Keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy. Thank them for their service — then let them go.

                                                                ~Marie Kondo

We’re doing some painting and drywall repairs in our upstairs bedrooms, including a couple of closets. Of course, that required the shuffling of furniture and the emptying of the closets. It’s a 150-year-old house we’ve lived in for over forty years. The upstairs is cramped in several spots and we wanted to minimize moving anything big down the stairs. We managed to shift the furniture from room-to-room ahead of the work somewhat successfully, but had to haul lots of stuff from the closets down to where it could be staged. As a result, we had to triage our stuff — what to keep, what to store and what to use.

The huge stack of framed paintings, photographs and artwork ensconced in our walk-in closet was the first to be assessed. Original paintings by Merrilyn’s dad and my great aunt Eula, the botanist, have both artistic and emotional value, as does most of Merrilyn’s and our son’s art. I have lots of framed photographs that have meaning to me. With a number of bookcases to house our many books, our wall space is limited and we really cannot hang every great piece of art that we have, so storage it is. Down to the basement!

What had previously been our son’s bedroom before he moved out was a convenient place to keep all the kid and teenage memorabilia. He was mostly disinterested in what he’d left, but there’s no way we can get rid of the Legos, Brio train set, Z-bots and boxes of other really great toys and puzzles. The box containing a deer skull replete with jaw bones was a surprise, but you never really know when one might come in handy. Harder to assess was the cache of 3-1/2” and 7” computer discs. I was able to go through the CD’s and VCR tapes to salvage any of interest before shipping them off to Goodwill. There were quite a few games (many of which I kept) and a bunch of martial arts cartoons and movies (which I didn’t).

It was surprising to reflect that as retired people, we don’t really dress up that much. All those work clothes are relatively untouched over the last little while. (Although it’s the same with some of the athletic gear and hunting and fishing equipment that’s all safely tucked away in the cellar and can be left alone for now.) A major clothes realignment is due, but will be postponed for now and put back into the closets.

The several bookshelves impacted are a bit of a problem. Luckily, we’re not having to deal with the LP record shelves, or the major book collections. Anyway, books can stack up almost anywhere and stay mostly out of the way. It’s harder to deal with office-related goods like reams of paper, letterhead, envelopes, markers and binders, professional work, and all that stuff from your desk — when you had an office.

Even now, we each have a place where we can just keep stuff — paperweights, memorabilia, notepads, etc. As George Carlin notes, “Actually, this is just a place for my stuff, ya know? That’s all; a little place for my stuff. That’s all I want, that’s all you need in life, is a little place for your stuff, ya know?” 

So, we’re doing lots of ‘speaking’ with our stuff to see if it brings us joy. Much of it is surprisingly jolly, and needs a place to stay, and frankly, I’m getting pretty tired of hauling stuff up and down the stairs. Even the Goodwill piles have to be carried off and piled into the back of the car for delivery later.

But the process has been interesting. The value of some of the stuff is readily apparent, but it can take a while to go through it all. Much of it sparks memories, or even wonder (“I wonder where that came from?” “I wonder what that is?” “Why the hell do we have that?”). Photos of long-gone pets touch our hearts, pictures of friends and relatives remind us of other times and places, and of other people and relatives long ignored. Stories come back to remind us of past lives and need to be shared again.

It can be a long and heart-wrenching process, and, physically demanding. It’s work, hard both physically and mentally. We’re taking breaks when needed, both to rest and to settle our minds. It may only be things, but it’s our stuff.

“That’s all you need in life, a little place for your stuff. That’s all your house is — a place to keep your stuff. If you didn’t have so much stuff, you wouldn’t need a house. You could just walk around all the time. A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it.”

                                                ~ George Carlin

Additional information:

Marie Kondo, Konmarie,

George Carlin, “A Place for my Stuff”

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