Monday, July 27, 2009

a lifetime of stuff

For the past few weeks I have been struggling a bit with the decluttering goal. I was losing steam, and then becoming a bit exhausted as I forced myself to attend to long over decisions about clutter. It was chugging along, but feeling very forced and difficult.

Today I saw first hand why my whole decluttering goal is worthwhile and important.

I spent the better part of the day with several others going through the stuff in my grandfather's house.

My grandfather was a saver. He was also a nester; one of those people who feel more comfortable when they create a little haven -- a nest -- of all their stuff. You could see his favorite place to sit on the sofa and a semi-circle of necessities around it. Beyond this little semi-circle was possible every single item he has ever owned in his long, interesting life.

It's difficult to go through somebody else's stuff and determine what goes and where. What is trash? What is donatable? What should be kept aside for family and friends? There's always that lingering thought in the back of your mind: I have to be respectful of his stuff.

I found a drawer with 23 pairs of eyeglasses in it. From the style of frames and increasingly thickening lenses, I concluded that he had saved every pair of glasses since at least the 1950's. In another drawer was a pile of glasses cases. I was able to put all the glasses in cases and put them in a bag to donate to the Lions' Club, which gives the glasses to people in need. I found sheets in every imaginable size and pattern. (I'm not sure why he had twin, full, and king sized sheets when his bed was queen sized. ) And he had more wallets and leather gloves than I would ever have imagined.

Then were the things that were so HIM. His art supplies, which were packed up for my artist-uncle. His large assortment of beautiful house plants that will go to my aunt. His framed black and white photographs. His paintings. His charcoal sketches. His collection of short stories was put aside for me. (I'm thinking of scanning them into the computer and printing out some bound copies for Christmas presents this year.) It's funny how many of his traits were reflected in future generations.

I kept wondering though, if things may have been more comfortable if there was less stuff for him to have to negotiate around. If he had just the important things like the paintings and the photos and the stories, but not as many gloves or shoes. It sort of made me sad that a lot of his important things were buried beneath the not-so-important things. And it also made me sad that he had so many things that he had never used.

But then again, I'm happy that in the center of his nest were a lot of well used things: his journal, a pile of books, a stack of DVDs, a popcorn bowl, and his coffee cup.


Diane said...

I'm so sorry to read about your Grandfather. My best thoughts are with you... and him :). Take care of you!!

Carolina John said...

after my great grandmother died maybe 11 years ago, she was in her 90's - we had to clean out her house too. inside a drawer under some bed linens we found an esquire magazine from 1941 complete with pinup girls that my great-grandfather had hidden from her. and she never found it. I kept the magazine, and i think the story is hilarious. you never know what kind of secrets might be uncovered!

Anonymous said...

This does sound difficult... I'm sorry about your grandpa too. It's nice of you to think about who else could use those things and donate what you can.

Anonymous said...

My Grandparents were the same way (and I've probably inherited it). Actually, we always thought that my Grandfather was the saver and his wife was the thrower. Turns out that wasn't the case: she saved just as much, if not more, than he did. She just hid it better.

But the only thing that I, as the grandson, chose to keep after my Grandfather's passing was a sketchbook from his college days. Architectural sketches of columns and crownings, all drawn freehand (a skill I did not inherit). I suppose that's why it was the one thing I asked for, really: it was something done in his own hand, rather than simply something he owned. And it's still in a safe place today.