Crabby Old Lady and Audio-Only News
Elders and Their Guns

How Old is Your Stuff?

About a year and a half ago, Next Avenue published a story about how adult children and grandchildren these days don't want their parents' “stuff”. As Susan Devaney, president of NASMM [National Association of Senior Move Managers] told the writer:

“'Young couples starting out don’t want the same things people used to have. They’re not picking out formal china patterns anymore.'”

The executive director of the NASMM agrees:

“'[Millennials are] an Ikea and Target generation. They live minimally, much more so than the boomers. They don’t have the emotional connection to things that earlier generations did,' she notes. 'And they’re more mobile. So they don’t want a lot of heavy stuff dragging down a move across country for a new opportunity.'”

I've heard this from other sources. Times and cultural preferences change.

Probably because I don't have children and grandchildren, I'm not as concerned as some that relatives would reject my stuff and I have been working recently on cleaning out the detritus so that when the time comes, it will be easier for Autumn to close down my home.

Well, that's a bit of a lie. I've been thinking about ridding myself of the lifetime of stuff and haven't gotten around to actually doing it. That's just laziness but in all this thinking I have been surprised at how old so much of my stuff is.

When I was a kid, it was my job to polish the sterling silver every week. Oh, how I hated that boring job. Now, however, I've had that silver flatware since my mother died in 1992, saving it for dinner parties which are a rare occurrences these days.

(Funny how attitudes change when you grow up. I now recall those Saturday polishing sessions in the 1950s fondly.)

My mother began buying her silver in the late 1930s, piece by piece and when the family had a bit more money, place setting by place setting.

Those knives and forks and spoons I finally decided to use every day are nearly 90 years old and some pieces are pretty beat up but they connect me to my childhood and I like using them.

My set of china came from my great aunt and her sister, my grandmother, each of whom collected over decades one dish, one cup, one bowl, etc. at a time of the same 19th and early 20th century pattern while sharing extras to help one another complete their collections. I like using it every day.

Even my sofa has a long history. I bought it in 1983 at a Salvation Army resale shop (thank you, Joyce) for $250. It was already old then – an antique dealer friend told me it was at least 40 or 50 years old – but newly recovered, and I've never had a reason to get rid of it. I still like it.

Clothing too. I lost enough weight due to the surgery last year that a lot doesn't fit me now but is good enough for resale shops so I have emptied some of my closet (the only actual recycling I've done).

Even with that, I'm amazed at how old some of my clothing is – ten or so teeshirts, more than 20 years; two coats, 30-plus years; a few sweaters, at least 20 years

A good deal of my cooking equipment is ancient. In fact, I have the first pan I bought when I left home in 1958 – a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Several strainers and graters go back at least to the early 1970s and I noticed the other day that my best knives, still in good shape, date to 1977 or so, if I recall correctly but close enough.

Then there is my grandmother's hand-made quilt. I found it, never used, when my brother and I cleaned out her home after her death. She was born in 1892, and in those days girls in their teens made quilts for their trousseaux.

That makes it about 110 years old. It had been sitting on a shelf since Grandma Hazel died in 1984, and only in recent years did I pull it down to use on my bed in the warm months.

HazelsQuilt500

It's a remarkably modern design for its time, don't you think.

I'm impressed by the age of this stuff I have used for so long but by far, the oldest thing I own has no personal connection - it is a handle broken off a 2500-year-old amphora that an archaeologist at a dig I visited in Israel in 1999 (thank you, Sali) let me keep.

I like touching it regularly, holding it in my hand, placing my thumb in the indentation undoubtedly made by the thumb of the worker who crafted it.

To hold it awes me in the same way walking the old city of Jerusalem does: both strengthen my sense of belonging to the family of mankind - that people have walked those same streets, put their feet in the same places I put mine, for 5,000 years and we are all linked one to another through these many centuries.

Some people have no attachment to things, to stuff. As the above shows, that's not me. I like the memories that come with wearing old clothes, using those excellent knives I spent too much money on (and am glad I did) and even what I once thought of as that damned sterling silver.

When I was young, very young, the idea of living half a century was impossible to imagine – to me then, it might as well have been as long as Jerusalem has been there.

Now at age 77, I have no trouble knowing what living 50 years is like and more, I can see how certain pieces of my stuff, having been part of my daily life for decades, mean too much to my sense of myself and my life to get rid of any time soon.

(Sorry, Autumn, you'll have to figure out what to do with it when the time comes.)

Now, dear readers, it's your turn. How old is your stuff? What does it mean to you? Or maybe you're one who doesn't get attached to things. Let us know.


Comments

I met my Main Squeeze in the summer of 1968. That fall, for my birthday, he gave me a La Creuset Dutch Oven... a pot! I was nonplussed. Surely it was not your typical romantic gift. But, like the man who gave it to me, it is sturdy, dependable and long lasting... as has been our relationship.

We just put our home up for sale. This event was preceded by months and months of "decluttering". Lots of trips to the dump. We've set aside family pictures, old sentimental documents and a few small items to take with us to Florida, plus a couple of old chairs and a cabinet. Otherwise, all of our 4 bedroom home's furnishings and rugs will likely be donated to the Salvation Army, one of the few organizations still interested in picking up used furniture. We tried to sell it to used furniture stores or estate type traders, but NOBODY is interested in it, and I'm not about to do Craig's List or run ads and have a bunch of strangers dropping in to view it. At the same time, we just don't care anymore about any of it, so off it goes either to charity or the dump. I personally, and my wife increasingly so, simply are not interested in hanging on to a bunch of stuff. "We must be ruthless, I say, if we are ever going to get out of this house, this town, and this state". I strive to regain the attitude when I was 31 years old, had no address, no money and did not care--it was exhilarating freedom, even though I was on the edge of financial and personal oblivion, just one calamity away from disaster--but oh what a feeling. That's where I'm headed for the last decade or two of this life, but this time with a little coin in my pocket to make it more fun. Enter longevity and health fears, the grim reaper trying to catch up from behind, so I'll deal with that--without a bunch of stuff that has no value to me and just collects dust!

