Rambling Post about Change

Does anyone else find that their stuff accumulates, stuff that’s cool and probably expensive, but useless and just THERE all the time? For some reason I’m in a mood? State of mind? to get rid of a large percentage of what I own and then I look at it and think, “How?” Strangely, it’s not just the physical detritus of life but also some of the NON-physical stuff.

People have yard sales — I could do that, may do that, but I’m more in the state of mind to just haul it all out to the front yard and put a big sign up on the tree that says “Free!” As much in terms of “Liberate me!” as in terms of “I don’t even want money for this stuff.”

I think the enforced solitude of the past year+ has affected me in this way. It made it difficult to go on as if nothing happened or was happening or was likely to happen etc. about stuff happening. If that makes sense. The NON-physical stuff is a little more difficult.

Among my earliest memories are some marginally verbal images. I remember distinctly many times when, as a little girl, I looked at something or saw something I hadn’t seen before and thought, “OK, so that’s what this is like,” as if I’d entered the world as a space alien on a mission to discover how humans lived. I think I thought that all the adult things were FIXED and PERMANENT and I had to grow into them and that was great. Church was problematic but so fantastic (as in fantasy) that it was just another interesting story about made up people. I liked it. I liked the stories and the lessons. I was well prepared for metaphor and embraced it. In time, I came to understand that for many people it was a fixed point in this chaos.

It wasn’t until I was 9 or 10, and we moved out of Colorado and went to Nebraska that the whole idea of change penetrated my young brain. “OK, so now this is it,” I thought for a little while, but I was excited by the change, finding a new house all of that. When things started getting weird in the family I realized that there were no fixed points and the whole thing was up for grabs constantly. And how? I was a witness to my dad’s physical deterioration caused by Multiple Sclerosis. Still, it wasn’t until he actually died when I was 20 that I understood REALLY that he wasn’t going to “change back.” For a little while — I think in high school — (I was one of those annoying deep kids) and embraced (and wrote) the idea that change is the only constant in the universe. At 17 one is able to make such pronouncements on the nature of the universe. Now I know it was my attempt to find the paradoxical fixed point in this time-river of flux, trauma and joy.

Meanwhile, I was changing all the time — physically, intellectually, worst of all, emotionally (and hormonally, argh) though, like many others, less aware of my own changes than of the changes in the world around me. Maybe. That hasn’t stopped and now I am on the cusp of 70, and it’s weird. I remember the big surprise party I organized in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for my mom when she turned 70 in 1990. It was a major undertaking (and a great party). She lived in Montana. My Aunt Helen — from Oregon — brought my grandma to visit my mom with the plan (plot) of asking mom to take her to see Santa Fe. Mom swallowed the bait and they drove to Santa Fe from Billings at the appointed time. I had invited my mom’s friends and family from all over and many of them came. I got a private dining room at the La Fonda Hotel (my mom’s favorite) and when my mom walked into the room, all her friends, me, my brother and my niece were there.

Me, my niece and my brother at the La Fonda setting up for my mom’s 70th birthday party, 1990

Sometimes — and after the past year and a half I feel this a lot — we just want everything to stop for a minute so we can get our bearings. It wasn’t like everything else went on vacation while the Covid insanity raged (or rages?). Everything kept happening.

So…in my garage is a beautiful bike I won’t ride. A pair of X-country skis I’m not going to use. A bunch of books I’ve already read. An 8 mm projector and film that no one’s looked at since 1984. In my studio is a Nordic Trak that I’d love to use but have found practically impossible with one leg shorter than the other. There are books all over the place that I’ve already read and that pertain to other projects and other times. There is a shitload of memorabilia that’s really cool, stuff like my great-grandmother’s cookbook which is in a condition similar to that of the Dead Sea Scrolls. There’s a doll my dad sewed when he was a little boy that resembles the newly discovered corpse in Pompeii. My dad’s slide rule from high school, inside the leather case of which he drew a swastika. Why? He hated Hitler, but who knows what was going through his mind? My own life has its own relics, all stored in a trunk that’s at least 180 years old, probably older.

All of this stuff is an allegory for my mind which is equally filled with memorabilia. I was thinking how cool it would be to move somewhere where it snows more, then I realized that I don’t especially want to move. It’s the CHANGES brought by moving, some of the changes under my control, some requiring surrender, and then the necessary sloughing off of stuff, both actual and metaphorical.

