In recent years I have been witness to or personally involved with situations that made me think about our human possessions. What we collect, what’s important to our every day existence, what we think we couldn’t live without.
The first event was the passing of my parents. My dad died first, after which my mom downsized. Sort of. From six rooms to four. As she moved, the only things she really could stand to part with were his clothes and his computer, which was beyond her. She could not give up all the really important things that she perceived to carry the essence of the man she loved, like his briefcase, his engineering licenses, the small strong box with the remnants of his past as the “good” (and only) son. This box included his own parents important documents like marriage licenses, original bill of sale of the house he grew up in (cost = $2400!) and the beginnings of a genealogy investigation to trace his roots. He got as far back as his cousin Bill who has some credits in the silent movie industry. It wasn’t very far, but he got a kick out of it and therefore it meant a LOT to her.
Eighteen months later when she died from a broken heart as much as that broken hip, my brother and I were left to review and dispense with her…their…possessions. My mother was a fantastic collector of quality “stuff”, be it clothes, antiques or just really cool everyday items. She had nothing that wasn’t carefully purchased or had some sentimental family meaning. It was an incredibly delicate dance to decide how to dispense of their belongings, all of which were carefully, specifically acquired. She often admonished us over the years, NEVER joking, that we needed to be sure not to just pass certain things off cheaply in a yard sale. Sadly, in the end we made some harsh decisions on how to dispense of those possessions. To this day I support most of, and regret some of, those decisions. Oh. And I still have a small collection of lovingly wrapped items that I don’t know what the hell to do with but cannot part with, because I know she would be devastated if they were passed along to strangers or donated to Good Will, or discarded in the trash.
Fast forward almost 4.5 years to this past week. My home state of New Jersey was among those greatly affected by Hurricane Sandy. People had a day or two to figure out if a) they would evacuate as mandated, and b) what they would take with them. This made me think hard about what I would do if faced with the same challenge. Oh sure…. It’s a no brainer that the dogs get to come. And some food for them since they are special needs in the dietary department. And that file with the important papers like the will, living will, POA etc. After that, I was hard pressed to determine what was next on the list. In recent years I have done some serial purging and accumulation in my home, a place that is woefully short on storage. Recently I’ve tried to adopt the rule that if I bring something in to the house, something has to leave. Sell it, donate it, give it to people who really dig it. I just need to maintain the balance of not accumulating too much stuff so that the poor folks who have to dispense of it after I’m gone don’t have TOO hard of a job. I’ve actually willed a few oddities to the people I know will “get” them. Even so, I wonder what the fate of some of my odd but beloved possessions will be when I’m gone. Not that I suppose it will matter all that much to me at that moment. Anyway, here are a few of my posessions that, while I might not take them with me in an emergency are true favorites and that might stump those I leave behind…
Here are some links to interesting places and people that have decided to take a minimalist approach to life and seem happier for it. Intriguing ideas. Enjoy!
A guy who has challenged himself to evaluate “stuff” vs “things”. Really interesting!
Someone who thinks the world should own our art:
A couple whose leap in to a minimalist lifestyle brought them to a more meaningful life: