The Need for a Final Blog Post
We Interrupt This Blog…

Old Stuff

category_bug_journal2.gif A move to a new home is an excellent opportunity to chuck useless stuff, and I was (mostly) ruthless when I packed my New York apartment to move to Maine.

But as I weighed each decision to toss or keep, some items – useful and not - held an importance for me unconnected to their purpose. In choosing what to keep, I was reminded of times when, clearing out the homes of friends and relatives who had died, I asked myself why on god’s green earth the person had kept this chipped cup or that ghastly figurine.

Here, I think, is why:

Timer Would you look at the design this wind-up timer - right out of the 1950s, which is exactly what it is. I was still a kid – 17 years old – when I went to work and got my first apartment. I bought the timer then, and although I’ve been tempted now and again in cooking supply stores to buy a new, more modern one, it works just fine.

But also, it’s a piece of my youth from 48 years ago. I hardly ever use it now – there’s a timer built into the stove, so I don’t know if keeping it is nostalgia or frugality (sometimes two things need to be timed at once). But I suspect it will still be in the kitchen drawer when I die.

Mezzaluna I bought this mezzaluna, with its steel edge and wooden handle, in about 1964. I had learned to use one from my soon-to-be mother-in-law. Hers fit my hand perfectly and it took a lot of searching to find a duplicate, which I finally did in a hardware store in the North Beach section of San Francisco.

The shop had been there for about 50 years and the price of the mezzaluna – 25 cents - had undoubtedly been written on the blade in grease pencil at about the same time the store opened. Even in 1964, such a well-made piece of kitchen equipment usually went for at least a dollar and would probably cost $10 or $15 today.

These days we have food processors that chop parsley or mushrooms or hard-boiled eggs in three seconds, but you can’t easily control the finished size of the food. So I still make heavy use of this beautifully-made chopper.

Hourglasstimer Here’s one I have no idea why I’ve kept. I have never used this three-minute hourglass timer. Not once. It has no purpose in my life. I got it as a promotional item sometime in the early 1970s when I was producing local morning TV shows. It’s stamped on one end with the logo of Liberty Records, which hasn’t existed in at least two decades. The album title has worn off the other end.

Every now and again, as I shove it aside in the utensil drawer looking for something else, I think of throwing it out. But I never do.

Fryingpan Like the wind-up timer, this cast-iron frying pan is one of the first purchases I made for my first apartment. It has been perfectly tempered for decades now and woe unto anyone who would dare put it in soapy water.

Instructions for the fancy, glass-top, electric stove that came with this new apartment warn against using cast-iron pots and pans on the surface, which is a clear indication that the engineer is not much of a cook; there are some things that just won’t come out right unless they are cooked in cast iron. So I’m taking my chances with the new stove top.

Dianacharlesbox A reporter friend of mine went to London in 1981, to cover the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Having a wonderful and odd sense of humor, she returned home with gifts for her friends - an astonishing array of cheap tchotchkes that were sold to commemorate the event: tea towels, key chains, scarves, soap dishes, pens and more. Each one, like my china box, was plastered with a bad photograph of the royal couple.

I often think I should throw it out so that when I die, no one will question my taste, but hey, it was a gift. And it’s funny. So it still sits on my dresser filled with nothing more than few foreign coins left over from countries I am unlikely to visit again.

Although it is hard to be certain, I think my getting older gives some of the oldest items – useful and not – their increased importance. Not always, but sometimes when I use the frying pan, I think a bit about how far I’ve come since I bought it. And the cooking timer has become a treasured antique, an artifact of the Fifties which are so often reviled, but during which I came of age.

They are touchstones that help mark my journey through life, jog my memory of past events and in a few cases, like the mezzaluna and the frying pan, are tools that can’t be improved upon, a pleasure to use.

So what’s been lying around your house for decades that people are going to make fun of when you die?

Comments

I linked to you yesterday on "How Blog Reading Brightened My Day" because of your insightful post yesterday on the "poof endings" without explanations on blogs. Virtual non-closure: not good.

Well, I've moved a lot, too, and have found it helpful to have a good friend push me through the tossing out and cut off my nostalgic stories when all it is, seems to me, is an opportunity thing-by-thing- to live absolutely backwards, which doesn't happen often.

A mezzaluna - picked one up at a flea market, hung it on the kitchen wall for decoration. What in the world would you use it for???

Wordy cheers today.

I really enjoyed this post. I have a stapler at school that I have had since I started teaching. The adults in my room know that this stapler will go home with me when I retire. It's the one thing that has remained constant since I have been teaching.
Your posting has spurred me to think this would be an interesting posting to do! Ideas are spinning in my head.

