Monday, March 23, 2009


Part of my day, every day, is involved with the effluvia of two lifetimes that is currently stored in our garage.

Lifetime #1.  My mother, bless her, was an inveterate collector.  She loved garage and estate sales and she had an eye for stuff that had real value.  When she died in 2004, there was so much to sort through that we gave up.  We feared that we would toss or give away something that we shouldn't.  We didn't want to be the garage sale in which someone paid $5 for an item and then went to Antiques Roadshow and discovered it was worth several thousand.  So we boxed it all up and put it in the garage to be sorted through over time.

Lifetime #2.  My grandmother had already sorted through her household things.  When Mom died, Grandma moved from her home of 40 years into a Senior Living apartment.  She had very little attachment to inanimate things (and often commented derisively about Mom's stuff), so when the time came to move, she went through her belongings and kept only those items that meant something to her.  Despite that very major winnowing, when Grandma died there were still quite a number of boxes that came to our garage.  Grandma had a lot of family history in her apartment and we didn't want to sort too speedily and toss something that mattered.

It can be daunting, this sorting of stuff, especially when the stuff is so esoteric.  I ask myself how much is this really worth?  It would be easier if Mom had simply bought things because she liked them, but I know that she was savvy about "collectibles" and so the doubt rises.  The internet has helped greatly, as have many library books on the values of collectibles. But after five years, I've just about had it.  With the economy so slowed, is it worth the time to try to sell the rest of it?  I'm in the process of setting up an Etsy shop, but honestly, who collect salts cellars?  Or butter pats (my grandmother's sole collecting interest), as wonderful as they may be?  And what if a particular item is part of family history of which I'm ignorant?

Because of this experience, Ken and I are resolute:  we will not leave this much stuff for our children to deal with.  We are documenting family heirlooms, the who and the when.  Sometimes even the why.  Our house is full of 25 years' worth of married life, a good bit of it still here because we're sentimental about it.  Ha!

I checked out It's All Too Much, a book with practical advice on jettisoning clutter and reordering a home.  I've checked these kinds of books out before, but this one is by far the best.  The best advice - three questions to ask ourselves:  What is the purpose of this room?  Does this item contribute or detract from the purpose of this room?  Does it contribute to another room's purpose?  These questions have helped break the logjam, as it were.  We are now on a mission, and this mission will be the subject of most of my blogposts for awhile.

One of the things unearthed yesterday - my mother's Funnies Folder.  It contains humorous email she had received, clippings, newspaper comics, whatever made her smile.  Beneath it was one of my CPR class folders.  Well, here's a prime example of how disorganized things are, I muttered.  But no!  They were actually related.  On the Notes page of the class folder, I had written some of the instructor's comments.  His name is Dave and he does an excellent, and hilarious, job of teaching CPR/First Aid.  His suggestions on how to fill out the class evaluation sheet:

How'd you like the class:
a.  Nobel material
b.  Better than a weekend with the in-laws
c.  I've learned more from a book of stamps

The Instructor:
a.  is an expert in his field and related the information in a concise, easy to understand format
b.  did a decent job keeping our attention considering we're just here because our job requires it
c.  isn't qualified to provide Emergency First-Aid Services to a stick

Dave's classes are never dull.

Next time:  the box that hasn't been opened in five years.  Stay tuned.

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