I’m just going to have to do this the hard way.

Thanks for listening. πŸ™‚

Featured photo: Salvador Dali, The Persistence of Memory

46 thoughts on “Rambling Post about Change

  1. When I was in my 20s I started to buy things I thought are valuable and were offered to cheaply. Especially in my China years. It ended that I still run 3 online shops. I know this has to be stopped and I should concentrate on other topics. But I still have tons of stuff…… I hardly buy anything new but still can’t manage to create enough room just for storing away my paintings in a proper way. When I moved home a couple of years ago I gave away so much and I never regret it. Less stuff means more freedom.

    • I have China things, too. Not that many, but I have to stop myself from acquiring more (Etsy…) In front of me right now is the little tag from the front of a Wu Yang bicycle. To my right a piece of Foshan ceramics is a little figure of Tu Fu I got at the factory in Foshan. But also in front of me a Wanderweg sign from St. Gallen, taken from a fallen tree… The small things turn out to be the most evocative and don’t take up much space. They also don’t drown my mind and spirit in nostalgia — that might be the key, for me.

      • Yes, often it’s the small things which brimg up memories. At a certain point, I just bought what I could. Not only did I finance our life with it until I finished my studies, it became my job more than 20 years ago. BTW: When I was c. 17-18 years old, I could have bought original drawings by Schiele in Wien with a part of my small salary. That sounds very fantastic today. But I was also able to buy quite a few objects in China that later became very expensive. In any case, it was a lot of fun.

  2. My son came over this weekend to go through some of his stuff (all my kids have stuff stored here), and tossed a lot. My husband picked up on it and asked me (the Queen of Throw it out) to help him go through his stuff. So much tossed, so much donated. I feel like a weight has been lifted.

      • Funny you mention not acquiring more. Since I’ve retired–and quickly tossed all the work clothes from my closet–I have become a miser with money. I was never a big shopper anyway, but now I seem to have this morbid thought that I don’t want my family to have to go through so much crap that I really don’t need. ‘Cause you know on my deathbed, my only thought is gonna be, “I should have thrown that out..” 🀣

        • I’m glad (in a grim way, I guess) I’m not the only (older) person thinking that way. I don’t have kids or family so really who’s going to care at all about any of the things passed down to me? My cousin’s daughter is the only one. IF they come to visit in October I’ll have a talk with her about it.

  3. Love the shot of the rain cloud at the top.

    Our village does a yearly yard sale with the proceeds going to the village school.

    I enjoyed reading about your memories here.

  4. First of all, that red hair!! Who knew! (At least as a new acquaintance, I didn’t). Second, sloughing off, like dead skin. Indeed. That is what purging the memorabilia is like, whether real or mental, or especially — emotional.

    • Yep. It was hard to let go of the red/auburn hair. I liked it. It fit me. Now when people say “I love your hair,” or “Your white hair is beautiful,” I’ve learned to say “thank you” but what I really feel is something quite different. πŸ˜€

  5. Hi Martha! Yes, my motivation to declutter and feel lighter is always squashed by the memories permanently attached to the “things” that fill my home. Even my internal mantra, “That won’t fit in my tiny home” only allows a few things to slip through to the donation pile.

  6. As one (in her 60s with way too much accumulated stuff) who just went through a major purge in support of a long-distance move, I can only say: it’s liberating. Angst-ridden, of course, as you work your way through each individual item, deciding whether to keep or let go, as you must, but ultimately liberating and an enjoyable process in the way only long-held memories can provide.

    Give it away. Don’t worry about selling (unless it’s a truly and generally valuable item). Know that someone, somewhere, will stumble upon your “stuff” and discover a treasure, maybe repurposing it in ways you never imagined. All good.

    • That’s what I did when I moved here 8 years ago, but now I’m ready to pare down even further. Your move made me a little envious and thinking about it, I realized that was why (and the snow in VT πŸ˜‰ ) a move forces a person to simplify and then you get to be in a new place. Staying somewhere and WANTING to simplify, I guess you end up making a new place out of your old place!! You’re right — all good.