Motherpie: A mezzaluna is a chopper, used with a wooden bowl. It seems a lot of work to me to get out the food processor for a bunch of parsley, for example, and it's too easy with a processor to reduce food to liquid instead of chopped pieces.

I use it for mushrooms, gefilte fish, hard-boiled eggs, chopped liver, mixing meatloaf, basil, macerating berries for sauces...

An added pleasure, is the aroma of aromatic herbs while you're chopping, which you can't get with a food processor.

An aging (86, with no relatives in the U.S.) friend of my wife's was moved from the hospital to a nursing home five years ago (after a hip injury). She kept paying the rent and cable bill with the firm idea of returning home.

In May she ran out of money and had to give up the apartment...the idea of which has no doubt been keeping her alive. In the nursing home she has precious little room to keep anything personal.

My wife (and I) helped her clear out her apartment, because she could not. Think of an apartment that had not been lived in or cleaned for 5 years. Tragic.

It was a life lesson to us...most things we own and appreciate have absolutely NO value or meaning to others. It was extremely difficult to find a place (charity) that could use (or was willing to pick up) even the nicest things she owned.

We will remember this lesson whenever we are tempted to buy something we won't be using every day.

Being a sort of pack rat by nature, there are many things my children will find really stupid for keeping. My parents were avid antiquers, and I have many of their things as well as my own. My kids will not know their value. Some have real money type value, and some are just rich in their memories!

When I cleaned out my aunt's home 2 years ago...a house she'd lived in for over 50 years...I too found some odd, seemingly strange items. A lot of kitchen things, like the ones you've mentioned.
And now...Now I'm afraid when I'm no longer here, my kids/grandkids will find those same items in MY possession. I didn't have the heart to part with them. They were special to her...and now, they're special to me. Useful or not.

Q: "So what’s been lying around your house for decades that people are going to make fun of when you die?"
A: Me

It is more difficult to throw things away that belonged to previous generations in my family, than it is to throw away my own things; but, I've hung onto my own: Clip Board (that I bought as a freshman in college, since engineering students didn't use notebooks in 1955--that I used when flying, to hold sectionals and flight plans--and that I still use when driving solo cross-country, as in my recent trip to/from Buffy's), slide rules (12-inch 1955, 6-inch 1972 -- both, Pickets, in well-worn leather sleeves), an old vanity dresser (beaten and broken from having been loaned out to a family with 7 kids for several decades, but in use as my sewing table--that had been purchased, second-hand, in the late 1940s).

Your reminders of all the "treasures" we keep really hits home... I have been struggling for months to sort through the accumulation of boxes of "stuff" we have moved back and forth across the country - now that I am retired one would think I would have plenty of time to take care of all these things (HA) --- guess I will get back to filling the dumpster with junk and a small box with treasures :)

Cop Car: I hadn't thought about things from previous generations. Two that come to mind are a hideous earring box and scarred metal holder for rolled postage stamps that the lid won't stay on. But they were my mom's, so they stay and I use them both.

Ronnie, it's all "vagabond's gold," as we both wrote about last year. Among other things, I have a little china box like the one you have, except that the picture on it is a painting of a flower girl in old London offering a nosegay to a passing young man. The inscription under the lid says that it once contained "Patum Peperium The Gentleman's Relish made to the original 1828 recipe". I'm not a big pate guy, but I fell in love with the box at Harrod's in 1973, and after a good cleaning it's had an honored place on my desk ever since. I keep odd denominations of postage stamps in it. I'll never part with it, and while it might be worth something, I'll let my heirs and assigns worry about that.

We have had the "let's sit down and have a chat about our estate" talk with our two kids. We got through all the serious, you need to know this kinds of things and then we told them that the price they must pay for their inheritance is that they'll have to weed their way through all our "treasures". They already know our weaknesses (packrats that we are) and said they'd just order a dumpster. I know they wouldn't do that, but at least they had a sense of humor about that task. I have a couple of things - my great-grandfather's school books (geography, reading, etc), my grandfather's school lunch pail, and baby moccasins that were made by a Nez Perce woman when my mother was born (my grandparents lived in Idaho in a small town on the Reservation). I have put notes in them so my kids will know their significance and can then decide what to keep and what to toss.

Be careful with the cast iron skillet on the glass top stove, but use it freely in your oven. It makes the very best cornbread as well as many other things.

Last August I made an attempt to sort and organize "stuff" that has accumulated in my sewing room. Here are some of the oddball finds. And, uh, here.

OMG, why can't I get rid of these?

oh, cop car, my kids are not waiting for me to expire: they make fun of me right now! "um, can't find that funky baby sweater,mom" translates to a wish for a less creative garment. recently surprised to learn that writing on blog about condom amulets "embarrassed" the less conventional offspring.

big yellow pyrex mixing bowl dates from 1955, first year in new york after college,i think, but memory a bit fuzzy. began life as a punch bowl at parties; i'm very attached to its plainness and functionality. the kids might keep, but might be too....

