There are memes on social media and articles in all sorts of publications telling us (Boomers) that the subsequent generations DO NOT want our stuff. Not our heirlooms, not our elegant china, not our furniture. None of it. This may be a phase. Humans have phases. But it does make it oddly hard to de-stuff your stuff if you have a need to do that. In our house, we’re prepping for a bunch of major renovations to make the house functional for two families so that our daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter can comfortably stay and, hopefully, see us through aging-in-place. The house is big. The yard is BIG. We like each other a lot and have been living together for 5+ years. It’s a classic story—they moved in planning on it being temporary, and it turned permanent. Works for us. But the house does need some changes for 5 big personalities to negotiate American-standard communal living, so we’re wading into a bazillion months of construction. This necessitates lots of packing-away. Which involves LOTS of why-are-we-keeping-this work. I am, so far, enjoying it. It feels like order-making in the midst of a mildly dis-ordered life in the midst of a massively dis-ordered world.
One of the things I find myself most attached to are fabrics. It’s so bad that I asked my daughters last year to stage what amounted to an intervention in advance of a yard sale. I unloaded about ½ my stash in the face of ruthless questions about whether I was EVER going to make anything out of X yardage. Not much of it sold at the yard sale, but a bit more than half went to a woman in our neighborhood who makes all her children’s clothes (also homeschools them and grows lots of veg in her front yard. The person who took the fabric was a friend of hers who mentioned this, so I cajoled her into taking practically everything kid-able in the piles. The rest went to the thrift store, where it will, hopefully, find other sewists who want it. There was a lot of wool in there. Who wears wool any longer? I don’t, especially the sorts of skirts and jumpers I used to wear a lot. We don’t have much winter in DE.
Just this morning, I went to put on a dress that is too big, feels frumpy, and has seen me through a lot of summers (I tend to keep clothes I like a long time). The thing is, I LOVE the print. Love it. I could take the dress in, and may, or I could cut it up (the fabric is in great shape) and make a dress for a granddaughter. What I won’t do is put it in the thrift store box because the fabric is a perfect print and makes me happy every time I look at it.
So I’ve been thinking about what categories of stuff I am most attached to. I am surprised to say that it’s a smallish list: a few of the things my grandfather gave me, some books, lots of art, a few pieces of jewelry, and fabrics I love, most of them one shade or another of green, photos. So why is my house so blasted full of stuff I don’t really want (my mother’s Lenox, my Madame Alexander dolls…), but that is too good to thrift, and too hard to sell? I have thought it was acquisitiveness—one of the Great Sins and a convenient thing to beat myself up about. But I think it’s got more to do with accretion and connection—stuff that I loved in the past, or just landed here because someone else close unloaded it and I automatically kept it because of that connection. So if you’d like my mother’s almost unused set of Lenox “Autumn” china, let me know. I’ll be happy to ship it off to you. As soon as I find it.