  7. It’s so damn hard to get rid of stuff when it’s attached to memory and history and “remember when” special times. It makes no logical sense, but there it is. When we downsized to a condo it was excruciating at times. I took photos of some things to “keep” them somehow, but it wasn’t easy. Ya can’t take it with you, but then again if I leave it behind someone will probably toss it. So I ask myself – should I do that tossing now or wait till I’m closer to the end, but then who knows when that will be. There is so much my kids don’t want and that’s hard too. Obviously this topic gets maudlin and goes downhill from here, but it is on the minds of those of us of a “certain age.” I liked your rambling post. We are not alone. (I also have an 8mm projector AND a pull down screen AND old movies). Just in case! πŸ˜‰

    • ❀ It's just strange. The person who made that rag doll and owned that slide rule meant everything in the world to me, but those things are not my dad. What's more, no one who will be left on this planet after me will ever have heard of my dad and no one will notice the difference. My Aunt Jo and Uncle Hank had a GREAT love story but when she was in her 80s, Aunt Jo burned all the letters they wrote each other during the war. I was horrified. She said, "They are Hank's and mine, Martha Ann." I think I finally understand what she meant. I'm going to try to go at this stuff — One important thing and however many unimportant things I can toss in an hour.

      • Oh my. Strange as it is, it is such a final act. Closing a door in a way. I still can’t wrap my head around it. On the one hand I am so grateful for what was left to me – photos, letters, mementos and such. I still feel a connection that way. So wouldn’t that also be the case with “stuff” passed down from me? I ask myself that question and hit a wall, perhaps not wanting to face the answer I don’t want to hear. Anyway, good luck to you as you face your stuff. I guess it is also about being ready. Perhaps you are! ❀️

        • My mom left me boxes and boxes of stuff she’d packed up and stored away. I didn’t open most of them. I MOVED them here and left behind a great bicycle, a drawing board, a sewing machine so there was space in the moving pod. Seriously. I wasn’t thinking. A year after I moved here, I opened them and threw out most of the contents and saved everything that had meaning to me. I have a plastic crate in the garage for my niece but I don’t even know where she is. In all those relics I retrieved several small things I couldn’t let go of and I won’t — like my dad’s wallet. I dumped duplicate photos (she’d made three versions of the same album — one for me, one for my bro, one for my niece. It wasn’t even difficult to do that. The biggest treasure in all that stuff for me were my letters to my mom from China — many of which she never opened, but she kept them all. I am 100% sure if I had kids or if my brother were alive, this would be a different thing for me completely. I agree with you that it’s also a question of being “ready.” I didn’t scan those slide from China until 2019. I nearly threw them out dozens of times, but then… ❀

          • Wow. Quite a process…journey…for you. I have so many letters from family and friends that I also treasure. Letting go of them would be so hard. I guess I’m not ready. At one point I was thinking of somehow fashioning them into book form, but never figured out how to do that. At least not yet. I also have ones my grandfather sent to my grandmother when he was a traveling salesman in the 1940s. They were both personal and illustrative of where he was and what he thought about it. Later during the cold war he went to Russia. Fascinating. Maybe a blog post would be in order, as they might interest some readers and be a way to “save” some. I did a few like that in the beginning of my blog, but not since.
            Scanning the slides is a way to keep them without taking up space. I’ve done that to some extent. So glad you did! ❀️

  8. Yep, it’s a stuff up. I’ve gotta lotta stuff like that that I can’t seem to part with. We’ve got a piece if Christmas pudding in the freezer that was made by my mother in law. She died 10 years ago.
    Change is the only constant was a meaningless phrase used liberally at my work by the powers that be as a way of softening us up for some cut to our pay and conditions or mass redundancies.
    What are you going to do?

  9. Oh Martha, I’m in that process of psyching myself to let go of things I had been pushing my husband to get rid of before the inevitable happened and suddenly those same things I don’t have a use for and in a few cases don’t even like has become even more difficult to part with. It’s the attachment to the remembered conversations and joking around some of those objects. So, I have been doing it slowly. On the days I have the motivation to make those changes, I do and when I don’t, I don’t. I think like you said above, one step at a time is the key.

  10. COVID made us think carefully about our own death and its aftermath. We gave away things that we wanted to share. Maybe in a few years we will feel like Lear, but some things look less messy now. It is my books that I wonder about. I know that eventually someone will just put it in the trash, but before that I’m culling the collection down to about half of what I had.

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