The kids and I just returned from Round 3 of the Great Helping Grammy & Grampy Move Event. Grammy (my mom) had moved about all of her stuff that she actually wants to keep by halfway through Round 2 of the Great Move.
So… that means that for the last 1+ rounds of moving activity, Grammy — who is more than ready to call the ranch quits and enjoy her golden years at her brand new home — has been wandering around the old house, eyeing the Things Left Behind, moaning and groaning and holding her head and muttering things like, “I just wish I could go up to my new house and never look back again.”
Alas, I remind her, because we are high quality, meat-eating, God-fearing Americans, we must clean up the mess we made rather than abandon it. And that’s exactly why my kids and I have been spending so much time dealing with the picked-over drifts of stuff which nobody knows what to do with at the house I grew up in. Together with my parents and sister, we have sorted much of it into piles by now — 1 for the yard sale, 1 for the Rescue Mission, 1 for my family, 1 for my sister’s family. All that stuff is overwhelming! We are to the point now that even my parents, who were raised with the “save it because we might need it if another Great Depression hits” mentality, only watch with half-interest as I wander through the house filling a trash bag with stuff that can go straight to the County Dump in my (humble) opinion. In fact, Mom (she and Dad aren’t exactly hoarders, just Keepers with a capital K) went so far this week as to advise me to, from here on out in my own lifetime, clean out my house (and the garage, and the barn, and the various ranch outbuildings which a woman might be inclined to fill) and take a bag of junk to the Dump every week… and a pickup-load of junk every 6 months. (And just so you know, we’re not talking garbage here. We’re talking about stuff that’s just taking up space, that nobody else will ever want, and which you don’t need now and will probably never need, Great Depression or otherwise.)
That’s good advice she gave me. And after having gone through their 35+ years of one-house plunder, I would like to warn readers everywhere about common household items that can take over your house and, in some ways, your life. DO NOT KEEP, OR YOU (OR WHOEVER’S CLEANING OUT YOUR HOUSE) WILL REGRET IT YEARS DOWN THE ROAD:
- Pictures of people you don’t know well and/or wouldn’t recognize in, say, 40 years.
- Magazines, catalogs, and newspapers. Especially ones you want to keep because something you like is hidden within the pages. Because in a few years it will be a half-day project trying to figure out what that single significant something is.
- Sour cream, cottage cheese, Cool Whip, and margarine dishes for storing leftovers in, ad infinitum.
- More Christmas decorations than you can put out in one year.
- Knick-knacks. In fact, let’s all be grown-ups and just put an end to the knick-knack habit. Unless you have a serious collection of something of beauty — say for instance, angel figurines — please do not save knick-knacks. And by all means do not give knick-knacks to other people and pretend they’re meaningful gifts. They’re not. They’re just junk that people give because they can’t think of what else to give and which people like my parents keep because they think the gift-givers gave them with an intent of meaning.
- While we’re at it, take all the end tables to the Dump, too. They serve no purpose other than holding knick-knacks, collecting dust, and receiving the heads of your grandchildren. Away with end tables!
- Greeting cards. Get-well, birthday, anniversary, thank-you notes… you name it, unless it is an incredibly special hand-written expression and you’re going to paste it into a scrapbook that you will treasure for years to come, just read the card and smile and toss it in the trash. Do not bundle it together with other cards and stuff them all in a drawer.
- Extra coats and gloves. Yes, they are all good coats and gloves… but a person can only wear so many good coats and gloves in any given winter. Pass them on.
- Clothes you haven’t worn in more than three years. I’ve read it in a magazine (which I threw away) before, and I still believe it’s true: if it’s not USEFUL, and/or if you don’t believe it’s BEAUTIFUL… don’t keep it. I think that mantra applies to every possession in life. If you don’t love it, if you don’t use it regularly, eye it critically… and then throw it away. Before it and its friends take over on you!
