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.
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.