In management school they taught us to touch a piece of paper only once: circular filing cabinet, (aka garbage can), in box or file cabinet. As hubby and I found ourselves in the not-so-enviable position of cleaning out his parent’s home, we became believers of the saying, “one man’s treasure is another man’s junk.” Like all parents of us baby boomers, his came of age during the Great Depression. The life lessons they learned were not clear as we culled through their private lives. Grandpa was a pipe smoker and had his pipes neatly resting in a 30 pipe holder, UNTIL…we found a shoe box of 50 more pipes, ( yes, I counted them ), all of different shaped bowls, grains of wood and broken stems. I guess the broken stems were a sign that he intended to fix the pipes in the distant future. Grandma loved her coffee all day long and I’m guessing this justified the 20 creamers we found, all of different shapes, made of ceramic, crystal, silver, pewter and a mysterious material I could never figure out. Many had chips, but, as a good hoarder, she kept them, perhaps to keep Grandpa’s broken pipes company in the land of, “keep forever and let the kids deal with it when we are gone.” You can imagine the silent conversations I was having in my head as this decluttering job went on for days: “Did you REALLY have to keep all this stuff once it broke? There are people who could use that chipped creamer since you have so many, and, by the way, WHY did you buy so many to begin with?”
So, this was the world we found ourselves in. I taught hubby the one touch method: keep, donate, throw away. Each room was FILLED with their treasures so we donned our rubber gloves and began…command centers in several rooms were stocked with garbage bags, boxes and pads of paper. In we went and oh, what we found: neckties with price tags still attached, purses in the same style but of different colors only to color match all the shoes of the same style, (do we see a pattern here?), and, loose stones from broken jewelry stored in boxes, (lucky me, hubby made me lovely earrings).
My in-laws were the type of people who bought houses with any contents that were for sale. Hence, they had books and books and books, many never seeing the light of day but made for well stocked book shelves. Many came from a home whose previous owners lived during the early – mid 1900’s and were avid historians. They received several 1st edition books on The Civil War, Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Jackson. The giver of these treasures inscribed his name in each book, never realizing that doing so made those 1st edition volumes worthless as collector items. My in-laws favored books on art and architecture and life in the old west. Don’t even ask why a hoarder would buy books of a genre that they did not read! Doing my due diligence, I culled through these tomes looking for treasures and the ones I found I brought to a rare book dealer. He proclaimed, “no one reads books anymore,” (ah, the curse of the e-reader) and “no one is interested in history,” (no surprise in the here and now of the political landscape of the 2000’s). But, the Goodwill folks surely enjoyed these volumes of history.
Our millennial daughter must have inherited the “hoarder/collector” gene as she kept every movie ticket, playbill, train ticket, book mark that ever graced her hands. When she and her husband spent the summer with us, her genetic tendency for “treasure hunting” was on full display: they would take off on mysterious trips, hours later coming home clutching their beloved finds. It wasn’t until the end of the summer that they confessed to us their love of estate/house sales and showed us their goodies. My thought bubble said, “why, oh why, did you NOT shop Grandpa’s house?”
A word from one baby boomer to another: DO NOT SAVE everything your children made since preschool, only save things from your past which have REAL meaning to you, things that evoke an “ah” moment, (I still have my Girl Scout Handbook from the 1960’s with the rose hubby gave me on our first date pressed in its pages). If you want your millennial children to love you when you are gone, do them a favor and exercise the KEEP, TOSS cleaning method at least every 5 years!