A couple more notes before I sign off on the subject:
- A word on lick-tub dealers. Attention, ranchers everywhere! Please distribute gifts from lick tub dealers to your loved ones, to the kids down the road, to the employees and coworkers you dislike… post haste. Never let the sun set with gifts from lick-tub dealers sitting on the kitchen table. Whatever you do, don’t keep that box of “branded” junk on your table for a couple weeks, because inevitably important visitors will surprise you one day and in a rush to tidy the house you will sweep off the table and stuff everything that was on it into a closet. And then you’ll forget all about that stuff because it’s in the dark closet and also because none of it is necessary to survival. What then? None of it will see the light of day for another 10 years. Those Vitalix caps? You can only wear one of them at a time. Pass them on. The NutraLix coats and vests? Ditto. The state-of-the-art grilling tools in the silver case from Rio Ranch? If you don’t grill now, you probably won’t be grilling 10 years from now. Yes, it was nice of them to think of you, but it was also nice of you to buy their molasses-and-fiber concoction. (Seriously, what is the thinking behind salespersons giving their ranching customers free trinkets? If I had to choose who I would buy product from next time based on the free gifts received last time, I would choose… oh, I just can’t decide. Just skip the gifts and lower the price on the products, please.)
2. By the way, I think now’s a good time for our society (or at least our family) to re-think its Christmas gift-giving habit. Every gift I’ve given to my dad for the last 15 years? We found it all under his bed when we moved it. And then there were the gifts which my mom specifically requested — I can see her specifically requesting said items in my mind’s eye now — which I gave to her for birthdays, Mother’s Day, Christmas, etc. and which we recently extracted (in the original boxes) from the bowels of her pantry. Sandwich press, anyone? Foot bath? They’ll both be in the yard sale. Her excuse? “I guess you really can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” In all seriousness, we all work ourselves into a frenzy each December trying to select the perfect gift for each loved one. And in the end, we’re really just spending our hard-earned money to buy stuff that will end up under the bed. It’s money down the drain to contribute to our too-much-stuff problem! I mean, I like giving and receiving as much as anyone, but this just doesn’t make sense anymore. Anyone have a solution? Actually, I have a solution. Anyhow know how to get the rest of my family on board?
3. Finally, and not to brag or anything, but I was totally Mrs. Efficient when I was helping my folks this week. You know how when you go to someone else’s house and it’s so much easier to just tie in and do the dishes or clean some oft-neglected thing… while, all the while, your deep dark secret is that at your own house you and your family are living in filth? That was me at Mom’s house this week. I was full of energy. I was focused. I was not just efficient, I was super-efficient. I was fantastically efficient. I was an Efficient Ethel! I was pausing to finish one quick job as a well-deserved break in the middle of a big job. I was sweeping and scrubbing walls and lifting with my legs not my back and I was cleaning out the whole utility room with my kids and wiping the inside of the washer down (!) and throwing stuff in the garbage with my left hand while I was carrying keepers to the pickup with my right hand and I was scrubbing out the insides of trash cans (!) and removing screens to clean windowsills and emptying out medicine cabinets with unabashed clear-headedness and I even remembered to take my own vacuum so my mom could leave hers at her new house. I was all like, Jeez, if I was this efficient at my own house on normal days, my house would be spic and span and my life would be so lovely and organized! And my kids this week? They were SO GOOD the whole time we were there. They kept themselves busy playing with treasures they found in the piles. The big kids kept an eye on the littlest one for me! When they got bored, I sent them outside with animal crackers and I heard nary a complaint. And you know what I think had me and them working together so peacefully? You know me to be radical and rash, but I truly, honestly believe it was the lack of TV. There’s no TV in my folks’ old house right now, and it was blissfully quiet there without it. I never realized it before, but I think that the Disney-channel-background-noise which I (might) use to distract them on a regular basis is actually counter-productive. I am suspicious now that it grates on my nerves and makes me irritable. I also think that the 30-minute-Nickoldean-time-clock contributes to the mommy guilt I feel on any given day, because I’m always rushing to finish something before a show is over and inevitably not getting it done and then feeling bad when I let them start a second show just to distract them and… and… it was just nice to release myself from cartoon servanthood this week. And the kids didn’t even seem to miss it. Now I’m trying to decide if we really even need satellite TV in our home. It really is a crutch, and once you throw it aside, you realize what you (and they) are capable of. I’ll tell you this much…
They are capable (okay, somewhat capable… kinda capable) of doing the dishes. Hallelujah! I won’t be doing everything for everybody for the rest of my life!
© Tami Blake
P.S. What’s on YOUR list of Things Not To Keep?