What to keep?

By: 
Lisa Ingebrand, lrnews@frontiernet.net

After a whirlwind of events—a family wedding “up north,” John’s grandpa’s funeral (north, but not so far north), our 16th wedding anniversary, our girls starting separate sports, and the groove of a new school schedule—my family of four opted to stay home all Labor Day weekend.

You can probably guess what that means…

Saturday and Sunday were spent cleaning.

Our home—and yard--had paid the price of our crazy busy August schedule, and it was time to address the mess.

The girls, 12-year-old Anna and 9-year-old Ellen, tackled the playroom, which I’ve dubbed “Barbie Land.”

John focused on the garage and basement, while I plowed through laundry, cleaning the living room and kitchen (including an overdue refrigerator purge), and finally deadheaded what’s left of my porch plants.

It felt good to get things back in order, but like any good, deep cleaning, we were left with a pile of decisions in our wake—what things do we keep, what do we donate, and what do we throw?

My generation uniquely spans two mentalities regarding stuff.

Our parents and grandparents are keepers. They save things and take pride in passing items down to us. John and I have proudly incorporated several heirloom pieces into our home. I love the uniqueness of the items and the stories and memories attached to them.

On the other side is the trendy minimalist lifestyle and Marie Kondo, a popular Japanese organizing consultant who has inspired millions to tidy, organize, and take inventory of their stuff based on whether or not the stuff in question brings the owner joy. I love this idea, too. I don’t want to drown my family in stuff or have a cluttered home, and surrounding my loved ones with things that bring us joy sounds, well… lovely.

The issue is the things that bring each of us joy are different.

Books, antique bowls and serving sets, timeless kids’ toys, my grandma’s old typewriter, old photographs, and vintage outdoor and nautical items bring me joy.

John enjoys collecting (and using) old tools, unique antique lamps, tables, and benches, and just can’t seem to part with his first computer (an Apple Mac Classic II) or his piles of old college text books.

Anna is a saver of cookbooks, recipe cards, and seemingly random, but treasured mementos from her experiences.

Then, there is Ellen. A mountain of markers, glue, and glitter would make her happy. Oh, and blankets… lots and lots of cuddly soft blankets and pillows… and stuffed animals. She could care less about books, but will put up a fight if you try to toss an old, sharpened-to-a-stub colored pencil or partially used piece of construction paper.

We also seem to have an issue purging our bicycle supply. One entire bay of our garage is filled with scooters, bicycles, and tricycles. As we acquire a new one because either Anna or Ellen outgrew one, we keep collecting them. It’s crazy, right? However, SO MANY times little cousins and visiting friends end up using one of the bikes. They are really nice to have on hand, and the little cousins love knowing they have something to ride at our house. I love that. It brings me joy.

So, what do we get rid of?

Well, nothing yet.

A pile of items for future consideration currently sits in the middle of our basement floor. Some of it will be donated. Some of it will be thrown, and there are a few things we might try selling.

Of course, I’m fine with getting rid of the kids’ old plastic basketball hoop. No one uses it, and it means very little to me since my girls only used it as a magical “princess hair-doer” back in the day. However, Anna has requested we keep the darn thing, citing one of our young friends who visits us often likes to play with it. (I’m pretty sure she’s pulled it from the pile.)

Ellen pulled out the old Sit-N-Spin.

And, I, shamefully rescued the girls’ old dolly stroller from the pile. It’s a classic, sturdy little thing, and we have little nieces who are going to love using it—I just know it!

Nothing in the pile is of interest to John (since most of his stuff is stored in the garage).

At some point, we will part with most of the items in the pile. I know this.

John and I both desire a tidy home—a place where we can relax and enjoy ourselves and entertain our family and friends—but we also have an appreciation for the items we acquire. Yes, some items aren’t worth keeping and can benefit others. But, a few things are worth saving.

Maybe our girls or grandkids will be frustrated with us one day when we try to pass our treasured items on to them… or maybe they’ll be grateful?

At least, for now, it makes me happy thinking my daughters might use and appreciate their great-great-grandma’s china set one day. It might be farfetched, but the idea brings me joy, so I’m going to hold onto it--and the fine china.

As for John’s gigantic antique drill press that’s mounted on our garage wall… That’s a whole other realm of hopefilled joy, as in, I’m trying to have hope that one of our daughters will be even a bit joyous when they find out they’ve inherited the big, old machine. (I know I was “thrilled” when he brought it home.) But, I’m glad the darn thing brings him joy right now.

Maybe being caught between the save-everything generation and the save-nothing generation is the perfect place to be. I can appreciate both sides, both lifestyles, but ultimately, I’m happy to be the one preserving family photographs and heirlooms and adding a few of my kids’ own toys to the collection.

I’m my family’s keeper of things and memories.

Maybe—just maybe-- when the time is right, one of those young, trendy minimalists in our family who have spotless homes and empty closets will inquire about something in our families’ past and I’ll joyfully get to pull out a long-saved item to share with them, along with the stories and memories it entails.

These treasured keepsakes just might bring joy to the minimalists.

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