What a Legacy….

My local free newspaper often has auction notices; many of them are for estate auctions. Here’s the description at the top of one upcoming auction of an elderly couple’s estate:

In 1959 this couple started aggressively collecting and warehousing an unbelievable amount of antiques and collectibles. Rooms are stacked to the ceiling, many more items than listed. Watch for dates of more auctions.

In other words, this couple collected so much stuff for nearly 60 years that it will take multiple auctions to get rid of it all.

Isn’t that sad? What was the point? It almost sounds like they were hoarders. Their heirs must have been so overwhelmed, and even the auction agent must be shaking his/her head (while happily figuring out what multiple auctions will do for their bottom line).

A house full of rooms stacked from floor to ceiling with stuff. What a legacy…..

Shrinking My Wardrobe

Today I shrank my wardrobe by about 33%.

I’ve kept many clothes over the years, partly out of sentimentality, and partly because most older clothes are better-made out of better fabrics than the clothes I find in stores today. I’m sure people are sick of seeing me in the same old things, because I’ve been wearing some outfits for years!

I do buy the occasional “new” thing here and there, usually at a thrift store a half-hour from here. There are plenty of thrift stores in my own town, but I seem to have particular luck at the store that’s further away, sometimes even finding actual “new” clothes (they might have been new ten or 15 years ago) that still have the tags on them.

I’ve had a bit too much fun at that store in recent months; as a result, my wardrobe no longer fit in my closet. There were too many things hanging in there, and the two large plastic boxes I keep for out-of-season clothes would no longer close tight; they were way overstuffed.

I took everything out and sorted it into piles by type: tops, sweaters, slacks, jeans, etc. I also went through my dresser drawers and took out anything I hadn’t worn yet this season. I did all this sorting on my bed, which is positioned conveniently between the closet and the dresser.

The first part was the easy and fun part: I found all the socks with large holes in them and pitched them. Ditto for the underwear that I’d be embarrassed to be seen in if I ended up in the hospital.

Then I started making a pile for donations to the local Goodwill, where I can just drive up and they’ll take my stuff before I can change my mind. At first that was easy, too: tops that I haven’t worn in ages, pants that no longer hang right on me, the sweaters that are perfectly fine but that I have far too many of…the result was a nice-sized pile. Some of those items came from the thrift store, so I had little guilt about giving them up because the price I paid for them was a donation to the religious charity that runs the thrift store.

It helped that I’d been planning to go through my clothes for a few weeks, so I’d already begun thinking about which specific pieces of clothing I’d give up. Those items went straight into the pile; I guess I’d already mentally wrestled with them.

But there were plenty of items that I’d forgotten about, so I now had to make decisions about each of them. As a result, despite the decent-sized pile of donations, there were still far more items stacked on my bed than could fit into those two boxes. And so the hard part began.

When you’re sentimental, it’s so easy to find an argument for why you should keep something:

  • I’ve had this forever.
  • I’ve had some good times in this outfit.
  • This was a gift from someone I love.
  • This is one of the few colors that look good on me.
  • I wore this top when my kids were still at home.
  • I’ve always loved this brand.
  • My husband used to compliment me when I wore this.

Yes, I said all those things in my head, and more. Suddenly I grew tired of all the arguments. I began grabbing favorite items and stacking them in the plastic boxes that would be stored in my closet. Once the boxes were full, I put the rest of the clothes in the donation pile before I could change my mind. Then I bagged it all, put the bags in the trunk of the car and slammed the lid.

Back in the bedroom, peace reigned. Two boxes, flat on top instead of bulging, were put back in my closet. There was space between the clothes hanging there. My drawers had plenty in them, but were not overstuffed. Oh….it feels so good to be done with this task for a while!

In a week or two, when I think of some piece of clothing I used to wear, and I realize that I gave it away, I’ll probably feel bad for a second. But then I’ll remember that it served me well and that it was time to let it go. Believe it or not, that always makes me feel better, and then I can move on.

I wish I was one of those people who aren’t sentimental, and can swiftly grab up piles of clothes and get rid of them without a second thought. But that’s just not me, and I know I’m not alone.

(If you’re sentimental like me, you’re going to love my new book, The Sentimental Person’s Guide to Decluttering. Check it out HERE.)

The Burden of Collections

I love going to estate sales.

I love looking through books from long ago. I like to see juice glasses like the ones my grandma set on her breakfast table, and framed pictures like those people had in their homes when I was little.

Since we downsized, I’ve learned to admire these things without buying them, because we simply don’t have the space for them. If I should find something I absolutely must have, I’ve promised myself that some item I currently own will have to leave the house before the “new” (to me) item can come in. That’s the only way I can stay on top of my possessions and not let them get out of control, as I once did.

Recently I went to the estate sale of an elderly lady. It was held in her 1930s frame two-story house, and run by a group of tired-looking middle-age women that I assumed to be her daughters and/or daughters-in-law, because they kept referring to “Mom” in their conversations.

They had done a great job of setting up the sale, and what a job it was! All through the house were tables covered with tablecloths and neatly arranged items for sale. I could barely walk around the L-shaped living/dining room full of tables without bumping into someone or something. Every surface was covered with stuff.

There had to be at least five long tables of glass and ceramic figurines, all neatly arranged and shiny, as if someone had recently cleaned them (what a job!) Along one wall was a long display of costume jewelry, many pieces in their original boxes, all priced individually. There were also tables with lamps, glass and metal ashtrays (remember them?), wall plaques and artificial flower arrangements. There was no furniture except a few chairs for the sellers to sit on; the furniture must have already been distributed within the family or sold before the sale.

The kitchen was packed to the gills with dishes, pots, cooking utensils, and other kitchen items, many with mushrooms on them. Apparently “Mom” was into the 1970s mushroom craze and had amassed quite a collection of mushroom-decorated items.

The rest of the house was filled in a similar fashion, with various collections displayed neatly and price tags on each item. I can’t imagine how hard those women worked to get that sale ready. But I have to wonder how they really felt about all of Mom’s collections because no one seemed to be choosing many of those items, buying more useful things like lamps, yard tools and clothes instead. If they didn’t mark down Mom’s collections toward the end of the sale, they were likely left with the items and more decisions to make about what to do with them. Ugh!

I once had quite a few collections myself. When we downsized, I still liked my collections and didn’t want to give them up. I put off making decisions about them for a while (there were certainly plenty of other things to do at that busy time anyways) until it finally occurred to me that there is no law that you have to keep a collection together, and that if I was honest with myself, I really preferred some items in my collections over others. Hence it was OK to break up my collections.

Once I made that realization, I could finally do what I needed to do. I reduced my teapot collection from dozens down to three. I reduced my enormous collection of back issues of Country Living down to one small stack of clippings after committing to flipping through a few issues while on my exercise bike each night and tearing out anything I just had to keep. I did the same thing with my many quilt magazines, some of which had been published in the 1980s (!)

Both my husband and I have always been bookworms, so we had hundreds of books, maybe more than 1,000, counting paperbacks. We gave up about 2/3 of them.

I won’t list my other collections that were broken up; to be honest, I can’t even remember all of the stuff we got rid of! But I’m doing just fine without it, and someday when I die, my kids won’t have to go through all of it like that elderly lady’s family did for her estate sale.

I sure felt sorry for those gals.