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The generation before us never throws stuff away. His mom once tried to give us our own humidifier back after it had sat so long in a garage closet that it was gross, but all we had to do was 'clean it up'. Really? $15 bucks will get me a brand new one that I don't have to labor intensely over and is probably a whole lot healthier. But my dad is like that, too, and nearly everyone else we run into their age. Sometimes that's a good thing, oftentimes not really.
I'm on a tear. I'm tired of junk. I've been on tears before, making @bonenado haul ancient dilapidated antique furniture off to dismantle and burn, so it's not like we're up to our eyeballs in stuff, but I'm really tired of being up to my knees. I'm a minimalist.
My grandmother on my mother's side had beautiful collections, like bells and stuff. She owned a genuine squash blossom jewelry set worth nearly a thousand dollars (I know because my mom had it priced and then sold it many years ago, probably worth much more now). (Check this for context.) She lived in a small house, but she had beautiful things.
I like beautiful things. I grew up knowing what nice things are. But in the end, if you're not looking at them, using them, or giving them as gifts, they are a complete waste to me. So what if you've got something awesome sitting in a drawer or a closet for 20 years. So what if you've got something delightful in a safe or a special cupboard that you get out only once a year.
I tell this story sometimes. A previous next door neighbor and his wife were retired and pretty well off. They traveled extensively, were very crafty and created beautiful things like hand carved wooden ducks and paintings. They threw big parties for the subdivision every Christmas. I remember her coming in to my store and me helping her check out, personally wrapping every single dish in a 120 dish set worth hundreds while she prattled on about the big party she was planning (we were next door and rarely invited), and then personally helped her get it all into her car.
They were stunning dishes. That was a fabulous party, lots of imported food and expensive wine, nice cars parked all up and down our street and almost on our lawn. She bubbled excitedly about the planning before and the party afterward, which I hadn't been able to see personally since we weren't invited. It never occurred to her how awkward that might be for me.
It was their last party. He had severe COPD, and she would be alone after years of plastic surgeries and fun vacations. By the next year the property went up for auction, and I watched the neighbors gather round like greedy vultures. I watched that entire nearly brand new used only once set of very expensive dishes get snapped up slanderously cheap, along with all their other possessions. She moved into assisted living, and another year later had already passed from pneumonia complications, a common problem in older people who don't or can't get up and move around. She was mobile and healthy when she went to assisted living, so it was a little shocking that she died so quickly, but not a surprise.
They didn't have children, or grandchildren. She didn't get visitors. All those parties, and she was forgotten so quickly.
I will take the mess and chaos of family any day over a nice and beautiful life of wealth and luxury. There is nothing sadder than being alone in a beautiful house full of beautiful things, surrounded by neighbors waiting for you to let it all go so they can pounce on it.
My mother gave nearly everything away before she died, insisting on anyone who was willing to go ahead and carry the junk out of her house. Some of the junk was actually pretty cool. I've got three paintings a great-aunt did, and a couple of other things. My only request when my mom died was that I get her bible. All I ever wanted back when my grandmother died was a ceramic piece I made in middle school for 4-H, and another family member grabbed it, not even knowing I'd made it. It wasn't even worth anything, just something that turned out nice enough to give her on her birthday or something. My mom made me do that. I didn't get to keep my own thing I made. I feel an evil smugness sometimes wondering if the person who wound up with it thought it was worth something, but then I feel sad when I think it's in someone else's house, and by now has probably been through a yard sale after another person died. But then I realize if I actually still had it, would I even care? It would be part of the junk that has piled up in my own life.
It's all junk. Wanting things is all a waste. It piles up until no one knows what to do with it, recirculates until no one knows who had what to begin with. Things are so important. They mean more to us sometimes than people do. We hold onto treasures and keep them in dark places, like drawers and closets, while our relationships and lives rot away. Or we keep them out on shelves like little treasure museums. I know a woman who owns nearly every single Precious Moments figurine ever made. I've been to the Precious Moments museum in Carthage, it's pretty awesome. If you ever go, the restaurant there is 5 star, if they still have that.
I started letting go of everything years ago. I still have a couple of photo albums, a piece of nice furniture I helped refinish by hand, a few odds and ends that really aren't worth anything but I know will come back to haunt me if I toss them into the trash too quickly. What I have is sox. Lots and lots of sox. Sox are useful. When I'm gone, people can fight over my sox, and it won't matter if they sit in a drawer, because sox are supposed to do that. The stuff in my head is so much more important than pretty dishes and nice furniture and hanging on to all the stuff that has stacked up in my life. Sometimes I sneak sacks of trash to town to drop off in a big bin by a store. No one misses a single thing I throw away.
I can't help laughing inside at how many people reading this might be shocked that I don't give the sacks away to charity, at the very least. I have given so much stuff away in my life. Piles and piles of clothes, appliances out of my house, we've even given a couple of people vehicles. All I want to do is clear the junk out of my house. the night was smashy
I'm on a tear. This is the year everything has been changing. The soul dredging, the house dredging, the blog dredging... I have no idea what's next, but I do know I'm done with junk. I don't collect anything that costs money. I don't buy stuff to assuage my sorrowful soul. My dad wanted a closed casket funeral for my mom, but he didn't (couldn't) stop the kids from opening it up and letting grandkids pile their stuffed animals and notes in before the service was over and she was lowered into the earth. That was the most beautiful funeral I ever attended, very simple and very heartfelt.
My mother left this earth with nearly nothing and was so loved. My neighbor left with all the things at her fingertips and was so forgotten.
When I go, I hope my life makes people think about donating to shelters and stuff. I'm always talking about sox. Sox are important. Words and feelings are important, too, so I keep saying my stuff, but it's important to notice and be kind to people who are having a hard time. I've been brainwashing you guys to remember things every time you see novelty footwear and pink athletic shoes. I'm training you guys to think about deeper things than what you want to buy, what you don't own yet and wish you did, and what will mean nothing to you in the end, although it's probably a sure way to draw the vultures in so you'll at least have someone around for a bit.
Sox. I know it's a joke to give people sox for Christmas, but seriously, look around and donate some sox.
The Joy of Sox®
Hannah’s Socks – restoring dignity one pair of socks at a time
Socks for a Cause - Sock 101
Raise Money for Charity Socks from SockShop
Sox are all the rage right now. If you know someone (a church, perhaps) getting boxes ready for military personnel, or see a collection bin for a local shelter, or hear about houses burning down on the news (happens a lot in winter), just anything really, and you want to help and don't really know what to do besides a can of food, keep an eye out for big packages of clearance sox or special BOGOs, or even just set a pair aside out of every batch you buy for yourself, right? Everyone needs socks.
And you can do something fun with them, like fill new socks with little toys or candies (check for food allergies and illness first, lotta juvenile diabetes out there), or make sock wreaths as part of a 'housewarming' for people who move out of abusive situations into shelters. Socks are pretty magical. You can poke holes and make gloves out of them, use them to clean (great for dusting and animal hair, and they wash up so easily), store or hide stuff in them, put over baby bottles to keep formula warm, hand puppets for bored kiddos, and on and on. I've even carried pencils in a sock when I didn't have anything else to put them in. Some people put baby sox on their pets and big sox over their boots when they go out into the snow, which is a good idea because it helps prevent falls in older or disabled people. I'm sure you guys can think of tons of other stuff to do with sox.
If you'd like more ideas about what to do for a charity during this holiday season, here you go.
how to give to charity, Charlie Brown
p.s. We've discovered diabetic socks. They're very soft. If you have older people in your family with diabetes and foot probs, go for those.
This weird rambly post was brought to you by me going on a tear.