Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Memories While Decluttering

Sometimes decluttering helpers exclaim they don't understand why packrats find it hard to get rid of objects as they hold memories. Perhaps people think differently? I get that dismay when a hoarder such as on the reality TV show Hoarders is talking about keeping a dirty, empty paper coffee cup that cannot be thrown out  due to it "holding a memory".  I don't get their dismay about not wanting to get rid of other things especially in certain areas such as items used by their kids that hold good memories of their younger years.

Today I decided to tackle the very end of clearing my ten year old son's bedroom closet of some outgrown things. The other part of the project was mostly done earlier in the year but I left the rest unfinished for a number of months when I was way too busy to think about such things. Those shelves have had the same things on them for perhaps six years. While taking the things down the memories came flooding back.

I feel a sense of worry or sometimes a little panic-like feeling at the idea that if I get rid of the thing that the memory associated with it will disappear. You see, when I see the thing, the memory comes back like a flash. Yet if I don't see the thing, most of those memories do not come back, or shall I say a specific detailed memory doesn't come back but I do have a vague general memory. My mind is busy thinking of something else or I'm busy doing some other thing and that memory is buried somewhere in my brain.

I know this is true about the forgetting or the not-recalling of the memory,  because in the process of reorganizing (moving stuff around) or decluttering (getting rid of things) I have memories of things I know I've not thought about for years. When I remember it I get a warm fuzzy feeling and I don't want to get rid of the thing. (Other things bring back bad memories or feelings like a feeling of regret over having abandoned that quilt project and wishing I'd someday finish it.)

I keep telling myself that it is okay to let go of the thing and that I need to focus on the fact that the thing is no longer being used by our family and we need to make room for the new stuff that we are currently using. That's how I force myself to let go of the stuff. However I'd be lying if I said that it's all gone. Some of it is here.

I decided to blog a list of memories that I recalled today while decluttering.

I recall reading the Thornton Burgess books when I was a child. I remembered that back then I knew that the books were also read by my mother and my uncles and also my grandmother. My grandmother was raised on Cape Cod where Burgess lived and in his height of popularity she was a child.

When she was a child she took a field trip with her class to meet Thornton Burgess and she personally spoke to him. This was a great thrill. When my grandmother had children she purchased some of his hardcover books which were read by my mother and all her brothers. She was a packrat so she kept the books. Then those where handed down to me when I was a child. My parents are packrats so they kept the books on my behalf. Now I own those books.

The set I was given was far from complete so I bought Dover's paperback, cheap books to make a collection. Sadly my boys were not very interested in the books. At times like that I longed to have a daughter so that maybe I could have enjoyed those books with one of my children.

Perhaps five years ago we visited the home of Thornton Burgess and did a walking tour where an actor pretended to be him and we walked around the town of Sandwich hearing stories. My kids were not interested and sometimes my husband had to walk off with the kids to give them some attention so they'd keep quiet and behave during the walking tour.

This last summer we visited the Green Briar Nature Center and took a nature walk through the land that Burgess walked and used as his inspiration for his stories. My kids could have cared less about that, like my husband. I enjoyed the nature walk and took photographs. They complained they were getting bitten by mosquitoes and gnats and that they were hot (and it was humid). Okay so that memory is a bit mixed of good and not so good!

I came across a Hiawatha book that was mine when I was a child. My mother grew angry with the book and refused to continue to read it aloud to me saying she felt she didn't know how to pronounce the words correctly and it made her feel stupid. This is a clear memory. I put it on my son's shelf but never read it to them.

A number of picture books of some of my favorite authors were on the shelf. I love the artwork and stories of Eric Carle. I love the stories of Patricia Polacco. Another favorite is Tomie DePaola. Of these just a few individual stories are favorites of my KIDS. I realize I've made a little collection because I like them. I hesistate to get rid of these. I could pare the collection down, if I had to, by choosing just the favorites of my sons. Since at present we have storage space here there is no need to put myself through any torture so I'm keeping all the books by my favorite children's book authors.

There were some Lauri foam puzzles which are great for preschoolers. I have many  memories of fun times with both of my kids playing with those challenging yet durable puzzles. My younger was a puzzle whiz and started doing them non-stop when he was just two years old. I didn't know that was odd until a several different mothers approached me in dismay (I used to bring the puzzles with us to keep him occupied and quiet while we were at events for my older homeschooled son.)

Lauri puzzles hold up well so these look brand new but really we did use them a lot. I could get rid of these if I had to but love the idea of pulling them out to play with with future grandchildren. Actually I just found out about a place that does free tutoring of school kids who are underpriviledged city kids so I may just wipe our slate clean and donate all the fantastic homeschool preschool educational supplies I have to them and call it a day.

There were some wooden toys and games that I was inspired to buy from the Waldorf-inspiration days. I wanted high quality items and the ugly plastic was a turn-off. I started off with some Waldorf inspirations in my oldest's younger years but felt the system was too legalistic and had so many inflexible rules that I felt were stupid. I therefore abandoned the Waldorf education model. These items are so high quality I hesistate to ditch them, yet we are not using them any longer.

I found a DK picture book which named 1000 objects or something like that. My first son loved the realted board books in that series and read this one a bit, but his younger brother could have cared less. I'm getting rid of that.