I volunteer at a thrift shop and interestingly, most of the shoppers are this age, too. Many are buying to resell - and I fear, some to hoard stuff. We have an amazing supply of wonderful dishes, appliances, furniture, toys, puzzles, books, records, just everything. I really wonder why more people don't purchase used and keep it out of the landfill instead of buying new. This is supposed to be a "green" generation but I also think they want the convenience of "new" first. We do have enough of everything for the entire population of this town -- there are so many more downsizing than buying.

I have possessions (or they have me) from a wide variety of years back. I too am not much into selling the items I've chosen to pare. Often I just put an item out by the curb and invariably it disappears quickly.

Ronni, I'm giggling over the overwhelming urge I have to chastise you for flaunting the wealth among which you grew up. Sterling silver? What's that? Good china? Likewise.

The rocker and straight chair set in my front room were purchase from the Montgomery Ward catalogue by my grandmother in about 1950. I had them re-upholstered while living in Florida in early 1980s. The solid walnut library table that sits between the chairs, I purchased (used) from a friend in 1968, re-finished (also in Florida, early 1980s). The piano in that room originally belonged to my step-grandfather from whom my mother purchased it in about 1948 - also re-finished in Florida.

I'm still using the chest of drawers and vanity (with mirror) that Mother also purchased from my step-grandfather in 1948. They were used, by me, with the matching sleigh-type bed while a teen-ager.

The bedroom sets in the two bedrooms of this house were purchased when I was single and living in Albuquerque (mid-late 1980s).

The dishes that we use, daily, were purchased one piece at a time as I could find them in resale shops. Our "good" dishes were purchased from Walmart. Our elder daughter was the recipient of the china and silver-plated items that Mother had given us over the years, when Mother died. I never cared for such stuff but would not have hurt Mother's feelings for the world.

Treasured items: thimbles used by various men and women in my husband's and my families, scissors that my mother-in-law used, a miniature ruby glass bean pot that I enjoyed looking at when staying with my great-grandparents, a ruby glass shot glass grandmother's father had brought her from an exposition in 1896, a ceramic ring dish that my parents gave me in the 1980s, the binoculars that my parents gave me for high school graduation in 1955, the binoculars my husband made me using carboard tubes from toilet paper (wrapped with a note that he would buy me whatever motion stabilized binoculars I wanted), a flattened piece of red modeling clay with "I L U" and a 4-leaf clover stuck into it that my husband gave me during our first year of our first marriage (1958)....

I grew up poor, then for awhile had a career where I made what seemed to me a lot of money. (In hindsight, it wasn't.) So it was aquire, aquire, aquire. Now I'm at the age where I just want to get rid of stuff. I distinctly remember thinking in college that I never wanted to own so much stuff that I couldn't pack it all in my beater car and take off. That's once again how I'm feeling, so I am on a decluttering mission.

Unfortunately, I am plagued by sentimentality. Having lost my mom when I was young, anything I have of hers is precious to me: a rocking chair; her old sewing machine; even a few outfits she made for me on said machine when I was a kid. (Thanks to an evil stepmother who got rid of most of the stuff in my childhood home, I don't really have all that much, though.) At heart I long to be a minimalist. It's a work in progress...

My missus and I have moved enough times that we don't have much left to get rid of 'when the time comes.' My mother's adage that a move's as good as a fire for culling the clutter has been true for us. Our only remaining concern regarding stuff left behind is a couple of pieces of furniture built by my Irish great grandfather. Our kids are even less attached to stuff than we are, and it's sad for us to think about these two pieces of orphan furniture.

That quilt is very modern/eclectic for its time and lovely today!

I'm downsizing also and looking forward to a future similar to John's, especially the free-feeling part of it.

Oh lord do I LOVE stuff! We use all our silver all the time (don’t have to polish it then, just wash, dry, and put back on the table) and our two thousand books (but, hey, when we moved, we gave away a thousand books, so, yay, "downsizing"...)

As we’ve slowly been unpacking we try to take a box of “stuff" to a great local thrift shop to donate. Of course, I have been known to come home with a a plate or two. We also re-cycle a lot. An old porthole from my parents’ wooden boat was fitted into the boiler room wall as a quirky window. Old countertops from the kitchen makeover are going into the “Nano-brewery”. Stuff I’ve dug out of the hillside “dump” as part of my clean up of that area gets re-used in one of my projects or sorted into the weekly re-cycle. Some old sections of a tossed out wooden pillar will be made into Bluebird houses.

Would I like to have less stuff? I guess. I’m working on it. My children can sell or use all the antiques when we’re gone. Aprés moi, le deluge!

Interesting, that no one [thus far] has mentioned That Which Occupies Me in terms of clutter, things to get rid of, etc. etc. BOOKS. They are at the same time the great joy and the bane of my existence. Every single room of my tiny, narrow Victorian house has at least three bookcases, or more. Except the bathroom [and actually there is a book there..]

I could happily rid myself of most of the fairly spare furniture, picked up over the years. I do have some items that I treasure - a marvelous pot from Santa Fe e.g. that was formed in an underground kiln. Other lovely pots and such that were either gifts or picked up by me when I was in this or that country. And yes - my first purchase, with the money supplied by a summer or two of part-time work when I was in college, at the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company where my father had worked -- i.e. my own hard-earned money to purchase a Yamaha upright [that can be changed into a sort of grand by raising the top]. My daughter wants that one, and she shall have it. Somehow [she lives on the other side of the country].

Things, objects evoke thoughts, dreams, memories. In that way, I treasure them. But books? They are my anchor, my grounding, and in practical ways the things that have taught me most of what I know. I have read them, written them, taught them, loved them. They evoke everything in me. I have nightmares about what will happen when I have to give them up.

