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Chatterbox: Next chapter, just as good


We’ve talked before about our phases of life, stuff and traditions, individual passions and personal collections.

Basically, many of us would agree that we spend the first 30 years of our adult and independent life collecting our own treasures, and the second 30 years adopting them out. We still love our stuff and our home, but we begin to feel it owns us instead of the other way around.

Most of us have at least one personal passion or collection. Mine is everything Christmas; it’s not news to anyone. Indeed, in my computer lurks a finished book all about Christmas decorating. There are tips on how to enjoy and streamline the whole process from putting it out to packing it up and tips on how to buy quality on a budget while getting what you want, not what’s on sale.

But, alas, as we discussed this past Jan. 3, my “destination Martha Stewart” decorating days are over and, eventually, we all get here. We either can’t, won’t or don’t want to go over-the-top anymore. We put a wreath on the door and we’re done. We want to simplify.

Many retired people up north want to head south too, but they don’t want to leave their adult children and grandies behind. Some, if they are fortunate enough, will do the Snowbird thing, heading south for the winter, like geese. Then, they come north again when the coast is clear. Again, that’s not possible with too many pack camels, so we jettison lots of the things we spent so many years carefully choosing, collecting and delicately handling. We snap phone photos and send them to our kids at work with texts like, “Do you want this? Lovely … no chips.”

Today, it’s a bit unnerving, that most young adults either embrace minimalism, whether by choice or income, or are heavy into conspicuous consumption. Either way, many haven’t yet realized a love for our great case clock or full set of fine china. That makes it more difficult for anyone who spent an adult lifetime collecting Quimper or period oak furniture to give up their gems. Still, in the paradox that is a long life, we gain the understanding that what we need is minimal and what we treasure we can no longer lift.

It’s induces great nostalgia, but it’s a bittersweet transition. Still, it’s wonderfully liberating and gives us a clear head to use for so many better things, like patience, generosity, empowerment, and the ability to fill our soul instead of that spare room. The scale that balances life is a fickle, but wonderful, thing.

So, there’s the stuff few can live without, like frying pans and a laptop; those are easy decisions. Then, there’s the simple stuff, like dish towels or placemats, that we use every day. We never realized that we didn’t just grab them … we chose them; we liked the color, the fabric, the durability. Luckily for all of us, some stuff wears out and makes our choice to keep or toss a little easier, but other things are tougher to part with. So, we’ll think it to death.

Ultimately, we’ll learn what a porch sale is and accept what must go. Disregarding money, we try to find everything a good home, hopefully with people much like we were several decades ago – just starting out and on a tight budget. Then, we can be fairly sure our treasures will become their treasures too.

Several weeks ago, two high-school boys I know came to carry selected items out of my basement for me. It was fun and they were very funny, but they worked hard too and got the job done. I know both of them wanted the foosball table. It was free, looks new and isn’t missing a single piece, but dorm rooms are small. So, now, it’s an item for my upcoming freebie lawn sale. It was also tough to part with the vintage baby pram I walked all my kids in, but even my babies don’t have babies anymore.

Hopefully, by the time all of us get to this place in life, we understand that we aren’t taking our life apart; we’re just parting with our life’s stuff. Some of it was carefully chosen; some was available when we needed it; some was the right price. It doesn’t matter. Our stuff became ours and is woven into the fabric that became our life quilt. Now, we share it with others.

And, as we also mentioned here before, the rest ends up at the flea market.