Where did all of this stuff come from?

As a child we have few personal possessions. Pretty much all of it comes from our parents. Some are gifts but for the most part Mom and Dad are there to make sure we have what we need. Clothes. Some school stuff. Toys. That sums up the personal belongings of a child. I remember the year I got my first and only Barbie. That was a prized possession. Books were everywhere in my home but a few were mine alone. Treasured beyond belief. The lack of money wasn’t a big deal as the local library was a block away. It was my Mecca. My dream land.

Through the years money was still in short supply so clothes were limited. I had to take good care of my clothes because they had to last for quite awhile. Babysitting money allowed me a few more personal things like cheap earrings and a little makeup. I was also able to augment my wardrobe somewhat. I loved when my Dad bought me clothes for my birthday or Christmas. Always cool and usually too small which suited me fine. The seventies were a time of skin tight clothes. Mom on the other hand bought things a size too big. In order to grow into over time. As a teenager I certainly didn’t like her choices. The woman had a love of burgundy. I still struggle with burgundy. However if that’s the most traumatic thing from my youth I am a very lucky gal.

Evolving into a young woman in boarding school, everything you owned fit into a dorm room. Stereo and albums, posters, clothes and books. A mini home away from home. As a young mom and wife the furnishings in a small apartment were hand me down, used or very inexpensive. Our apartment with two children was tiny. One daughter had a miniscule bedroom with a twin bed, dresser, table and chair. All of her toys fit in the room. Our bedroom held our double bed, a crib, small freezer, weight bench and sewing machine. Our little lives in this little apartment. Everything we needed and a little extra. The move to our first house brought space in the massive thousand square foot home with three bedrooms. A big empty basement was eventually made into more living space. A third child meant a bedroom in the basement. As each child grew older, their possessions grew and grew until the little house was bursting at the seams. But it was a cozy home. We always felt it was a starter house but we couldn’t agree where we wanted to live. And so, the little house changed and evolved to fit our needs. Even the yard evolved. Dead grass, a sand box and swingset eventually gave way to a deck with barbeque, hot tub, pergola and firepit. The swingset was put into the rafters of the garage for 15 years. And then, one sad day it was removed to be recycled metal. In time the kids moved away and bought their own homes. Some of their treasures still fill the rafters of the garage. We stayed in our little house sometimes talking about where we would someday move. Downsizing from the tiny house which seemed quite large with no children. After thirty some years the little house was like a part of the family. So we stayed. Now I live alone in my tiny house. Its huge really for one person. And yet, still cozy. My love of books and reading is readily apparent as is my fondness for pictures. I am more like my mother than I care to admit. As I look around there are memories everywhere. It warms my heart.

As is the norm for most Canadians, summer is short. There is limited time for getting a garden in, fun stuff and all of the chores that require good weather. This year my various groups of friends managed to keep me quite busy with walks, golfing, lunches and just visits. I am grateful to them all. As a result my list of summer chores gathered dust. My garden was over run with weeds, my lawn was neglected and my spring cleaning just never happened. And so as September appeared I realized I needed to get my butt in gear. Snow can fly here in southern Alberta anytime from early September until late October. So I made up my mind to get to it. And the first job was to organize the garage. It had become a dumping ground over the years and every effort to purge just resulted in reorganizing the clutter. I had dreams of being one of those people who parked their car in the garage. The ones who didn’t have to search high and low for snow shovels or gardening tools. It was a lofty goal but I set to one morning with no plan at all.

My oh my! The treasures I found. And junk. I would have to say that the ratio between treasure and junk is perhaps 10 to 90. Meaning that 90% of all I sorted through was junk. Two truck loads to the dump with leftover lumber from over 30 years of renovation projects. My hubby liked to keep things on hand, just in case. Alas, even removing that made little difference. I ripped out makeshift shelving that the previous owners had put up. Never convenient or useful, it had to go. Then metal cupboards that were so deep that they swallowed anything we placed there. Put in the back alley with a sign saying “free to a good home”. I bought different shelving. Adjustable and smaller. Slowly but surely things were organized and put away. I came across my indoor growing tent and decided I should put it up in the laundry room. It was a new one and it was too tall for the space. So… the laundry room is emptied. Camping gear. Golf clubs. Hiking stuff. Backpacks. Lots of snowboarding equipment. Oh yes and there are the snowshoes I searched for at the cabin last winter. Unfortunately things weren’t all together. The hiking boots are in a different closet. While hiking helmets are in the garage. With bike helmets, And snow board helmets. Thats the problem. How to sort. You just have to pick a way and stick with it.