Love the phrase "orphan furniture"
I have downsized at age 62 and again at age 67 when relocating.
Moving back to Portland Oregon I brought way too much stuff and made daily trips to the Goodwill to get rid of the things I had no room for.
I love living in a small one bedroom condo where I know where everything is...well, almost. I still need a good filing system.
Thanks for another great post Ronnie 💕

One of our cherished possession proves that some rather dubious sales pitches really can bee truthful. Beautiful wife Sandy and I met when we both worked for the West Bend Company, at the time a top producer of pots , pans, and coffee makers. Premium sets of cookware were sold door-to-door at high prices by hundreds of independent sales people with the promise that the stainless steel pots "would last a lifetime." I thought that statement might be a bit of a reach.

Sandy's coworkers gave her a complete set of Homecraft cookware, one of the premium brands, as a wedding present. That was 57 years ago. The pots have been in almost daily use since, and a bit of TLC cleaning makes them look good as new after each use.

I've walked out on everything I couldn't fit into a car several times in my life. But that was before I had a studio full of art tools and materials and a collection of valuable-to-me art. As we contemplate leaving the country I am again content to leave the furniture behind - even or especially the heavy, ugly family heirlooms. But I look at my carefully acquired mixed media, fabric, paint etc. and the objets and paintings and sculptures, each with a story and memory attached and am not sure what to do!

I am so glad to see you are using that amazing quilt. I have a quilt top that is close to 75 years old and I am going to make a backing and finally quilt it. We believe it was given to my mother as a wedding gift.
I am thrilled to see vintage sewing machines come through the thrift shops. Some are worth repairing and using as I am doing with a 1950s Singer stylist.
If you have collectibles, you should put them for sale in the online auctions - why not garner a little extra cash?

Putting off til tomorrow has some advantages. While I have no children, my brothers do. 20 years ago, after our mother passed away, I quizzed both my sibs about whether or not my nieces and nephews were interested in getting some things from our family home that I treasured. Nah! they both said. Those kids (aged 25 to 35) don't care about that stuff! Well, time does change some things and now, 20 years on, some of them have expressed an interest and taken some things.
I did research a few items as to value 20 years ago. A delightful Demi-tasse cup and saucer came up at around $150, but is now valued at almost nothing.
Time changes attitudes.

Lucky for me, I'm not one who's attached to stuff. I've moved many, many times in my life, thus shedding stuff each time. The greatest shedding came when, in 1991, my new husband and I decided to retire and go blue water cruising in a sailing catamaran.. We ditched a LOT of furniture and furnishings and stored very little. Thus, after 9 yrs of living in a very small space, we had to buy all new and some used household Stuff. It (naturally) got added to over the next 7 years so our next move was more tedious. Our most recent move, from a townhouse to a Co-op involved more shedding of stuff to fit apartment living.

The oldest thing I have is a Singer Featherweight Portable sewing machine, ca. 1941, which belonged to my mother and with which she made formals and canvas lawn soakers and everything in between. I used it mostly to make curtains out of sheets for the girls' rooms and a few baby things. I can't seem to get myself mobilized to sell it, though I've been told it's in demand by quilters. None of my 4 daughters want it. The one who sews has a fancy modern machine.

I've witnessed the struggles folks go through to downsize from the large home they lived in for up to 60 yrs. to move to a Co-op apartment. Thank my lucky stars I've had to travel lightly most of my adult life, so it was no big deal to move the last time. I hope I go out feet first, as they say.

Like many, I've enough stuff to fill a warehouse. Even on the online sites there seems to be little interest. Heaven forbid someone should have to hand wash something or polish the silver. Silver? What's that? It saddens me there is so little interest in one's family history and keep sakes. I imagine estate sales agents are also having tough times. But it will all go eventually. Just not to where I'd like to see it.

Ronnie,

Your quilt does kook great! I have a quilt which I made decades ago, and it looks very good on our bed. My husband and I have a cat who loves to sleep on top of the quilt and cuddle up to either of us during the night. Being a cat, she also spends a great deal of time during the day sleeping there.

My husband and I also have some wonderful antique furniture, including a Lincoln rocker (named for President Abraham Lincoln) and a pull-down locking desk from the Union Desk Company in Boston which I use every day.

We also have a complete set of Spode Blue Fitzhugh china from England. It's no longer made and is quite beautiful (and rather hardy).

How old is my stuff ? Old, like me !I love this topic as I wrestle with it every day. Thank you Ronni and members of Ronni's "coffee stop" for these wonderful posts. It's reassuring to read them to know that many also struggle with what to do with our possessions. I've turned 70, we have no children, and as Ronni says,no one wants our stuff. The lingerie chest my mother bought me, the mosaic tiled coffee table that I grew up with is now in our living room; every object has a story; I still have my mom's raccoon coat that Uncle Joe, the furrier made for her when she was in her 20's. It's well over 100 years old. I have it cleaned and glazed every year, it's still beautiful and I feel her arms wrapped around me when I wear it on freezing NYC days(despite being heckled by the occasional Animal Rights' supporter.
I too am attached to my books. They represent the territory of my life, how could I part with them? But then I remember an article in the New Yorker by James Wood "Shelf Life : Packing up my father-in-law's library" and I think better to give all my books to the library upstate which will actually take them and perhaps others will read them.
All of this represents for me the confrontation with my mortality.
Parents are a buffer between children and the great beyond. When they're gone, we're it. I don't have an "Autumn" in my life and I really don't want to leave it all for strangers to troll through. So this summer I prepare to hone it all down to what I need.
I love that quilt Ronni, it's beautiful and fresh as a daisy. Enjoy.

For a while, I took it very personally that my sons and daughters-in-law were not at all interested in any of my stuff - even the silver candlesticks, or the wine decanters. DUH. Who ever uses a wine decanter nowadays? And the candlesticks would only be useful to Clue players, a long forgotten breed!

I felt light headed and light hearted when I finally got rid of the furniture, clothes and even the books that I had been carting around for so long. I still have "stuff" but it's little and is slowly disappearing especially at birthdays and Christmas.

