This year Spring came early to the Susquehanna Valley. In some ways I feel as if this has given me a heads up on warm weather chores. I’ve started pulling weeds before they can produce seeds, and I have thrown open every window in the house. With that comes the annual ritual of Spring Cleaning.
This week found my husband and I digging into long forgotten boxes that were tucked away into the dark recesses of our basement. We had no clue what most of them contained until we opened them. I found a very horrible Halloween decoration that our daughter crafted when she was about 12 years old. I felt sad about getting rid of it, but when I showed it to her she laughed and asked why I had kept something so ugly for so long. My husband found athletic ware from not only college, but also high school. When our grandson saw a pair of “Grampy’s” old track shorts, he asked, “Were they yours when you were a baby?” We filled our dumpster and the garbage man hauled it away this morning. We are thrilled to have disposed of or donated so much stuff.
My parents are starting to watch their friends sell homes and move into retirement communities. Their new favorite thing to keep saying to my brother and me is, “Some day you’ll have a job cleaning out this house!” They fret over adult children who hire professionals to do the job when parents pass away, and wonder what will happen to their stuff when they are gone. My father has always been so organized that he literally woke from a month long coma and was able to direct me to things in his house and garage from his hospital bed. It takes me an hour just to find a screwdriver in my own house. Yet he and my mother have lived in their home for almost 60 years and organized as it is, labeled and boxed and shelved, they have accumulated lots of stuff.
The new subject of Schedenfreude seems to be compulsive hoarding. There are TV shows and books on the subject, and it seems to be all the rage; the trend du jour. I have seen actual, severe hoarding close up and personal. In comparison, it makes my disorganized basement and garage look like a page from Martha Stewart Living. After the hoard was professionally cleaned and sorted and laid out in an auction house, I went to see it; rows and rows and rows of stuff. Not only the stuff from my own relatives’ hoard, but also the stuff of so many other people. There were collections that must have taken years to amass. There were rooms filled with furniture, appliances, toys, clothing, gadgets, artwork, dishes, silverware, glassware. Stuff that the owners “needed”. Stuff that held memories and emotions. And yet, it was now just stuff. We all have it. We all hang on to things that we feel holds some magical memory for us. If a famous person touched it then it is worth more, monetarily. If someone we loved once owned it or gave it to us, we sometimes find it irreplaceable.
One woman, who is a compulsive hoarder, said that her possessions help her to relive past events. And I wondered, isn’t that why all of us hang onto our stuff?