There were some picture books that had outstanding artwork that makes me want to cling onto them. However the stories are mediocre. I'm letting those go.

I found book that was a library discard from the little village in Maine where my aunt and uncle used to work. My grandmother probably bought it from them or it may have been in a give-away pile or sold by someone at a tag sale.

I found three books my younger son read about Alaska and bush pilots. These hold a special place in my heart as I have always longed to go to Alaska and finally did go for my honeymoon. I have never seen such a magnificent place in my life. Furthermore one of my uncles worked as bush pilot doing seasonal work for a number of years to help make ends meet (leaving his family behind in Maine to go do that work).

In the phase before my older son was diagnosed with a visual processing disorder he had started to read journal type books that were hand written and had graphics. One of these he liked even though it is a 'girl series": the Marissa books. I found one on the shelf. Frankly I think she's a snarky little brat so I have no problem getting rid of that book. The others in the series that we own I'd found in other rooms in the house and already have those in the donate or resell pile.

There was a full set of those tiny illustrated classic paperback books. When my younger son was two he clung onto those and carried them everywhere. The first one was found at my grandmother's house in Maine during a visit. It was so darned cute. Nanny loved watching him go everywhere with the book and she let him take it home. I then would buy them used when I'd find them (they were out of print in that style).  When he was four and reading fluently he began reading those books. He read just a couple then stopped. A Mark Twain adaptation was the last sraw for him. Obviously these were over his head content-wise so he got turned off. Yet we still have the whole collection. I decided to get rid of them all but upon blogging this I think I should keep just a couple, the ones he read if I can recall which titles, or if he can (or if I look at our photo album with those pictures in it).

The general memories I have are the years that my kids were young and were so happy to sit in my lap and cuddle up to me. I can't tell you how many hours we spent under a blanket on the couch all snuggled up reading from a stack of picture books. They never wanted the same book repeated immediately, so we'd burn through stacks of books daily. The favorites would be re-read on other days. We had no bedtime stories, we read books all day long here and by bedtime I was fried so what was the point of doing yet more reading when my voice was shot and I was tired? I also remember sometimes one child with me and the other playing quietly on the floor with Thomas trains or LEGOs or Hot Wheels cars. You'd think the one playing was not listening but that's just not true.

The best though is the memory of time I had with my kids and having long open days that families who don't use daycare centers or preschools have available to them. We'd wake up in the morning and the day was ours to do what we wanted. I often would stay in my pajamas until right after lunch then take my shower at one in the afternoon and we'd go out and do something in the real world after that.

I also remember those were the days of overflowing unconditional love. My kids would snuggle right up to me in the morning, and not even notice my "morning breath" or see the pimple on my face or not notice that my morning-hair was a mess. They just loved me and wanted to be with me and I loved them right back.

Who could argue with a person not wanting to do something that would put those memories at risk of disappearing forever?

I tell myself those items were used back then and they are not being used now. They are no longer useful for their regular purpose as we have all grown and changed and have moved on to other interests and we do different activities with our time. Thus in order to make room for our present lives we must let go of some material objects from the past.

At times like this I think more and more of forcing myself to write down the memories so I can keep them alive rather than relying on keeping various objects that bring the memory to light in my mind only. If I write the stories out then my kids can read them someday if they want.

And while I'm at it, if I publish the memory here on my blog I have no idea who out there is reading it. I sometimes wonder who really cares about these things I have to say? I don't know who cares or if someone reads but doesn't give a hoot: whatever! Blogging here is free and it is easy to hit the "publish post" button so I click it and let my words go to cyberspace...
...and if you are wondering, today I got rid of two boxes of stuff and kept just one box. Those are not bad odds for a sentimental packrat-in-reform like me.


Kari Quaas said...

I found this interesting as I too am a reforming pack rat. I've inherited a lot and try to only keep those things I want to keep vs. what things I think I should keep. Good job today. May the odds always work in your favor.

sm said...

it's hard to delutter for so many reasons - but the following blog post really helped me 'lose' some larger furniture pieces that were taking up valuable space:
(sorry, don't know how to make it a hyperlink)

Joyful Learner said...

I'm going to systematically declutter in the new year but didn't think of decluttering books. That would be the hardest along with photos. But your idea to donate them to charity/tutoring inspires me to do the same. I can part with books only if I know it's being used for good!

Lynne415 said...

Thanks for this blog. I'm just in the process of "downsizing" our home and was feeling a bit "emotional" about getting rid of things.

My son is moving from childhood to teen years so your post hit right to my heart as there have been so many items I've gotten rid of from his room that held those instant memories.

Because of these overwhelming feelings I was having, I googled to see if there was anyone else out in the vast universe that felt this "pain" and low and behold I was taken to your blog!!

It was so nice to read someone else who had a "kinship" to items that we know we just can't hold on to anymore. You see my two best mom friends are "minimalists" so they have no clue what this is like so it's hard for me to share this with them. LOL

I've bookmarked your blog so that when I have a break again, I'm going to read your blog as I too am a homeschooling mom.... and see some of your posts look very interesting.

Thanks again for this post. It now has rejuvinated me once again to tackle some more "stuff." :)