Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Clutter Or Treasures

My grandmother hasn't been doing very well over the past year or so. She had a car accident last year and never really fully recovered, so she can no longer take care of herself. In order to help pay for her care, my mom has taken on the somewhat daunting task of getting my grandmother's assets and finances in order and just generally taking care of things - including her two cats, Zoe and Bella. My grandmother, like most grandmothers, saved absolutely everything over the years making her basement somewhat of a time capsule.

I was never allowed in the basement growing up, the only view I ever got was through the dusty window in the basement door. My siblings and cousins used to think of the basement as kind of a black hole where no one ever went. Because of this we used to throw copious amounts of toilet paper down the laundry shoot just to watch it flutter down into the dark abyss. We later realized that, in reality, my grandmother would go down there every once in a while and find a mound of toilet paper where the laundry used to go. I'm actually surprised she never told us to stop doing that.

This whole process has sparked a need to clean out. Clean out not only my grandmother's things but also my great-grandparents' things as well. It's quite overwhelming and, I'm ashamed to admit, I haven't even helped with the majority of it. Mostly I've just been going through boxes that my mom brings back. There is literally so much stuff. I can't believe all of these things have just been sitting unused all those years. Some of the items in these boxes are new to me, but many of them bring back forgotten memories. It's strange how seeing something that you didn't even know you knew existed can make you remember times and people and places. In a lot of ways, it's brought back a lot of happy memories in sad ways. Thinking about how things were and how they aren't that way anymore, and won't ever be again. How times changed without me noticing. How we all grew up and what used to be normal just slipped by me without a thought. It's really giving me a sense of time.

We are now in a time where minimalism is all the rage. There have been enough of us who have had to clean out grandparents' basements and attics that we've decided that all the clutter is just too overwhelming. And maybe that's a good thing in a lot of ways. I mean, did my great grandmother really need that much glassware? Probably not. Regardless, the important thing to remember is that fads of one generation will affect the next greatly. If my grandparents had been minimalists, what kind of connection would I have with my memories of them today? What would I know about who they were and what would have been lost? What will my grandchildren and great grandchildren know about me with my millennial minimalism mentality (that's a mouthful...)?

I'm not saying that you should start hoarding everything you own or throw everything out, and I'm definitely not saying that your possessions make up who you are. It's just an interesting thought that a person's personal possessions can make you feel a connection to them later on in life - like how I feel now, wearing my great-grandmother's jade necklace or trying to use her old crank wheel hand mixer to beat batter for a cake just to see what it's like to use a real hand mixer. 


madi said...

Absolutely loved this! I know just what you mean as I've gone through some of my great grandparent's things. You're writing is always beautiful, but you really nailed it this time. :)


Lauren said...

I love this perspective!

Grace Anne said...

This post is so perfect! As much as I love minimalism, at the same time I'm such a collector of memories, and some things I just can't bear to throw away. I want there to be things to remember me by!

This post is perfect:)

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Emma Howard said...

Beautifully said!!

Anonymous said...

Very interesting. I am actually a minimalist, but then again it started for me ten years ago so I didn't know it was "a thing." I dread when my parents and in-laws die not just because they'll be gone which will be heartbreaking, but because I really will be the one to go through both of their homes to rid of what they have and it is like a heavy burden of how time consuming it will be. I actually told my mom to start slowly going through her stuff NOW so it is less on me later but she was highly offended because she LOVES clinging to what she owns and thinks I should value what she does, etc. . . I truly believe that what is important is the memory you have made WITH those people, not the stuff that sparks the memories. I told her that I have loads of important memories with her and that I will value and treasure those things, not what she has left behind in her possessions.

You were talking of your memories of not being allowed in the basement and throwing toilet paper down there and your grandmother never confronting you. Those are good memories. I helped clean out my great-grandfather's house (he died in maybe the 1960s or 1970s so I never met him but his brother took over his home without changing a thing so I cleaned it out when he died back 11 years ago). There were some things that I wish I didn't find such as syringes hidden underneath floorboards. Was he a private junkie to ease the pain he had of his wife being hit by one of the first cars of the century? I don't know what was going on there but those are things I really wish I didn't have to see. The house had the worst staircase that was so narrow that we couldn't even get things out without putting them through windows or taking them apart piece by piece. The only thing really neat was that he painted paintings in his basement directly on the wall but each one was painted around a look-a-like-canvas he painted with "frames" he painted around each painting. . .and we couldn't take those at all since they were attached to the wall. That actually was really neat to me that I have that memory without taking them. The images are still in my head too.

Anyway, this was an interesting post and I enjoyed the visual with the story!! Really cool to see how people's perspectives are during such processes.

Steph said...

You really have a valid point with regards to being a generation of minimalists leaving us with minimal things to pass down to the next generation.

It's something I haven't really thought about.
I think there exists a line- a balance between hoarding and sentimentality. It's just a matter of distinguishing what goes on which side.


Lovebloggs said...

I agree with you. I'm glad that I'm not the only one with such a perspective. I have stored my grandma's things like a treasure.I love this post.