Discover more from Mortality Musings by Carole Silvoy
On The Fridge #2
How much stuff do we need?
We’re back on the fridge today, since it’s one of the places I see the things I need to remind myself of every day. You know, the kind of things that maybe make me laugh or go deeper into my personal zeitgeist than just shopping lists and reminders.
This week the fridge is asking me very loudly how much stuff do we really need? The card that has this graphic on it is actually one of those funky square blank cards that you will find in boutique shops. It really spoke to me when I saw it, and I closed up the card and attached a magnet to the back to display it permanently.
This theme looms really large in my home, as there is way too much stuff. It’s just this side of hoarding in that there is so much that we don’t get rid of, and after 40 years of marriage it’s overwhelming. I’ve made a lot of progress battling the piles numerous times over the years, but it’s like an animal that reproduces whenever I’m not looking. The Stuff Reproduction Cycle
The Garage. The garage is a prime example of this reproduction cycle. It’s a landing spot for things both coming in and going out. It can stay here until I get around to it “later.” Truth Bomb: Later. Never. Comes. The garage is this in-between not quite living-in zone where we haven’t been able to park two cars for longer than I can remember. In fact, this past Christmas my gift to my husband was me clearing out and reorganizing one side of the garage so that he could actually park his car in there for the winter. And it was a great gift too! It’s amazing though, I have to really stay on top of this area because it becomes a transition space for the things that have to be donated or sold, and summer hasn’t really seen his car in there at all. But I did have a successful yard sale!
Greeting Cards. In boxes and bags and a few piles I must have just about every greeting card we have received in our 42 years together. In fact for the last several years I haven’t been buying greeting cards for my husband. Instead I do a love rewind with some older cards he’s gotten in years past. Our cats always give us cards as well, and theirs have also been recycled. For his birthday this month I found a card from the first three cats we had together. It was already rewound once in 2013 with the added names of our additional cats to that point, numbers 4 through 10. And this year I added our current tribe of numbers 11, 12, and 13. It’s incredibly sweet to see the names of all the cats by whom we have been owned over the decades. I also shared cards from people we’ve lost - including a birthday card from his Mom who left us in 2010. That makes for some sweet memories too.
But what of all the other cards, from people I can’t even remember? They’re still in there because the precious memories are all tangled up in the boxes and bags as well. And getting them all together and sorting through them seems like such a huge task.
Other crap is in there because I don’t give myself permission to make decisions on the stuff that belongs to my husband. This despite the fact that he will not readily go through them himself when presented with the stuff. I’m not saying this is a bad thing or good thing, it’s his thing, but it’s also a fact. Also, when I do finally make a huge sweep of stuff, getting it thrown out or donated or otherwise shared, he’s so incredibly relieved it’s gone.
All of the stuff pulls me in and repels me at the same time. I’m pulled in to find those few precious things and memories that might be lumped in with the useless crap that got stuck in a bag, a box, a corner. I’m repelled by the fact that there Is so much stuff, and the sheer volume of the task of tackling it.
How do I muse on mortality with all of this? What do I want to leave behind when I’m gone from this realm? There are no kids to leave things to, and if there are special things I want to give, I prefer to give them now and enjoy the giving - but how can I when the special things are mixed in with all this other meaningless dreck? As I get older it’s no longer clearing up what is keeping me from moving forward it’s also the knowledge that this is removing the stuff that has no meaning and clearing it away so it’s not my legacy of junk. If I’m not here to share the meaning of things do they still have meaning to anyone but me?
I’ve had to break down my share of households as elders move to smaller and smaller spaces, and in the end there’s still a load of things - the detritus of a life lived - that I have to deal with, donate, or just throw away - which is hardest of all. In Holding Space I listen deeply to folks who have to deal with their own downsizing, that of a childhood home, of a parent, or another beloved person. Just having a safe space to talk about the feelings around all of this is often a luxury. No trying to solve or fix or move forward. Just feeling the feels and being able to move through them is enough.
The mere existence of all the extraneous leavings of life is a distraction. It’s always there pulling focus from the things I should be doing, and could be doing but I don’t, because I need to get through that stuff first. And then I end up doing things keeping myself busy as I avoid tackling the stuff. And all that busyness and avoiding creates More Stuff.
We plan on downsizing to a much smaller living space in the next year, and I look forward to the new space being too small to keep all of this stuff, the “chains we’ve forged in life*”, if you will. If I’m honest, so far the looming move hasn’t fired up as much action to hit delete on the stuff as it’s going to take. Writing this and sharing it out into the world is a start.
How much stuff do we really need? For me, I say Enough. All I ask is enough. Enough to be comfortable and safe and generous to others. This stuff surrounding us doesn’t add to who we are or what we’re worth, and the mental energy it takes from us is too high a price to pay for More Than Enough.
(*Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, Jacob Marley)