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Just Stuff!

This came across my desk this week and I just could not resist writing about it. It came from a group called “Power of Words”.

“The truth is that all of the ‘stuff’ here on earth, we work so hard to buy and accumulate, does not mean a thing. At the end of the day, people will be cleaning out our ‘stuff’, going through our ‘stuff’, figuring out what to do with all of our ‘stuff’ we’ve accumulated in our life. The only thing of value that remains are the memories and what we deposit into others. May we all learn to spend less time accumulating ‘stuff’ and spend way more time making memories.”

I know there are many of you who have had to clean out a relative’s home when they passed. It is a cumbersome task that takes a lot of time. When my mother was still around, we attempted to go through her things and decide what to keep and what to throw away. She was still alive so it was extra hard. We had piles to donate, piles to throw away, piles for my son, my daughter, and myself, but what might mom need if she was able to come home?

That night after being with all of us, she died. Now decisions could be made.

My mother, her sister, and her brother went through the same procedure when my grandparents died. They had a system. Since my mom was the oldest, she got to choose something first. There was no measure of worth, just a measure of choice. After that my aunt chose something, then my uncle. It went on like this until everything that anyone wanted was gone.

My mother knew my tastes so she chose things that I would like to have. In the end no one wanted the old kitchen table that came from my great grandparents’ house. I was delighted. I needed a new kitchen table and that was the one I wanted. I remembered when it was used there.

That is the key. Your family will only prize the things that you used. Actually, there are some families where no one wants anything. Young people want all new things. I was not like that. I prized the old tried and true items that I had seen my family use.

Back to the stuff that we all accumulate. In today’s world nearly everything that is made is disposable. It was not meant to last. If you are lucky enough to have some of the old things, keep them. They can be refinished, recycled if you will. I have some old chairs that I wanted to have reupholstered. The first thing the man I talked to asked me was how old they were. If they were of new construction, they were not worth refinishing he told me.

Every once in a while, I look around my own house to see what the children and grandchildren will be interested in. We recently went through all of Don’s things. There were not really many things that they wanted. Some of them took things just to keep them in the family.

When we married Don intended to sell his house and live here. That never happened. We did live here, but he never sold his house. I think that the thought of having to clean it out was overwhelming. There was so much stuff.

I envy people who downsize and move to smaller homes or apartments. At that point they get rid of things. They simply only have room for so much.

I am left in the family home that is filled with stuff. Everyone once in a while, I clean things out. I had to do that before Don moved in. I had clothes to get rid of as well as other things that I was not using. I purged my craft closet getting rid of all the things that I was never going to get to. That helped me a little, but not nearly enough. Some day my children will have a lot of stuff to go through.

Some of it will mean something to them and they will want to keep it. Other things have meaning only for me. I suppose those things will be donated or sold unless the grandchildren need furniture or other things for their homes.

The meaning is not in the things that we have. The real meaning comes from the memories that we make using those things. Meaning comes from what we do with our lives.

When we get together, I listen carefully as the children reminisce. They do not talk about things – they talk about the people in their lives at the time. They remember their friends and what they did. They remember their grandparents and great-grandparents.

The best gift you can give your children is to take care of your stuff so they do not have to. Before you get rid of something find out if there is any interest, however. As for the things that I use routinely, sorry kids but they will be around for you to dispose of.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa. Contact at hickoryheights1@verizon.net.

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