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June 7, 2017

Things we can’t part with

We don’t have to be very old before we acquire items that are dear to us and just can’t be thrown away.

When you’re a child, it could be a doll, a toy fire engine or a baseball card. It just means too much to you, so into a storage box it goes. If you have an attic, the box moves on to there and eventually you end up with quite the collection!

I live in my family home which has a little over 70 years’ worth of “history” under the rafters. I have found family pictures of people I don’t even know. Can I throw them out? Nope! If they meant something to my parents, then the sentiment alone makes me hold onto them.

I found dolls with limbs melted from the summer heat. There are misshapen candles of Christmas angels and choir boys. Those I could part with and they were placed in a trash bag. But when it comes to my report cards, sentiment kicks in once again and they remain in the box.

The oddest thing in our attic is an old bathroom sink that is so heavy I have no idea who lugged it into the attic to begin with. Now as we age, it’s too heavy to even think of lugging it back down.

Suitcases are also interesting items. There are a couple belonging to my parents and an old one of mine. Are they empty? Of course not … more memorabilia inside! Some of it I could part with and some of it I couldn’t.

As I look around the house I have found quite a few things that I seem to have difficulty parting with. I was given a piano by the late Monsignor John Kennedy. It was rather old and I used to practice on it in the school basement. He told my parents that if they could find someone to move it, it was mine! It has sat in our basement for over 60 years and many keys no longer work. With the cover down it makes a great place to put such things a trash bags, plant containers and various other items. I’m afraid that its time as a piano is over!

The clarinet from my grade school days has spent about 60 years as a door stop in a bedroom. Apparently the door needs to be leveled, as it shuts on its own. But it’s easier to plop down the clarinet case and let that part of history remain!

The direction this story is going in is the process of finding out what happens when you pass on and someone else has to clean out the items you couldn’t part with. You become entangled in their personal history as you uncover things.

I am doing just that for a cousin who recently passed away. Compared to me she was a minimalist. There was a place for everything and everything was in its place.

However, I found some items that she must have held near and dear for whatever reason. She had neatly folded and stored numerous linen items such as bureau scarves, sheets and pillow cases and tablecloths in one large bureau. They are sufficient in quantity for use in a bed-and-breakfast. Back “in the day” people used linen tablecloths with matching napkins a lot more than we ever do today. Bureaus had scarves on them and diningroom tables and buffets had runners. I have a feeling that these items were acquired over many years by both my cousin and her mother. When someone gives you a gift, it’s hard to part with it.

Since neither my relative nor I have children, I am getting a firsthand look at what someone will be doing in our house some day. When the items don’t belong to you, the sentimental connection is not there, making it easier to sort out items to donate, sell or discard.

It’s actually a privilege to be the one chosen to go through my cousin’s belongings. It is not something a stranger should be doing. Personal belongings are just that … personal

My relative had a saying as she got older, “Leave it for the next guy!” Well, I am now that “next guy” and she has made my job very easy. I hope that by starting the cleaning out process now in my own house, it will be as neat as orderly as hers. Neither of us has any surprises that we would not want others to see, but in case you do, take care of them now. After all, you wouldn’t want the “next guy” to find them!

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