I draw comfort from the fact that it’s not just me…other sixty-somethings also have a fraught relationship with their stuff. On one hand, there’s a desire to divest oneself of old worn out possessions and dreams, on the other hand, there’s the need to hang on to special objects that elicit fond memories.
The divesters talk about getting rid of stuff with metaphors of virtue: cleansing, purging, freeing, lightening, and shedding. Getting rid of stuff, they insist, allows you the freedom to redefine the self and dream new dreams. Old possession are clutter, junk. People who hold on to their stuff are hoarders, have OCD, LD, ADHD or are just generally unwholesome. Our stuff holds us back!
Sometimes I embrace this thinking. But when push comes to shove, I waffle.
I really love my stuff. There are my daughter’s artifacts: dirty piece of her yellow baby blanket, misshapen ash tray, first formal dress, kindergarten report card, middle school awards…. There are the knickknacks my mother gave me when she moved to assisted living: finely chiseled duck decoy, butterfly under glass, tiny bronze mask, and driftwood lamp. How about my sculpture of a foot and nose? My collection of sheep? My dandelion gone to seed, preserved in plastic? Our huge collection of hardcover books? What about my wedding dress or the dress I wore to my daughter’s wedding? And much, much more.
Each one of these physical objects sends me back to a time and place I want to remember. They bring me comfort. They turn my house into my home. I’m well aware that there will come a time when these objects may be more of a burden than a blessing. And when that day comes, I believe I’ll be ready, willing and able to give them away, or close my eyes and hurl them into the great void where I’ll someday be joining them.