Let’s get one thing straight. I am not a hoarder. It’s true I have lots and lots and lots of stuff. My husband has to be the most understanding, patient man on Earth. He puts up with every closet in the house being full. Mostly my stuff. Every drawer and cabinet is full. Mostly my stuff. And the attic. Well the attic is what finally convinced us some stuff had to go. And some of it went. It cleared some space, but it also made me see part of the problem. I’m sentimental.
Here’s an example: In grade school, I always spent a week or two with my grandparents in Latham. When the timing was right, my aunt and uncle would take me and my “almost cousins,” Sharon Starkey and Janet Burden, to the Burden Fair. When I was in fifth grade, I won a giant pink and black teddy bear by tossing baseballs in a basket. That was such a great day. Of course, I still have the teddy bear. He’s been with me since I spent the $1.50 to win him.
I came across a box of little gifts from students from my teaching days in the 1970s. The homemade ones are the best. Who could throw away a piece of slightly warped wood that someone had done a fine job wood-burning a sweet message on?
When my granddaughter was 5 years old, she looked around the basement and said, “Grandma, you have everything.” Years later, when she got her first apartment, she stood in our kitchen and said, “I’m not going to buy anything until I go shopping in your basement.” My friend Sally is constantly saying, “If you need anything, Bonnie’s got it.” But that’s a good thing, right?
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I guess there’s nothing sentimental about having several shelves of flower vases, but I actually need 25 matching vases from time to time. And you never know who will need those curtain rods or that end table, those drapes or one of those wreathes.
And who wants the same Christmas decorations every year? The attic inventory proves that I certainly don’t.
I have learned, however, that when you have a lot of stuff, it needs to be organized so you can find things when you need them. I hate to look for things.
Next thing I need to do is get rid of clothes. I still have the dress I bought in Paris in the mid-’70s when my friend Cheryl and I had to search high and low for something we could afford. It seems if I buy something on a trip, it’s not just a piece of clothing – it’s a memento, a souvenir.
I have the jacket with “Assistant Athletic Director” on it from Wichita State, circa 1976. Natasha Fife gave me that jacket when I worked for her, and I’m keeping it.
My friend Vicky suggests I say to myself, “Get rid of 50 things.” Then do it. I’ve never been good at math, but the things I was able to let go of didn’t come close to 50. She says she can prioritize by saying, “Do I like this better, or do I like this better?”
I keep them both.
My husband and I could get rid of 150 books, and it wouldn’t make a dent. We both love books.
In the movie “Out of Africa,” Meryl Streep, sitting in her home amid her china and lace and beautiful furnishings, said, “I like my things.”
Things aren’t the most important thing in life, but when you surround yourself with items that remind you of wonderful times and wonderful people, things you enjoy looking at, things that bring you comfort, reassurance or a smile to your face, then those are the things you should keep.
I guess the problem is when you have too many of those items. Regardless, the teddy bear stays.
Reach Bonnie Bing at email@example.com.