Saturday, November 04, 2006

Throw Your Stuff Away

I helped someone move today, an elderly woman from church who is going into a retirement community, while two of her daughters move into her house.

The organization of the whole project seemed rather random, with no one having a particular vision what things were going to go, in what order, or whether they would fit. This mirrored the contents of her house, as what items had been lovingly kept and stored in closet or basement seemed to bear little relation to utility.

I don't want whoever has to go through my stuff when I die or downsize to curse me, particularly as it will most probably be my children, for whome I have some fondness. Looking through all the lovely sentimental junk will be a poignant and bittersweet experience for them - for about an hour. After that, it will descend into hours or days of wild-eyed irritation on their part, including recriminations against each other, interspersed with snarls at my grandchildren, yet unborn, who have the misfortune to be part of the project and commit sins of inattention or boredom. It seems an unfortunate way to be remembered. Eccentricity is all quite charming in theory, but when you have to actually deal with the idiosyncracies of others, rather than just read about them in books, it takes a bit out of you emotionally.

I also note a downside of increased longevity. When people regularly went to their final reward at the biblical threescore years and ten, their children were still relatively whole and hale (a little etymological joke there. ed.) and could manage bending over to move rugs or get a better purchase on the bottom of bureaus. Now that we regularly make it to fourscore and more, the Chosen Descendants are themselves in their fifties, with physical limitations of their own. So this is going to be great, then, in about fifty years, when few couples have more than one child and many have none, trying to find someone who has four operative limbs who remembers being related to Mrs. Brown.

If you are over forty, just throw stuff away. Even valuable stuff. Even things you are sure your children would be deeply insulted if you treated callously. Even things that make you cry.


Anonymous said...

Hrm...but why should *I* cry when I can have others do it for me? Maybe I can't take it with me but I can grasp it with my declining strength to the bitter end!

Besides, kids need to learn this "character" thing somehow; where d'you think *I* got it from?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

cns - see, you can say that, because it's not your site. My sons read this site, and I wouldn't want to give away my plan in advance. Now, if it all plays out that way, they'll have to blame it on "someone who dropped by Pop's blog."

Who am I kidding? They'll blame me anyway. Thanks for the tip. The only wise thing that Werner Erhardt ever said was "Your children will grow up to be exactly what they want, and blame you for it."

I went over to cns's linked site.

Profane/profound, if you are interested in mental health issues. Thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

Don't throw it away! What do you think ebay is for?

Anonymous said...

I am a pack-rat. I have a bad habit of saving things I think will remind me of a pleasant memory from years gone by. My wife hates this side of me. She has one (rather large) box of knick-knacks, and that is it. If she had her druthers, she would throw away most of my "sentimental stuff."

The problem is, my memory doesn't work like it should. I can recite pi to 20 decimal places. I can still name the capitals of all of the states. I always win at Trivial Pursuit.

But, I'll be derned if I can remember what this [random artifact] is, what it is for, and why the heck I kept it!!

So, I have hit on something that keeps my wife happy, and actually helps me to remember things in the long run:

I have been emailing memories to myself. Okay, actually, I have been emailing memories to my children, in care of me. I will think of something that happened to me, or to my family, or to my kids, and I will email it to myself, with the respective child's name in the subject line, or just "children" if it applies to all of them.

If I get run over by a bus tomorrow, my children won't care about my collection of garter belts from well-known attractions (get your minds out of the gutter, attractions like "Six Flags" and "Disneyland.") Those kind of artifacts will mean nothing to them. My baseball glove, yes, since I taught my oldest to throw a ball while I was wearing that glove, but not my collection of Transformers. But, being able to read the stories of MY childhood, or my accounts of their childhoods, or my family's history, THAT will mean something.

Just a suggestion...


Assistant Village Idiot said...

20 decimal places of pi, trivial pursuit... boy, did you wander onto the right site, Bubbab. I know from personal experience that about half of the commenters here have that sort of mind. I kill time in department meeting with geographical lists: European capitals, or world capitals. American rivers, or European rivers (I haven't gone on to world rivers yet). It doesn't take too many meetings of comparing your list against an atlas to find yourself able to rattle off a hundred of those suckers.

Welcome home, brother.