Not sure what to do with the journals though. To shred or not to shred.

I moved 4 times in 3.5 years and nothing teaches about the art of Letting Go like that, combined w approaching my 70th birthday.

My sons want some of my stuff, what's left. But in truth there's not much left. I sold my down stuffed antique sofa before I left Tucson, left my dresser there too. Unloaded a lot of my books when I left Warren, Pa, give the few good treasures to younger friends as gifts when they express an interest in them. A LOT of my clothes went to Good Will after I retired.

It took awhile but I came to enjoy peeling the layers of stuff off a bit at a time. i find it comforting... creating space.

I certainly identify with your post today re: downsizing. I have SO MUCH STUFF that my children don't want , and I am too attached to the memories, and tend to "collect" what I like I even have sentimental attachment to my many houseplants, as most were given to me by people I've loved who are no longer alive. A couple of plants are from my husband's funeral , over 20 years ago. Now the main issue is that I don't have the stamina , energy and strength to deal with the overwhelming task of de-cluttering ,or "downsizing" . I see "worth" and value in "My Stuff" , but unfortunately, I suspect my children will get a dumpster, and throw it all out. Oh well..........

My grandmother's oak, lion footed table supported years of home work, large and small dinners, after which we often sat for hours, talking, playing word games, listening to my brother's latest clarinet music. So I love it. On my land there is this house, my studio, and three ancient, beautiful outbuildings. The house and outbuildings are down to very sparse, but the studio, oh the studio! I'm an image freak, addict, whatever. Paints, tools, jars of this and that, canvasses, found objects, yikes, on and on. And the paintings are only increasing with time. Now when you're famous, no worry, the art vultures will take care of everything for you when you die. But the majority of us small fry with enough success to keep us at it, but still small fry............another story. Hey! Maybe I'll have my left over paintings cremated along with me, now there's an idea!

When I got married in 1965, I got full sets of two different china patterns (at the time I thought the Spode was just everyday stuff because my mom used hers every day), a set of sterling flatware, and both crystal and sterling water goblets. That was my parents' lifestyle. I never used any of it. When I'm gone, my son won't appreciate any of it either, but my 4 siblings might. I've a fine crafted wood tablet chair that my parents acquired in the early '50s and it was either vintage or antique then. Mom's favorite chair. Highly prized in my family and one of my siblings will want it. One sister like it so much that when I inherited it, she had an exact copy made for herself. I prize a little desk lamp my parents gave me when I was in junior high. And a small pewter bird they bought in Mexico that has my teething son's teethmarks on the tail. I still grieve the loss, in my last move, of a palm-sized stone my 11-year-old son gave me when I climbed Longs Peak. On one side he'd painted "Keep on going STRONG."

I love the quilt.

In the West Virginia mountains where I come from things aren't considered 'old' until they are just generally worn out. Then we used the pieces and parts to make other things like the quilt. We donated a lot of metal in the metal drives during WW II, but I am still happily using my Grandmother's wrought iron pots and pans and my other grandmother's old cooking utensils and my mother's aluminum pots and pans. My daughter has my Grandmother's handpainted decorative dish hanging on her wall and a 200-year-old crock from Great Grandad's pottery, and I have a lacquered paper mache serving tray that is at least 100 years old, quite handsome and very usable.

As long as they are usable, I guess they will remain in the family. I taught my kids how to care for the well-used wrought iron and the other things and they use and respect them too.

I'm 81 years old and haven't worn out yet.

I got rid of a lot of stuff from "former lives" when my husband and I moved to our current residence 4 years ago, but it continues to collect although to a lesser extent. I still have the silverware (somewhere) from my first marriage in 1958. I think I've always had something in common with the Ikea/Target generation in that I like clean lines and minimalist design. I rarely used the silverware or either set of china even back in the day.

I need to continue decluttering and try not to accumulate more as I go. However, along with my Will and various Directives, I've left a note in large print with the numbers of GOTJUNK and BIGHAUL. When we're both gone, I've suggested that my husband's adult kids have what's left hauled away. I'm even planning to set aside a little cash for that purpose.

I like the quilt even though I generally lean towards solid colors, geometric patterns and black and white. (We have lots of Ikea and Target in our house so maybe the grandkids will want a few items.)

My treasures are from three generations, my maternal grandmother, my mother, my mother-in-law,and me. My husband and I are both only children, so we got it all. I have my grandmother’s wedding cake topper from 1900 (actually made of a coated cake like material), a side chair from my grandparents wedding set with original sales receipt, and wedding gifts from all three generations. I have China, silver flatware sets, and crystal from at least two generations.

I do have three adult children (all unmarried, no grandchildren) but who knows what of my stuff they will want.

I love my stuff that spans the generations.

What used to mean a lot to me and my siblings (six of us in all) were our mother's photo albums. We used to fight over who would get them. When Mom died in 2001, the sister who lived with her kept them. Some resentment festered, but just a little. Well, I have over 40 of my own and could care less about my mother's- never mind that I rarely even look at the ones I have. And who wants albums anymore in the day of the "cloud"? I have placed my favorites on facebook and the books themselves will end up in the garbage some day, but not yet. I have a hard time throwing pictures away- almost like a part of the person's DNA is on it. How could I dare?!!

I can't get our cars in the garage because of stuff! I'd rather be outside with my plants. Letting go of stuff is exhausting!

I have enjoyed the stories shared regarding "stuff" and feel it almost becomes a four-letter-word at this end of life. Nice to consider different points of view. Thank You !

Space has become more important to me than things are now. Even saying that I am laughing about Trudi's lovely strong and long lasting roasting pot. Mine is just like her's, (different man, same brand pot) only Yellow, still in use since 1958, and looks almost new on the ouside, yet it has been used so much for so many folks the porcelain is wearing down to the cast iron on the bottom. I love this old dear thing even though the man that bought it is gone now 7 years. Being reminded of him is a good memory. Just cooking for one now, I use it for large soups/casseroles for the freezer. Cooking for one isn't much fun otherwise.