Our garage was broken into years ago and all of our power tools were stolen. So my husband put all of the newly purchased power tools in the basement underneath the stairs. Dark and cramped it was so hard to find anything when you needed it. Plus there just wasn’t room. In time it was a dumping ground. I actually found a box that came home from the office when my husband retired. Full of financial statements for the company he worked for. Going all the way back to 1995. I found four briefcases. One he never used and the rest were stacked on a shelf when he bought a new one. We don’t fly for golf trips often yet we have 4 carry bags to protect our golf clubs when flying. Five guitar stands even though all of our stringed instruments are on the wall. Four guitar soft cases. Folded and never used. There is my sons hockey equipment which he used as a teen. My husbands hockey bag plus another bag that holds stuff he bought, just in case he needed it. Or it was on sale. There is even a brand new hockey bag that is empty. For when his wore out. I was raised by a hoarder but I also married one. None of these things were shipped off to donate land but they now have a home where they can rest peacefully with likeminded items. My new rolling tool case is a testament to disorganization. If you can’t find it you buy another. So I have more levels than need be. A dozen hammers. Couldn’t find one the other day. Just looked harder. I have also brought home all of the golf clubs from the cabin. My two oldest granddaughters got two of my old sets. They are grown out of their youth clubs. My son took my husbands set. My oldest daughter tried her dads old set of cobra clubs. She’s got a fast swing so the shafts suit her fine. Daughter Drew has used one of my other old sets for a few years now. So now the golf club corner is a little leaner. One large crate in the garage has five fondue sets. Every new years we fondued. Maybe this year is a good time to dust them off and start that tradition again.

The house certainly isn’t back in order yet and the snow has fallen and my fall bulbs are still in bags and not in the ground. The summer got away from me and lots has to wait for next year. But I had a lovely time reminiscing as I waded through the clutter and stuff in the nooks and crannies of my house. Some days were just spent going through old cards and letters. I have so many diaries that have been placed in cupboards and long forgotten. The junk and clutter is mainly gone, There are silly treasures that can never be parted with and are tucked away lovingly until another summer of purging brings them to light again. The useful items are somewhat organized and hopefully in time I will be done with the last of the few piles that remain. I am so excited to park in my garage although I know usually I will just stop in front of the house because it is a shorter walk. That is okay. I have five snow brushes. They are in garage but eventually I will put one in my car. Maybe.

We spend half of our life accumulating things and half of it trying to get rid of stuff. Our children don’t want our treasures. Nor do they want any of our useful things. They live in a different world. They are buying their own stuff. But stuff is suffocating. It holds us back. It creates stifling areas in our homes. It causes anxiety. We often place too much value on our possessions because we remember how much time it took to earn the money to buy these possessions. So we value them due to what they represent. As I waded through my home these last few months I found myself feeling lighter and lighter. Every time I took a trip to donate goods or dispose of trash at the dump I felt a little more cleansed. I still have a ways to go but I know in time my life will be a little more streamlined. Most of my husbands clothes either hang in the closet or are folded in his dresser. I even organized his socks one day. I am not ready to go through these things. His night stand is as he left it, He still has drawers full of odd little things. Old glasses. Old electronics. Odd assortment of pens and power cords. Golf score sheets. In time. I have the box of cards and letters he wrote over the years, It will always be here to go through. To remember the good times. His humour. All of the pictures of our life together. All of these things I keep and treasure. They remind me of what is important. Our relationships. Our love for one another. People.

I think back to those dorm room days long ago and the simple life I had then. The only time I feel that way now is when I hiked and had to to live with just a backpack for a week. Or drove across Canada on a motorbike using only what I carried with me. Staying in a commune for a week when I turned 50. Life doesn’t need to be so complicated. We don’t need more storage solutions or even more storage spaces. This is such a big business now. What we need is less stuff. We all know that feeling of excitement and joy when we buy something new. A dress, A new car. New furniture. But in time the feeling fades and we are not so enamored with our things. Ultimately things can’t make us happy. The peace we seek is elsewhere. If we find joy in something we own we must ask ourselves if it is pride in the possession. Is it to show off? I think I have learned a lot about myself as I put my home in order this summer. What I need to live isn’t always what I want. I find my home is so very cozy and comfortable. It is the home my hubby wanted to buy. I never liked it at first but I made it my own. The memories bring me joy and his treasures bring me peace. I am surrounded by little things that are useful and some not so much. I am able to cleanse our home because I feel him here with or without the things. Our home was always changing and so that continues. Our lives are like streams of water. They take turns and twists and sometimes just run up and over the banks. That is where the similarity ends. Unlike us, the stream carries very little along with it on its journey to the ocean. When it reaches the end of its journey it enters the ocean unencumbered and alone. We can learn something from this. It is better for us and for our world. Use what we need when we need it. Let go of that which others can use. Only take your fair share. Leave some for others. There is no need to hoard. We need to take care of others so if one day we need them they will be there. Life isn’t about collecting stuff. Life is for living. We shouldn’t waste it. As they say, we only get so many turns around the sun.

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