I learned a hard lesson about giving up my attachment to "things" a couple of years ago when I lived in Flagstaff, AZ in a small mountain community filled with pine trees. We were going to be flying out of Phoenix to be gone for about 10 days during a very hot, dry time of the summer and the fire danger was extreme. It was recommended to us that we pack everything of value in a couple of cartons and put them in the car so they'd be out of the house. It took us several days to sort through and decide which would be THE most important things we wanted to keep, and our decisions were not made lightly. We got everything packed up and parked the car in a hotel parking garage in Phoenix where it would remain while we were gone. When we returned, we discovered -- to our deep dismay -- that the car had been broken into and the cartons were gone. I spent several weeks grieving for my treasures, and was finally able to let it go, although I still catch myself wondering where something is, only to remember that it had been in one of the boxes. Being the kind of person who always tries to find the lesson in everything, I realized that this is important knowledge needed to empathize at a deeper level with the domestic violence survivors I work with who have left their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs. When I left, I was able to take many of the things I cherished (some of which were in those boxes), so I didn't have to deal with that particular loss on top of everything else. It helps me to better understand their pain and anger... and helps me realize that the REALLY important things like relationships with family, friends, pets, etc. can never be lost or stolen! Thank you, Ronni, for reminding me of all this. The passage of time has eased my sorrow and I sometimes tend to forget the lessons.

I love reading about all the "precious things" everyone is attached to for many different reasons. One of mine is:

A Hall's Jewel Tea Autumn Leaf Casserole Dish that belonged to my Mother. During the '30's and early '40's The Jewel Tea Company had door to door salesmen who carried a variety of foodstuffs and odds and ends,

"Jewel Tea was at one time the sixth largest retailer in the country. In the days when housewives did not drive and much of America lived in semi-rural areas, the "Jewel Man" with his delivery wagon of coffee, tea, spices, grocery and household items was a very welcome caller. The Jewel Company, like many coffee and tea home delivery services, offered premiums to their customers to thank them for their patronage. And one of the most popular premiums was the pattern made exclusively for them by Hall China Company, a stylized design of orange, browns and yellows, made elegant by the gold rims adorning each piece. In America of the 1930's and 40's, the budget might not have allowed for anything more than necessities like groceries, but if a family drank enough tea and coffee, they could amass a full dinnerware service of the Autumn Leaf pattern."

My Mother used her Jewel Tea casserole dish for macaroni and cheese, banana pudding, among other dishes.

For the past 55 years, since I married, I have used the casserole dish, mainly for macaroni and cheese. I would never willingly part with this old piece. It reminds me of comforting food and a mother's love.

I, too, have a well-seasoned cast iron skillet which elicits the aromatic memories of the falling-off-the-bone Sunday chicken dinners my mother prepared during my chiildhood and after.

Truth be told, I have many many items of hers that likely have only sentimental and emotional value, including numerous inexpensive vases, some with a few now even less attractive artifical flowers she displayed when the real ones weren't readily available, which I have been unable to bring myself to discarding.

Though my deceased husband's regular clothing was donated earlier with my daughter's help in sorting, I haven't begun to go through many of his other personal belongings, some of which might fall into a category for discarding, though he tended to be less of a "saver" than I. I do know his log book from flying days, memorabilia from his professional music days is somewhere, and I know that I will keep it when I find it.

I could not bring myself to part with a new hat given to him this past Christmas, that was not inexpensive, which our children and I had laboriously researched, finally locating one in NYC, in order to find a duplicate replacement for one he had owned since before we were married.

I have a variety of written materials which likely have value only to me, including the working scripts of every play in which I acted, produced or directed (non-professional.) Also I have materials obtained with the advent of PBS, the optimistic plans for coverage in the State of Ohio, since my goal was to one day devote my energies to the quality efforts I envisioned for their endeavor.

I have far too many sentimental items, probably most devoid of monetary value, given to me by friends, typically knick-knack dust-catcher items, others left from now departed family members which I have concluded I must sort through during the next year.

I am of the view that one of the kindest things we can do for our loved ones is to dispose of all but the most significant items we've collected, so they do not have to sort through the residue wondering, what is this, is this something of monetary value I should keep.

I must admit, Ardi's idea is tempting, but I need to write a brief explanation or history for my children of what I keep, give the rest to others, or otherwise dispose of the remaining items taking up space in my home. For many of these items, I will feel as though I am giving away a small piece of my heart.

If you read my blog, you know how many things I have around - most of them useless - except to bring back good memories. I am about to post the contents of my kitchen wall decor, and you will see much of what I mean.

