have it. After hard thought, I realized I WAS TOLD to love these things, I was told to take them. I would not have taken them on my own. I have my own memories and preferences of remembrance & those things didn't fit into my life and space. I got rid of them and it didn't change MY memories one bit.

This happens a lot. Not *just* with stuff from a deceased relative's house. With other stuff too. Like the lady at work who gave me a hankie made into a baby bonnet, w/ a poem. Nice, yeah, but I've just been "assigned" an "heirloom."

*I* don't want to hold on to this thing for 26 years just because someone ELSE thinks it would make an heirloom!

It's really freeing to get rid of that stuff, bcs I also get rid of the vague sense of guilt that I feel over not valuing it.

For things like that bowl, I have sometimes forced myself to find a way to FIT them into my life. It sometimes turns out to be not nearly as hard as I think. (It helps that my style is mostly eclectic. As long as it's not florid, I'm good.)

    Bookmark   March 21, 2009 at 10:21PM
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the heirloom might be nice to regift to someone else..?? say as a package ornament..

the problem here is the things i need to part with now are beautiful old antiques i could use if i had more more..i just don't..i'd love to use the antique artists easel, but it is very large and to sit it up is just ridiculous..however after i listed it and set it up to show when the lady comes today, i did put a canvas on it and thought..why didn't i just use it to display that canvas???? if it doesn't sell i will.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2009 at 12:41PM
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I've had a hard time getting rid of some of my daughters beautiful little girl dresses and then I remembered that when she was born a dear friend gave me a precious dress and matching hat that had belonged to her daughter and only worn once so she passed it on to us. It was a size 3 but most of these dressed don't go out of style so I saved it just waiting for the day when she could wear it and she did. Over the years when someone I cared for had a daughter I'd pass on one of my daughters nice dresses and it has started a whole series and generation of these dressed being passed on not just by me but my friends and family doing the same thing. It has helped me part with them and in a way is paying it forward.
I won't ever need them again and this way I feel pretty sure someone will get good use out of them.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2009 at 11:04PM
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I enjoyed reading all of your posts. I am at that stage of life with too much stuff.

Much to my girls' delight I finally took an old loveseat and sofa (not a cherished item but they served a useful purpose)to the recycle place and watched the big compactor compress it. It was hard to part with since, on our big enclosed porch, they made good beds for the 2 cats and dog. One old comfortable chair (with one piece of black tape covering a tear)I tried to put in the "free" area for someone to pick up, but the recycle attendant insisted it go into the compactor too. I still remember the crunch-crunch noise as the wooden foundations were compressed.
Knowing we were never going to be wealthy I saved alot of my kids better toys (some now are collector items)and books to give to my grandchildren. As it turns out it looks as if I may never have any grandchildren. The great nieces/nephews do enjoy them when they visit.

I hope to soon start "decluttering"---too many saved good magazines. Someone suggested I take some to the hospital waiting rooms (after removing the address lable). Right now I have many years of National Geographics, Consumers Reports and Country Living.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 12:54AM
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I bring my extra magazines to a local hospital waiting room. Or my nearest 24 hour laundromat. I tear off the addresses. Don't want any of them traced back to me! Also drop off novels I've purchased and don't wish to keep/reread.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 11:49AM
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Knowing we were never going to be wealthy I saved alot of my kids better toys (some now are collector items)and books to give to my grandchildren. As it turns out it looks as if I may never have any grandchildren. The great nieces/nephews do enjoy them when they visit.

This is going to be my next challenge. I'm going to be the one who wants to hold onto the wooden trains and the Imaginext castle kits. Which are HUGE, and so take up too much room.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 2:14PM
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i went through with a camera yesterday and snapped a lot of photos of furniture and some shelves and cabinets where i had extra things of my MIL's and other things that I wanted to sell on craigslist..I put a few dozen pictures on the site yesterday and today a lady came and spent $50 buying odds and ends of things..these are some of the pictures i posted on the site..all were cherished antiques..but i didn't need them all..and now someone else will be able to share in them......time to let go.....i think i took over 50 photos and posted them....even more to take when these items all sell (a lot of these sold today)

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 10:03PM
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I dragged this up again because I'm still at it and it feels SOOO good to move out/clear things I thought I 'd never ever part with, could NOT ever fathom not having in my life. Of course it helps that my daughter is the recipient, so i can still see these things over at her house...this weekend my very first good purchased piece of furniture, a Maddox block front desk with crowned glass top and a Statton low back desk chair made their way over to her place, following a bunch of other case goods over the last couple years. I was not sad but thrilled as I replaced them with a couple pieces of Stickley that fit my different look now, and are more practical for my needs - *doing the happy dance* - The freedom to unshackle the chains of one's own expectations can be SO FREEING!!!!

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 9:12PM
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Peegee, how great that this is still evolving for you!!

And evidence for the rest of us that this is a process--you don't have to do it all at once.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2012 at 7:23AM
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I'm cleaning my cluttered attic, have LOADS of Christmas items-including 3 fake trees, lots of ornaments and decor items. I'm keeping it stored in the attic where they are in boxes, labelled and stacked and I don't have to deal with them daily. Hopefully one day my 2 daughters will be married and show some interest. If not, I am prepared to let things go at some point. In the meantime, I'm staying away from 99 cent and dollar stores, garage and estate sales. No more stuff coming in and what I do have is used and loved or neatly stored. This is good enough for me.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2012 at 8:49AM
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Thanks Talley! Your right about the process- part of the success of letting go may be to visualize only releasing certain things at a time; had I had to imagine letting my most favorite piece out of my life at the very first, I honestly don't think I could have made the initial step some years back...I held onto this one with white knuckles practically, and what amazes me is that I am not sorry one bit. I am SOOO much happier with the change. In fact, I told my daughter yesterday that when she is ready she can take the matching chest out of my bedroom, as it occurred to me after the desk was gone that it would make so much more sense at her house, and I already moved on after re-inventing myself.... (even though I previously could not imagine letting that out of my life either, despite knowing she really wanted it...if that makes sense!