These are writings I saved a long time ago, and they are helping me now with furnishings, etc. Kahlil Gibran may be old news to most of you, yet worth remembering again for me.

"All you have shall some day be given;
Therefore give now, that the season of giving
may be yours and not your inheritors." Kahlil Gibran

At first I skipped this post. Been there - done that. But this is a rainy day so the garden is doing her garden thing without my intervention - a good day to read all the comments. I do hope when I'm taken out feet first friends and family will dig up favorite plants.

A few of you have sewing machines but fabric isn't on lists. Fabric! My mom, who gave away valued positions as she aged, used to say "she who dies with the most fabric wins." I still have some of hers with notes in her handwriting about where it came from - some from her mother. I also have a box of her sewing supplies that I'll never use. (I did throw out the transfer paper.)
I have a granddaughter and a niece who may want some of my stash when I die.
Fortunately we have a local business devoted to reselling fabric. When I volunteered there boxes of fabric and other sewing supplies came in from women who kept their precious stash until death. My family know to take mine there.

The cabinet full of "art supplies" is their problem. And the rocks also.


I am sewing a quilt for each of my grandchildren to use some fabric from my stash - which often means buying more adding to the stash.
A good friend and I read about "natural funerals" where someone is wrapped in fabric and buried. We laugh about being buried in our favorite fabric.


Yep, I have grandmother's bone china and sterling flatware--don't use either very often. I have a raincoat that is probably 20 years old and a lightweight parka that is about the same age, stereo speakers are probably 50 years old--bought them used about 30 years ago--the amp and turntable I bought with them have died but the speakers are still good. Some furniture, lamps, etc. also handed down for a couple of generations, along with some Ikea items that I bought.

ATTCHED to things photos letters relating to family
and have some invauable books and if do say so myself
old timey expression still feel some of my work
should get out there and yes, change the world , for elders especially and especially help my family in their old age - all needs to be downsized thiugh - there is a word and can t think of it - ARCHIVED

We're downsizing to take advantage of a California real-estate boom, and I didn't realize how much stuff I had. Over the years, we've been the recipient of the contents of at least three "closed down" houses, and I am the only sentimental one in the family. So much china, silver, and furniture. Boxes of linen and photos. Added to that is my own collection of memorabilia. It all had to go because we're moving from a suburban ranch-style house to an urban apartment. Knowing my 19-year-old son, he won't want any of it.

Ultimately, I followed Marie Kondo's advice in "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up." I took a moment to think about the memory of each item before letting it go, and thanked it for its usefulness. (Anthropomorphizing inanimate objects are a big thing in the KonMari Method). I scanned photos into Evernote and into Photomyne, and took photos and videos of each room of my house. When it was too hard to let go, I engaged a no-nonsense housecleaner who kept me on-task.

I feel lighter. I don't miss my stuff. I can look at it whenever I want. The irony? I'm doing my new apartment in mid-century modern--the very style of my parents' house before they gave everything away.

We have a lot of old stuff, because we had little money when we were married and so scrounged furniture and other used items from family. Some of it was so sturdy and useful, like chests of drawers and chairs, that we still have them. I also have my grandmother's wicker picnic basket, some old dishes, the "china" cat that came with my mother's first living room furniture set, and many old pictures from WWII that my father took and kept. Then there is the old coffee pot that my mom used before she got her first electric percolator, a couple of metal watering cans from grandma, and various other items. I see many of the same things when I go to our local "vintage" store, and people are buying them. Most will be disposed of one way or another as we gradually downsize, but some of the very old things I will keep and attach a note that explains why I kept them. We have 3 children and 4 grandchildren, and someone may actually care.

I was once a suburban householder with a big house full of possessions. But those days are long gone. Since my kids grew up, I've moved continents four times and that has been a wonderful antidote—plus I have a strong philosophical commitment to simple living. So the only things I own now are the items essential for daily life and a few items that I have kept because, in the words of the wonderful Marie Kondo—whose best-selling books have inspired millions to de-clutter—they 'spark joy.' My little Tibetan cymbals: the ancient, wooden-handled fork that's been in my family for generations: the melamine plates my kids made when they were little: my St Francis statue from Assisi and my Buddha from Kathmandu: my turquoise jewelry…

When my partner and I moved from 30 acres in Australia to a small, rented apartment in downtown San Francisco, we took only our clothes and personal items and everything else we bought from the Salvation Army store on the corner. When we left, two years later, we called the Salvation Army and the truck came and took it all away again. I found a huge satisfaction in that.

Clothes—yes, if those feel good to wear I do hang on to them for years. The cotton sweatshirt I am wearing as I wrote this, dates from the 1980s. Almost all my clothes come from thrift stores. And if, after a while, they no longer feel wonderful to wear, I pass them on again.

Books are my weakness. But I have twice donated most of my library and started again. Right now, we are part of a new senior cohousing project. So when the complex is built and we move in—in a couple of years' time—all our books will go into the common house to form the basis of a whole new library. I love that feeling.

But my efforts to live lightly pale in comparison with those of my 52-year-old daughter. She de-cluttered a house full of stuff, with most things either sold or Freecycled. Everything she possesses now is either in the backpack she is currently carrying around South-East Asia or in a one-cubic metre storage locker in Honolulu.

Ronni, if your silver—and anything else you own—sparks joy, keep it. Enjoy it. One day, all too soon, we'll have to let the whole lot go.

I have similar stories as already written. I have moved many times and tossed many old treasures and probably wished I saved instead of tossed.
I also have my parents old silverware that my sister and I polished on Saturdays mornings while growing up.
I framed my moms baptism dress and bonnet and gave to my daughter. My other daughter I gave my moms first grade dress. (My mom was born 1911j. I have 3 handmade quilts my other grandmother made that are over a 100 years old. I also have a knitted sweater made by grandma for my mom. And when I wear the sweater I have their arms around me.
At this stage of my life I am not a shopper and don’t accumulate stuff to fill my house. I like the feeling of the simplistic life.

