We’re trying to declutter our home because we foresee we’ll be moving in the next year or so, and because we simply have too much stuff. Yesterday, my husband’s beloved 1958 MGA car was picked up by its enthusiastic purchaser and taken away on a truck. He had owned the car since 1969, when he bought it as a teenager and as his very first car. But he was pleased to see it go to a new person who would love it: he didn’t want to restore it (again) and he wants to do different things these days, such as travel to India.
I don’t have anything as large or valuable to get rid of, but I still have too much. A lot of the stuff I have is kept for sentimental reasons, but sometimes I wonder if these reasons are misplaced. For example, I have a novelty Easter bunny cup given to me by my brother when he was a little boy…truth be told, my mother probably bought it for him, and he wouldn’t even remember it now that he is nearly 30. The cat book-ends and the husband-and-wife cats with parasol I bought from Bali can probably go, too. Then again, when I grouped them for a photo for this post, I found they all looked so cute, I couldn’t do it. Back on their shelves, they went!
There are some things I will keep forever and never even contemplate giving away. For many years, I’ve had a small art-deco style turquoise glass vase that I love—I’ve even done a painting of it:
My mother gave the vase to me, and it had belonged to her mother. But recently, I mentioned it to Mum, and she couldn’t remember off-hand which one it was. That’s because she gave it to me so long ago, and it was just one of those things she had in the cupboard and perhaps didn’t care for that much herself.
Talking about gifts, when people give me something, I am very appreciative. I love receiving a present and always feel so happy that someone has taken the trouble. I love beautiful wrapping paper and cards, too. Many of the presents I receive are things that I treasure for years, and keep for sentimental reasons. Yet, if you asked the person who gave you a particular present years ago, they probably wouldn’t even remember it, unless it was special to them, too. That’s because they bought it for you, had it for a very short time, then handed it over, duty done, and forgot about it.
Sometimes a present just wears out. In the late 1980s, I met a young woman who was to become my lifelong friend, and she gave me a huge framed Man Ray print. I loved this print and it travelled with me everywhere. It’s been on the wall of at least 13 different residences I’ve had over the years. Sadly, I realised recently that not only was the frame falling apart, but the print itself was the worse for wear. So, unfortunately, it was given away to the local second-hand shop. But someone else may be able to repair it and use it.
A few weeks ago, my mum finally gave away an old cassette recorder she bought in the US in the 1970s: actually, I would like to have kept this gadget, but it is gone now. Luckily though, I did this painting of it last year:
Sometimes, over the years, I’ve lived to regret what I’ve discarded. For example, all my handwritten notes and essays from my bachelor’s degree. Now that I’m a tertiary educator myself, I would love to be able to look back on my own undergraduate work.
But the worst decision I made about throwing something away was an electronic gadget my parents gave me in 1983. It was an early word processor, a light and portable machine about the size of a current-day notebook computer. It even had a small memory, and you had to buy special “thermal paper”, which you inserted in the top and which it then printed on as you typed. I wish I had kept that: it belongs in a museum, now.
Caron – I think we all have some things that we couldn’t dream of parting with because they have real meaning for us. But it is interesting how much we acquire over the years that we think really matters. Later when we look back, we see that it doesn’t matter – not really. And those things sneak up on us too I think so that we don’t even see how much we have – until it’s time to move. Still, there is a reason to keep some things. I love that vase of yours for instance, and the painting is lovely. I have a few things like that too.
Thank you! It’s interesting that since I’ve been painting, I have been happier about giving away stuff. For example, I gave my old manual typewriter, which I haven’t used for 20 years, to a friend who collects such things. Before I did that though, I painted it. A painting seems to put me in touch with the object much more closely than a photo. With a painting, I feel like I truly “own” the object, whether it’s with me or not.
That makes a lot of sense, Caron. You have the object in your memory and in your painting. So you have its essence, whether you keep it or not.
I love your painting of the ‘old’ gadgets. What a clever way of holding onto the memories without increasing the clutter in your home.
Thank you! I love doing those sorts of paintings—like creating an archive of things that have been important to me.
My father had the same cassette player. He gave it to me and I had it for years. I finally gave it away when I was making a move and decluttering. Have to see it gave me a start when I just saw it in your painting.
Interesting! I remember when Mum and Dad bought it in the mall at Santa Monica, LA, in about 1973. It was the latest in personal music-playing gadgetry. I also got my own much smaller “cassette deck”, which is long gone.
Sorting through my parents’ home after their deaths really opened my eyes on this topic. I realized it’s just stuff. I no longer feel guilty for not keeping the ceramic dish my mom made as a child. Or for throwing away towels I wouldn’t let guests use, etc. Here’s to your new beginnings!
That’s right, it is just stuff. A lot of the time, we keep stuff too because “it might come in handy”, or out of a sense of not wanting to waste something that is “perfectly good”.