    Bookmark   September 12, 2012 at 7:45AM
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Isn't it greatly helpful that your favorite things are going to your daughter? I think I could relinquish a lot more stuff if only my kids would take it.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2012 at 7:28PM
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This thread is exactly what I needed to read today. Trying to get a next load ready for charity and am stuck on quilts and afghans. All are handmade, give them that one-of-a-kind feel, but I have so many and use so few. It seems like they are taking up space here and there and I am tripping over them- they are giving more grief than joy and yet, because they are "special" they are hard to part with.

For those of you struggling with the toy issue, I have some thoughts to share. I am a middle-aged woman whose mother saved way too much stuff from my childhood and dumps it on me from time to time- for my child of course. The problem is that times change and toys do not age well unless they are very well stored (Legos and a few other things may be exceptions to the rule). My mother saved so much, in fact, that I am hard pressed to try to figure out what was important, and honestly so much of it comes back to me in horrible condition- paint and stickers deteriorated, plastic breaking down, etc. I'm sure they would be much more pristine in my memories. For the most part, they are not the toys kids are playing with today and I don't want to burden my kid with old toys in lieu of newer things that she should have. Kids don't need a lot of toys, but I think they need toys modern to their time and relevent to what their friends have. Nothing wrong with having a few vintage toys, but they should be the most special and well thought out vintage toys. FWIW, so many of the old worn toys that have come back to me are available on ebay in almost new condition for generally not that much. Who knows what the future will hold, but I wish if I had fond memories of something that I had the chance to buy it online, versus gotten the reality check of how badly worn out and poorly kept the actual item was.

It's given me a lot of food for thought as I pass on old outgrown clothing and toys of DD's. It is clear what is very dear to her, and that is what we should keep- though I have to admit that sometimes it is hard for me to separate what I think is special from what is truly special to her- a mistake my own mother clearly made. Rant over...

    Bookmark   September 21, 2012 at 3:51PM
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I love this!

I saved all kinds of things from family, from my childhood, etc. My mom was one who would occasionally purge, then regret things she gave away. I do that, too, actually.

I gave all my kids stuff to my sister when her kids were born. I don't have kids, so what was the point. I also gave her permission to go through the boxes and TRASH anything she felt compelled to do, since I'd packed them 20 years before. (Now more like 30.)

Recently, I've been taking things back to my mom's. Family furniture, (She's using a head and footboard in her new guest room.) jewelery of grandparents, my grandmothers artwork, and things no one here where I live would know what to do with. Living alone, if I get hit by a bus, these things someone in the family might value would be tossed.

My family is somewhat unusual. Between 3 sisters, we've traded back and forth over the years. If someone likes something and someone else isn't using it, we think nothing of handing it over. There isn't any greed here.

Our mom even jokes about items "when she's done with them" aka "dead" where they could go if we don't tear each other apart over them. We just all laugh and say, "Who the heck wants that?" Then someone walks over and slaps a post-it-note on the front of it with their name on it. Usually in the middle of a TV screen or a painting.

Once I went to drink out of a wine glass and my sister had written "mine" on the bottom in felt marker. We LAUGHED SO HARD we almost spit wine.

But my mom has taught us it's only valuable if someone wants it. Period. Truck loads of clothing has gone to Dressed for Success or Good will, etc. We think nothing of handing something along. Family gets first dibs, then off it goes!

    Bookmark   October 10, 2012 at 11:06AM
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When my exhusband's grandparents died, his folks, his aunt, he and his sisters had a lot of arguments about who got things. That was 15 years ago and there is still ill will because of "who got what." It was a good lesson for me to prepare me for future losses in my family. PEOPLE come first- before any things. My folks have a beautiful house full of beautiful things. I only have one brother. He means more to me than all those things. He can have it all if he wants it.

My middle son (16) recently boxes up every toy but a few Leggos and donated it all to a charity thrift store. He said he'd rather think of some kid being thrilled to find nice toys cheap, and playing with them, than have it all cluttering up his room. I was very proud of him. My oldest did the same a few months before. Now if I could only get #3 to do the same!

I've thought a lot about what I cherish from reading this thread. I have my mom's original wedding set - a tiny diamond chip engagement ring and thin gold wedding band. They aren't worth much $ but they are my most priced possessions. I also have my mom's wedding china. Her parents bought it as her wedding present. They were farmers and never had much cash. I cherish it because I know what a sacrifice it was for my grandparents to give my folks very nice wedding china. It is displayed in my dining room hutch and makes me happy to see every day.

I got divorced 2 years ago and gave away a lot if stuff that I considered cherished at one time. Wedding china and crystal, things DH and I had bought on travels - stuff like that bit was just too painful to have around. I also gave away almost every piece of furniture in the house because we bought it all together. Through friends, garage sales, family & thrift stores I refurnished my house with beautiful things that don't have memories attached.

My good friend recently moved 3000 miles away. She had to give up many cherished things because it was so expensive to ship things. I helped her sort and haul for many weeks before the move. It got to the point where she saw it all as stuff & just wanted to get rid of it. That was also a good lesson for me.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 7:53AM
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