It’s unsettlingly easy to make me feel guilty and inadequate. But all these blog posts and articles and encouragements to clear out your clutter before your kids have to—not making a dent on my conscience or behavior.
First, do you know how many years I cleaned up my kids’ clutter? Come to think of it, some of their stuff is still sitting at my house, mingled with my stuff, probably spontaneously generating more stuff.
Second, when I am gone (and I’ll be honest. I’d like to postpone that day till I am ancient and doddering and my kids are saying “We love Mom so much, but she’s ready to go to a better place). Where was I? Oh yes. When I’m gone, I like to think my boys will be going through my stuff and finding treasures. Treasures to remind them of their childhood. Mementos of how greatly they were loved. They’ll see all the saved drawings and “I love yuo mom” [sic] cards and little gifts made of pipe cleaners and cardboard. I want them to understand that to me, each was an expression of boundless love via small hands.
I hope they find mysterious items they can only speculate about. Is it old? Part of our heritage? Something precious? Isn’t this like a treasure hunt?
(I wish there was a stash somewhere of my grandparent’s stuff—especially the little bits of living belonging to the three of them I never knew. To see what they loved, what they thought was important. To see a bit of the history that is a part of me. What delight I’d find in that!)
Finally, I want to be the granny with the magic house. The house with unexpected delights in closets and corners and on bookshelves and the basement. I want there to be things they don’t have to worry about handling with care because Granny saved these things for just such a time as this. And there should be the fragile, lovely stuff to marvel at and cherish, to only touch with a grandparent nearby. There should be stuff with stories, stories that link them with people they’ve never meant and places that no longer exist.
I want them to be able to touch their heritage. I want them to see paraphernalia that connects them to past generations, read books their great-grandparents read, admire jewelry that was admired a century ago. I never want them to run out of clutter and accumulations to explore at Granny’s house, so they always feel there is more to discover. More mystery, more excitement, more objects to handle and marvel at and speculate on. Magical bits and bobs that transport them across time and oceans could be just around the corner, maybe on that top shelf or the bottom drawer or in the dark and dusty crawl space.
Some of my stuff ends up in the trash every time I go through it. But my acid test isn’t very strong:
-Is this stuff safe for the grandkids to play with? Even if it is a one-and-done pleasure, it just won a reprieve.
-Does this stuff elicit an immediate emotional connection? Does it link me to a place or person or event? As long as my brain encourages my feelings to respond, this stuff stays.
-Then there’s the stuff I hold dear only because of its inherent beauty, Does it evoke wonder? Bring me delight? Because it may delight my loved ones too, I’ll hang onto it. We’ve got the room.
Stuff is just stuff. But it can serve a purpose. That stuff can be a visible reminder of love and loved ones, of creative expression and events and people and places that faded into oblivion. Yet when the stuff hits our hands and our retinas it wakens something in the heart and brain.
My kids and grandkids may one day regret my propensity to hang onto stuff. Even so, I hope they take a final look on the way to the trash can and say, “She sure did love us though, didn’t she?”