I’m a sentimental saver. This is not to be mistaken for a hoarder. I would not qualify for one of those cable shows you get sucked in to watching for hours on a Saturday afternoon. Because, after all, you have nothing better to do, right?
No, my saving habits are not problematic. It’s actually a sweet trait I possess. If you give me something – as a gift or as a hand-me-down or for whatever reason- I will remember you gave it to me and when and where and why. If the time comes to pack up a house and move, I will not want to part with said object due to the sentimental connections I’ve mentally fabricated among it, you, and me. Did I say this tendency is not a problem? Well, I fibbed…
It becomes a problem at a time like this, when I’m facing the monumental challenge of sifting through 13 rooms and a semi-finished basement to prep and stage our house for sale. My Realtors explain the objective is “to create the impact of a model home” and “to remove ‘all signs of work’ from the house.” Both statements mean you must remove everything you need to function daily as a human being: dish soap, laundry soap, body soap (as people, we do use a lot of soaps), but also kitchen appliances, bath mats and small rugs, garbage cans, hampers and piles of laundry, all family photos, and any signs of the dog. Ultimate success will come to us only once it appears no one actually lives here at all. And it certainly won’t hurt if the master bath ends up looking, feeling, and smelling like a spa. White fluffy towels required.
You can likely sense by now I am stressed. I have packed and moved a house only one other time in my adult life, and that was 11 years ago when I had one child versus two and a much smaller house to shove into boxes and bins. Even then, I splurged and paid packers. As a much more sensible middle-aged woman, I can’t justify an expense like that when we have three able-bodied people to handle the task.
Have you noticed how trendy it is to purge these days? We’re living in a Purging Revolution with tiny, adorable Marie Kondo at the helm. If you’re not familiar with her, look her up. I feel extra trendy to say I was a fan of Marie long before her new Netflix show which has fast-tracked her to fame. My dear friend K. from college gifted me her book “The Joy of Tidying Up” a few years ago. I’ve read it once already and have started it again. It has a fascinating impact. It makes you WANT to tidy and organize everything you own. Of course, I will never part with this book. I will always associate it with my friend K. who sent it to me via Amazon as a “just because” type of gift. See, I really do remember the details behind the objects I own.
But back to the three able-bodied people who live here. As is often the case with a mother and her daughters, each of us plays a distinctly different role in everyday life, and this process of packing up the house is no exception. As I’ve said, I am the Sentimental Saver. The older daughter is the Minimalist. The younger daughter is the Clutter Keeper. These competing positions have already led to multiple disagreements about what we should keep, toss, donate, or share with their younger cousins.
For instance, I sunk to the depths of digging through my teenager’s trash can after she decluttered her room recently. Inside I found multiple homemade birthday cards from her mother, as in me. What the heck?!? I was hurt. I made her keep a couple of them.
Related to this startling discovery, this same daughter confided in me during a recent car conversation, “When I’m a parent, I might not do a good job of saving my kids’ artwork. I don’t attach emotion to material things like you do, you know? I mean do you have to save every scribble?”
“No, you don’t,” I replied, “Even I have been known to smuggle a drawing or two into the trash when nobody was looking.”
Then I got sappy on her, “But, let me tell you, be sure to save a few of the scribbles. You’ll want and need those someday to help you remember your kids were actually tiny once and capable of only scribbling at the time. As much as it pains me to admit it, I’m starting to forget more and more what that was like.”
And this is precisely why the piling, purging, and packing exhausts me. Granted, it’s physical work loading boxes into the car and unloading them at the storage unit, but it’s the mental work that’s especially draining. This process requires letting go of possessions that represent our shared past – their toys, their art supplies, their clothes. All of it speaks to me about our earlier years in this house and as a family. If I part with these items and have less evidence of them when they were little, will I remember them that way even less? Ugh.
As this question weighed heavy on my heart, we went to service at our new church this past Sunday, and the pastor’s message was made for me to hear — “Do you want more stuff or more stories?” he challenged. Wow. Mind blown. Yes, of course, I want more stories! Who would answer any differently? In fact, I want more trips and game nights and backyard BBQs at a new house we have yet to find. I want frequent visits to see family and friends and visits from them to see us, too. I want more money to donate to the causes we care about. I want less time cleaning a big house and more time writing about what happens in a smaller one. And I really do want less stuff, so I can fit it into less space with a more reasonable mortgage payment.
This is my path to freely affording more experiences versus more things. Yes, please. Sign me up for this life. The simple and decluttered kind where peace, happy times, and all the people I love are there; not the stuff.
Well, except maybe the scribbles.
The Reformed Sentimental Saver,