Chancy--Mom had a straight-sided casserole dish and a smallish serving bowl shaped like an orange on the bottom half, that came up straight to the rim--in the Jewel Tea pattern that you mention. While on the way home from Buffy's several days ago, I stopped at a "welcome station" that was just 3 miles north of the Iowa/Missouri line that featured Amish quilts, aprons, etc. They also had about 20 small rooms of antiquities for sale--including a table setting for (maybe 6--I didn't count) in the same Jewel Tea pattern. I had forgotten plates, cups, saucers, etc were available in that pattern. You would have enjoyed the sight, I'm sure.

This really gets my brain cranking. Most of my things are in boxes anticipating our move - I hardly remember what's gone until I reach for it.
But, I've been in a simplifying and de-cluttering for a long time now. I don't have children to leave 'things' to. Once our move is done we will be setting up an EBay site (or similar) to dispose of all those treasures that have value but no meaning. I'll keep only what I actually use (like my great-grandmother's pressed glass pitcher). Then, if I can't hang it on the wall or eat it, I don't want it!

Ronni -- with this post you just jogged my memory about something that occurred around the time I started my blog & I never thought of writing about it but I think I will now. Amazing how, as the old song goes, little things mean a lot. Thanks for the mental hotfoot!

Right in front of me, as we speak, is a timer just like yours. I use it to time the dryer...which is two floors down. Sometimes my tintinitus drowns out the sound of the stove timer, but I can always hear the clang of that old timer. Which was, really, designed in the twenties.
Wrapped over the top, so I see it, is a rose colored armband from Gemma, at opendiary.com, one of us. Her grandaughter is undergoing a bone marrow transplant, and this is for her. Perhaps that bracelette will still be on top of my computer when I die.

Another pack rat here. I have grandparents, parents and me stuff and no children. Have recently gotten serious about organizing, trying to think what things will look like to whoever goes thru it. I've put notes on some things I think have substantial monetary value like the Murano glass vases I toted home in 1957 while on college trip to Europe.
Other things are best kept in pictures and anecdotes. My 8 year old computer, which I just got last year as a hand-me-down is proving its usefulness for this

Chancy, I have several Jewel Tea pieces that were my grandmother's. She even had a tablecloth that matched the dinnerware. I love it all.

Up in the top of my closet is a plastic zippered bag, kind of bags new comforters or blankets are sold in, and it holds all sort of odds and ends: a brand new Playtex brown rubber pacifier that I bought just in case my daughter, Lara, wouldn't go to sleep the first night she tossed the old one; a sequined and hand-painted skirt from Old Mexico that I threw a hissy fit for when I was small; my first Christmas teddy bear among a bunch of other useless-to-anyone-else stuff...

Ronni, I love the timer! And I can't cook without my cast iron skillet!

Last year, I moved out of my home where I accumulated twenty-six years of memorable things... OLD STUFF! Your article reminded me of when I started packing and moving out on February 15, 2005 and finally finished on April 1, 2005. My brother helped me speed up the process of moving out of my house. It was not easy to let go of my OLD STUFF things! At times I cheated and put little pieces of written papers and little trinkets into bigger moving boxes so that it would look like official packed moving boxes. I packed 26 such boxes and they have been parked in my new garage for the past year and half! I still cannot bear to open those boxes ... somehow I cannot let go of my past! It is just TOO SOON to let it go!

Oh, you are speaking to the Queen of Hoarders, Ronni!! I find moving to be the most wrenching and unpleasant experience because it forces me to face up to all the crap I've been hanging on to! Let's see... a little rubber kitten covered in rabbit fur dyed BRIGHT blue, plus her "partner", a koala bear that my sister brought back from overseas about 15 years ago (now missing all claws!). A pile of newspaper clippings of Diana's death. A Roger & Gallet soap box filled with embroidered hankies that I have never and will never use. A collection of 5 ceramic cat statues, each one a container for talcum powder (Elizabeth Arden??) from the early 1980s. A 1' square replica of the Ghostbusters logo that I drew myself many moons ago.

Am I scaring anyone yet??

I find also that the longer I hang onto stuff that belonged to, or was given to me by, my mom the more significance I attach to them. The suitcase that she bought me when I came to the UK is now coming apart, but the thought of replacing it makes me weepy because Mamma gave it to me.

But I must say that there's nothing like moving to a new country with nothing except your regulation 20kg suitcase to make you pare down your possessions! The rest is all in storage though so will undoubtedly come back to haunt me... ;-)

Btw - CopCar, I'm still LMAO at your response to the question!

Would you believe that when my mother died, I kept HER "coronation of Queen Elizabeth" and "Princess Di's wedding" tchotchkes. I must be nuts. But she loved them...

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