There is also a book titled “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Make Your Loved Ones’ Lives Easier and Your Own Life More Pleasant.” Author is Margareta Magnusson.

The oldest items I have and value are my grandparents gifts to each other at their wedding - a silver plated Victorian lidded box along with a hand mirror in the same style and an opal and diamond tie stick. I also have a 6-piece dresser set my grandmother's music teacher hand-painted for her and I have a ring my great grandfather gave to my great grandmother to celebrate Montana's becoming a state (made entirely of Montana gold and stones in a now- faded red, white and blue . I love wearing it and thinking of its background. I don't know which of my granddaughters (if any) or my niece would value them.

Charlene... my pot is yellow and the enamel inside is worn away.

I should have added that both the pot and the man are first class.

Odd that you caught me at the head-end of a purge. I just paid off my mortgage, and I'm getting ready to decide whether I'll live here for the next several years. The alternative would be living somewhere else, likely in another city. So it's a complex decision.
In either case, however, I'd likely decide to cast off things I don't need and primp the place a good bit—perhaps change out the tile in the main bathroom, replace the decrepit carpet or rejuvenate the hardwood that is reportedly under it. (That's a separate story.)
These thoughts led me to the closets, where I pulled down multiple skirts and dresses that (1) no longer fit or (2) are so worn and faded that I wouldn't wear them anyway. Multiple t-shirts, not of rock concert memories.
Considering the cupboards, I recognized that I have 3 full sets of dishes, and I use the set I dislike most. "Everyday dishes." There is a full set of beautiful china (my mom's) and some pretty nifty sterling silver trays in my breakfront, and I have 12 place settings of sterling in a closet in my bedroom. (I've given 6 settings, both silver and china, to my foster daughter, and I notice she doesn't seem to use them. Neither of us entertains, so the niceties could remain cupboarded for all eternity.)
While I consider all this, I am cleaning out my late husband's shop, resolved that if I don't know how to use a certain tool, I should simply give it away. Or have a shop sale. We have 2 dozen peanut butter jars filled with connectors (screws, nuts, bolts) of different types and in different sizes. He considered this a trove of great wonder. I just wonder if I can persuade someone else to take them.

Bottom line, dear friends—you are not alone.

We have a couple loose rules about stuff:

If something comes in, something must go out.

We have learned to ask before tossing.

"Hey, what happened to my running shoes."

A local thrift store receives all kinds of furniture (some butt ugly pieces you wonder who owned and what their house looks like.)

Sometimes there is a gem in that store.

I bought a couple plain solid wood dressers and refinished them.

Years ago we sold our inline skates, cross country skis and bought bikes. Montreal is a cycling friendly city.

Anything we don't use, we give away or donate. I just gave a toaster, two carpets and three purses to a senior friend who has has mobility issues.

I also enjoy repurposing things.


After moving nearly a dozen times, closing down my parents' home, and relocating several overflowing offices, I'm pretty much cured of stuff lust. Excess makes me feel like I am suffocating, and I am a regular visitor to both our dumpster and Goodwill with the unneeded.

That said, possessions that truly do give you joy, beauty and pleasure are worth keeping. As others have said previously, these items will be moving on soon enough anyway.

But nobody in our demographic needs:

1) Uncomfortable bras
2) Business clothes from past "careers"
3) High heels

Everyone says that downsizing is hard, and I can attest that it is. But ladies, get rid of those three things, and I can guarantee you won't regret it.

I just came across a passage that I think you’d appreciate. It’s from A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles. It tells the story of a Russian aristocrat who is sentenced to house arrest after the Revolution in the Metropol Hotel in Moscow. In this passage near the beginning, he reflects on all the objects he has had to leave behind:
“[For] eventually, we come to hold our dearest possessions more closely than we hold our friends. We carry them from place to place, often at considerable expense and inconvenience; we dust and polish their surfaces and reprimand children for playing too roughly in their vicinity—all the while allowing memories to invest them with greater and greater importance. This armoire, we are prone to recall, is the very one in which we hid as a boy; and it was these silver candelabra that lined our table on Christmas Eve; and it was with this handkerchief that she once dried her tears, et cetera, et cetera. Until we imagine that these carefully preserved possessions might give us genuine solace in the face of a lost companion.
But of course, a thing is just a thing.
And so, slipping his sister’s scissors into his pocket, the Count looked once more at what heirlooms remained and then expunged them from his heartache forever.”

I have a cedar chest made by my great-grandfather as a wedding present to my grandmother. I have moved it 5 times and still use it for storing seasonal clothes. It is 98 years old and still smells of cedar when I open the top of the chest. I am settled at this point in a condo and sometimes wonder what I would do with it if I need or choose to move to a smaller place.

The things I've had the longest on and off are a "french provincial" chest of drawers and small chest/desk that were my 16th birthday present - 64 years old they are, but still not as antique as I am. The furniture was off-white when I got it in the 50s with flowers painted on the drawers, but the off-white finish has yellowed through the years. I had two sons, so the chests were in my parent's house until my mother died and I took them when I downsized about 10 years ago because they fit better into a smaller place. Otherwise, what I have is what I acquired in the 70s and early 80s.

Although I "downsized " 10 years ago when I moved into my condo, clutter has accumulated. I need to get rid of a lot of "stuff". I have storage boxes of photos. We moved _a lot_ when I was growing up, but my father loved to take photos and he moved his photo developing equipment with us from place to place. He would set up a darkroom in the bathroom in whatever place we were renting. I have hundreds of photos to go through. I've already scanned and digitally saved slides that my father took, my former husband took, and that I took of my grandson. For some reason, I keep procrastinating the older photos. That's a project I could finish this summer, but the cleaning of clothes closets and storage closets will have to wait until autumn because the heat is terrible here in the mountain west.

