When I was very young I loved it when I would come home from school and my mother had rearranged my bedroom. I loved decorations and furnishings even early on. Fast forward to thirteen years old and you would find me and my best friend, Susan, shopping the antique stores down south Broadway with our babysitting money. I still have an antique Folgers can in my kitchen from one of our excursions. I couldn’t wait to decorate my first home. Off white lace curtains, hand me down furniture, painted walls, my own artwork on the walls. I have found treasures and trinkets, unique pieces, and have held onto heirlooms from our respective families. Our home has always been a reflection of our love for cozy quarters and a house full of family and friends. It is easy to feather a nest. I have been doing it for thirty years. How does one unfeather a nest?
Sometimes we begin to view things as an extension of ourselves. Something holds a memory. Something holds a belief. Something makes us happy to see it. It is often hard to look at a material item and see it for what it is, wood, nails, paint, metal, glass. It is not easy to part with things that we have used to decorate our homes, that belonged to our grandmother, that our children gave us, or that we collected over the years on vacations. So how does one deal with watching each piece leave one by one? How does one get rid of all of their possessions? We know some folks have the trauma of natural disaster that does it for them. I do not know which is harder, having everything gone in one fell swoop, or consciously watching each piece walk out the door. Here are some tips I have learned to downsize one’s possessions.
1. Realize that the memory associated or the person it reminds you of does not leave with the piece. You will still remember great grandma’s smiling face at the door, the cruise on your honeymoon, your child in second grade. Getting rid of yearbooks and old drawings and awards and journals and clothes and furniture does not take away anything from your life history, memories, or people in your life. Detach the memory from the piece and you will just see another item that will eventually deteriorate.
2. Imagine the item torn or broken. I have Doug’s grandmother’s watch. I bet it is eighty years old. It is beautiful and intricate and worthless. It does not work, it cannot be repaired, then when dropped accidentally the face fell off. It no longer looked intricate or beautiful. It was just a paper face. If the leg broke off a table, would it still be valuable to you? Envision things as broken and see if they still hold a place in your heart.
3. Imagine moving all that stuff! We helped our friends move out of another friend’s home. That latter friend has to fix his home up to sell. Many, many years of accumulated items clutter the yard and home. I do not know how he will do it. The land we are on now holds a collection of discarded items that once held value and now look like a giant dump! Things break, they rust, they deteriorate, they are just things. When Doug’s grandmother died no one wanted any of her things. It became a burden for those involved to empty her apartment. It is hard for those left behind to sort and try to give away everything that the person in life held dear. The material items do not hold the same memories to the ones trying to clean up the accumulation of things.
4. What is the actual value of an item? I paid $300 the gorgeous New Mexican style armoire that held our television. It is a heavy, sturdy piece in great condition. I have it for sale for a hundred dollars and no one wants it. I thought I would get $10,000 for all of our antique collections, farm implements, animals, collectables, fine china, heirlooms, and stuff. Closer to $2000 will be the final number.
Material items are really worthless. Using just what we need and releasing attachments to finite items can help unfeather the nest. It makes it easy for the next generation to sort our things when we pass away, leaves us with less housework and burdens, and gives us more freedom. The real treasures are the lives that share ours; our cats, friends, children, neighbors, wildlife, people, they are what is important, not an antique Folgers can.