I work in a strange conflict between throwing things out and a scarcity mindset (Ricë Freeman-Zachery had a good post on scarcity a while back) where I feel the need to keep everything that has ever meant anything to me, or which might someday be useful.
This has come about for many reasons: my parents were raised during the depression – you reuse everything. Somehow, my father missed the “must have everything” consumerism of the sixties and on. Mom saved everything, like her mother before her. So mom would stash it, and Dad would throw it out — it’s a good thing they stayed out of each other’s stuff… Mom was a seamstress and embroiderer… It’s dangerous to throw out a stitcher’s stash!
But then it happened. Mom died during my freshman year of college. I was in the dorms. This left us with a true dilemma. There were several (tons) of things I wanted to keep, and Dad’s mantra has always been “if in doubt, throw it out.” (This caused many many rows when I was growing up and he decided to “help” me clean my room…) Notice this is not, for the most part, “repurpose, donate to someone who needs it, or sell it.” Into the trash it often goes. I talked him into an estate sale when he was finally ready to clear out the house. I had to give things up — there was no way I could finish school and care for Mom’s stash (and her mom’s, too, since we had never gotten around to clearing out Nini’s basement apartment after her death in ’79.) We sold a LOT. And for the most part I was allowed to keep the money for college expenses.
There are things I miss and regret letting go, though.
- All of the handmade Christmas ornaments — Mom made a different kind each year to put on presents and the tree, and we had enough for a tree and a half! I have a few of each, but I miss having the entire set.
- My grandmother’s recipe box and her button jar. Both full. Both gone, I know not where. I don’t think we sold them, but they are definitely gone.
- My grandmother’s 1930s cast iron sewing machine. Dad, bless his heart, figured I’d want the “newer” one, and kept Mom’s. (I wanted, and in this case needed, BOTH.) He also didn’t keep the cabinet that made the sewing machine truly useful. I still don’t have a cabinet for my machine, but it’s high on the list of “needs”.
- All the lace and trim remnants from years of sewing. This one’s my fault. I had no idea I’d get into crazy quilting, and there wasn’t nearly enough of anything to do anything other than doll clothes with. As I recall, I donated it all to an organizations that made doll clothes, so it’s not a waste, but still…
- All the photos — “Why do I need these? I’ve got the memories!” said Dad. Mom was always annoyed when he threw out photos. Now his sister’s on his case about it, too… I miss them, but there are still enough left that I have a record of some sort. Just not complete, and I’d LOVE to have his old baby book that I couldn’t get him to keep. If I had them all, I’d scan them into the computer before they went away, since I’m sure I don’t have enough time to scrapbook all there were, even just into albums.
But mostly I miss the fabric – the lace and trim, my old ballet costumes. Things I can’t replace, but had no room to keep at the time. It means that now I fight the urge to keep everything. I try now to work stuff into my artwork before I throw it away – And now that I’m working on shoveling out my studio so that I can organize it and actually USE it I’m fighting the urge to just throw everything away and start over. Yup. I’m definitely a conflicted combination of my Mom and Dad’s tendencies.