Trudi....Re: First Class men.
Mine too, we married in 1958. When our daughter was about 6 or 7 she told me she was "going to marry Daddy when she grows up." It was sweet, but I of course explained , that he was already my husband. She had her answer ready..."Well you can get another one, because you are a good chooser!!" Yes, Trudi , we both were.
BTW-I never worry about the iron bottom if I am sure to dry it well after washing. In addition, it does contribute a wee bit of iron for consumption if cooking acidic tomatoes, etc.

Love this topic...reading all of the comments from our "cozy coffee clatch" group makes me try to figure out just which are my oldest, dearest possessions. I planted a schefflera house plant (in Hawaii they call them houseplants gone crazy) in our front yard when we bought this house....my mother gave it to me when my youngest was born 52 years ago and it moved with me for 31 years until it got a permanent home 22 years ago. It is huge.

I bought an antique cradle on lay-away when pregnant with my first child who is now 57 years old....our house is too small to keep it inside but it is in the "storage" shed my husband built for the lawn mower, and miscellaneous crap we have both collected, along with an old trunk full of my old framed drawings. I will give it to my daughter who has no children, but 2 grand-dogs.

I, too, have the silverware and china that I bought 54 years ago as everyone had to have it if you were in the military and "entertained". I no longer host Thanksgiving or Christmas family get-togethers so no longer use it. Like others, not sure what my 3 children would take when the time comes. My only daughter likes my old stuff and recently I gave her part of my "pie bird" collection. And she wanted the old Hoosier cabinet 11 years ago when we just didn't have room for it after remodeling the kitchen. So I can still "visit" it .

For so many years I just did not have any money to get furniture that was nice and now that we are both on our third marriage to each other, we'll just keep the things we've collected and mingled for the last 23 years ago when we combined households. And hope that if we do downsize, it will be together as I've learned what is important, and it is not "stuff"... I do not want any more possessions as they possess you, that I have learned.

Coming late to this post this evening has been a pleasant end to the day. Reading everyone's comments leaves me pondering, yet again, the need to begin divesting ourselves f so much stuff for which we have no need. But rather than getting down to work on that, my husband and I have been enjoying going to estate sales in the homes of people who have chosen or been forced into very serious whole-house emptying. He looks for records and politically related material, and I enjoy trying to discover things about who ever lived in the houses. Some are too devoid of anything interesting to make the exercise enjoyable, and we're in and out in just a few minutes. In others, I linger over books and ephemera like old letters, newspapers, cards, school papers, etc. As long as I can remember, I've had a thing for such items.

That is a very attractive quilt, and it is quite modern looking for its time. I have a few that my husband's grandmother and mother made, and I treasure them.

De-cluttering is EXHAUSTING. Its the most difficult task I have ever done. I did it to simplify the task for the children. That said, they'll just pay someone to empty the house, no second thought. Whereas for me, there's sentiments involved in much of that clutter.

After retiring, I did one purge. I just got tired of some of the clutter, and chucked/donated stuff - I have no recollection of it, so obviously not something I needed.

Still a lot of stuff left to de-clutter. Its true, we hold stuff closer to us than people, knowing all the time that it'll all be left behind.

I am also a keepsake keeper! I have my mom’s set of Dionne quintuplet dolls. They each have a piece of the original clothing...either a diaper, or a dress or one of their embroidered bibs. I was told she received them as a 7th birthday gift, which would mean they are from 1936 or so. I also have her old Watkins vanilla cookbook with a few of her handwritten recipes in the back and an amber glass children’s tea set. Although my husband and I divorced in 1981, I have the keychain he gave me as a gift when we were in the 8th grade. My aunt gave me some china...a teapot, cups and saucers that my uncle brought home from Japan and I also have her home movie camera from the early 60’s. She had a funky salt and pepper shaker collection, as well as an old radio that my brother has tried to restore, although finding the tubes is difficult these days. As for my own personal things, there is the large collection of diaries and journals that I’ve kept over the years, the first one being the diary my mom gave me for my 12th birthday, 10 months before she died suddenly. I also have many, many books left despite the 18 months of purging I did between 2015-2016 to prepare for retirement and a move to an in-law apartment. I honestly can’t see my kids or grandkids wanting any of these things, but who knows. A few of them may continue to be passed down the line.

As the Executive Director of the National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM) cited in the Next Move article, I am delighted to read the many thoughtful comments in response to Ronni's blog post. Downsizing & decluttering are challenging, tasks, both emotionally & physically.

Your grandma quilt is so lovely and so well kept. Lucky you.

I managed to downsize quit a bit when I sold my house and moved into a small condo. With grandkids beginning to move out I've foisted off most of my extra kitchen goods and dishes. My eldest son is interested in my art equipment and some of the prints I have on my walls. And my collection of Akira Kurosawa films.

My youngest son and his wife have taken a heavy buffet that he and his brother grew up around (he is even more sentimental than I). They took the drawers out to clean them and found a photo of my Dad in the 1930's Alaska on a dock in Ketchikan, Alaska and letters he had written to me. If my fisheries biologist Dad touched something he wants it. Second son is a diehard fisherman and hopes to spend his retirement as a guide if there are any fish left.

They want my photo albums. They've made it too easy.

My mom bought and refinished antiques and owned Ruth's Antiques in Beaverton OR, where a Rite Aid Drug Store now sits,during the 1960s-1980s. She passed away in 1982, far too young, and for a while there was a big urge amongst me and my siblings to save everything, for our children, so they would remember mom.

I had a pretty big house and it was full of moms antiques.

When it was time for me to move to a smaller place-we were tearing my old house down and rebuilding on the acre plus I owned, no one really wanted the antiques...maybe one or two small pieces but I had commodes with actual chamber pots inside, antique couches that had been recovered, with beautiful hand carved Westlake patterns, handmade barley turned end tables, 3 huge buffets and a large Queens Cabinet of quarter sawn oak we'd used as a liquor cabinet for decades.

Mom was a primitive artist and had done tole painting on some of the antiques back when tole painting was big-she did shabby chic before it was thought of.

My kids, and older grand kids took some of what mom had painted but I ended up trying to sell many other pieces.

Because I worked in moms antique store I knew the value of this old furniture-in 1980.

But in 2000 no one was interested..I sold it at a huge discount and it really hurt.

I have a few things in my small apartment in the new house, and my daughter, who had helped me refinish a shaker oak buffet when she really young, has that piece in her entry way as a catch all, but my other things will probably go to Goodwill....I'm using the commodes as night stands and my youngest grand daughter wants my 1940s make up table, we still use moms Fiestaware every day and I have a wonderful quarter sawn oak rocker one of my grand daughters wants but everything else will be homeless.

I don't care-it won't be my problem!

I volunteer at the American Cancer Society Discovery Shop/Point Loma. We do get everyone's good dishes. Rarely do they sell. What a shame. The dark furniture rarely sells either.

Then again, I downsized into this condo and got rid of most of my dishes. First pick to the kids then to a good old friend. She uses my mother's sterling as her everyday, the gold dishes, lemoge, et al, she uses often too. My great grandmothers Victorian dining room table looks marvelous up there in her dining room.

I use my grandmothers furniture everyday. I mix my grandfather's things with my Ikea sofa. I really enjoy seeing mother's things when I visit my kids or friend. But I still have way to much stuff of my own.

Funny you should post this because I started going thru my stuff last year in preparation for selling my condo and moving this fall. I donated over $1000 worth of stuff to Sal Army last year. I am guessing I'll have the same amount this year.

I have stuff from mom and dad that are old. I have a couple of sweaters that are over 20 years old. I have cookware that is over 20 years old. My dishes are over 20 years old. I would like a set of good dishes for company, tho.

I have a very small collection of antiques I bought off eBay: carnival plates, California pottery and 19th century mixing bowls because I like them.

When I moved 2 apartments ago, I could not believe how quickly technology had changed. I went to the trouble to get my VCR fixed before I moved and in the next move 5 years later VCRs and video cassette tapes were obsolete.

My goal is to live in a lakefront studio apartment with a balcony when I'm 80. : )

Oh Ronni, the quilt is a knock-out! A very unusual pattern for the time. How wonderful that you have inherited it.

Have you heard of the "Tiny House" movement? We lived full-time in our travel trailer from 2005-2011 and *loved* it, and now we want to have a Tiny House built just for our needs (which includes accommodating my wheelchair). We had no difficulty living in 200 sq ft. We had a washer/drier, and my kitchen was far superior to the one in the condo we now own.
The only drawback was the bath set-up, as I need a roll-in shower, and the trailer had a clumsily placed tub.

Tiny House living is not for everyone but for us living in such simplicity was very freeing. We loved it, and plan for it to be our last home. Most Tiny Homes have sleeping lofts but 80-year-olds have no business trying to maneuver down a ladder or staircase in the middle of the night, so we're designing a single floor. When we are gone our older son can sell it, or rent it as an AirB&B and use it as a landing pad for our younger son and his wife when they visit from Switzerland.

I might add that, even on our very small pensions, we managed to *save* money living in our trailer, and expect costs to be even lower in the Tiny Home because travel trailers have only the barest insulation and we had to keep the furnace going all winter to stay warm. Many people who move into Tiny Homes do so because they are concerned about sustainability so Tiny Homes are built to be extremely energy efficiency.

Just this afternoon I took a cartload of "stuff" down to the recycle shelves just off the lobby of our condo building, beginning the process of shedding the "stuff" we have collected since we moved into this condo in 2011. We stored it before but this time it's going. We have all this generational (four generations in some cases!) silver, china, table-linens, crystal. It's all lovely, but I'm tired of it, my sons don't want most of it, and I don't know what to do with it all. I don't want to leave the mess my mother-in-law left, closets piled with 30-year-old newspapers, hundreds of cottage cheese containers, and all the clothing, toiletries, and belongings of a husband dead 25 years.

I look at my bulging closets and realize I have a looooong way to go to clear out those suckers. (sob)

I, too, am guilty of preaching the gospel of parting with belongings before death as being a kind gesture for relatives. I, also, procrastinate -- unable to part with so many items for the reason you mention -- the emotional connection and memories associated with each.

You are quite correct about the younger generation not sharing the same appreciation for many items. Retirement community downsizing programs I've attended have all emphasized that very fact. Despite that, I'm thinking it's possible as my children get older that they just might view some items a little differently. I'm in the process now of writing down information on some items, then will query them specifically as to whether or not they're interested in having. Periodically in years past I've been told, just dispose of many of them any way I might wish.

That is a lovely quilt! I have several my mother made for her Hope Chest -- literally a cedar chest which I have. I had difficulty parting with one quilt to my niece because it was a newer one Mom had made and it had many different pieces of material I recognized that had special significance only I would know.

I, also, have clothes with history that I'll never wear again. I really need to rid them from my closet. I have parted with a few of some what I considered my finer winter wear from when I lived in snow country, most of my high heel shoes collection though I think I did retain one special pair of spike heels from the '50's and 60's I had for evening wear, but I'll never wear them again. My cashmere sweaters are gone as too warm to wear here in So Cal.

This is my major challenge and has been since my husband's death -- sorting and parting with items. That was the major undertaking I planned after he died, but got side-tracked with entering the digital world and blogosphere. Well, I have to blame it on something, don't I?

I grew up in extreme poverty and left home at 14. At the time, and when I first started working for the corporations, even worthless objects seemed valuable to me. Now, I too, wish to be rid of them. I have no children to foist this stuff on, but still some remaining extended family. They have become the unwitting recipients of many of my "heirlooms". I can only take so much into the eventual rest home (granted I exist that long), so the remainder is being given out or willed to deserving (in my eyes) organizations. For those toys I will enjoy until the end, there is the charitable annuity trust for my wife. Strange how values change over time. By the way, Ronnie, that is quite a beautiful quilt. Some real time was spent in its creation.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)