Cleaning out Your Life

Thirty-seven boxes. That’s how many packing boxes are still in the garage from the last move, five years ago. We downsized and those boxes just didn’t fit in the house. Without knowing what was in them, I stashed them in the garage.

Monogrammed handkerchief, with hemstitching and crochet. Made my my mother for her trousseau. It is all hand work.

Monogrammed handkerchief, with hemstitching and crochet. Made my my mother for her trousseau. It is all hand work.

And now, it’s time to go through them and have a garage sale. I thought it would be a tedious, even boring task. It is not. It is a weird time warp, a reminder of the difficulty of a move (those last three boxes that are stuffed with a box of crackers, two silver forks and your passport) as well as the Solomon-like decision I have to make on what to keep and what to throw out or put up for the garage sale.

The beads were easy. I no longer do silver work or beadwork, so the 20 pounds of beads and silver findings will go out in the garage sale. (Attention Phoenix beaders–we are talking every imaginable kind of bead from seed bead to antique. December 7. Mark your calendars).

Vessel necklace, silver and glass cabochon, with removable lid. From my days as a silversmith.

Vessel necklace, silver and glass cabochon, with removable lid. From my days as a silversmith.

Much harder were vases that were long-ago wedding gifts from relatives that I don’t remember.  Candlesticks my mother thought important enough to take up space in the two crates they were allowed when they left Europe, but are worn bare to the copper beneath the silverplating.

What I do remember is cleaning out my mother’s house, and working in one room for eight hours, clearing out quilting fabric and yarn. At the end of eight hours we discovered a couch, which gradually became visible with more fabric removal. I don’t want First Born to ever have to do that. So I’m sifting.

Sorting your past is a feeling that gives you vertigo. I run across jury photos of work I did when I was a silversmith. I will never make jewelry again, but the creative restlessness visible in the pieces are still in my work.

The decision to shed my collection of rocks may be silly. Who wants a box of rocks–just because I picked them up in China, Australia, Paris and Singapore? My collection of soft drink bottles with foreign labels? All of them will belong to someone else. With the sure knowledge that if they are not sold on garage sale day, they aren’t coming into the house again.

So the decisions are tough–either make room for it by getting rid of something else, or get rid of it. Shedding your life. It’s not all bad. I don’t have to maintain it. I get to learn fun skills–I often wrapped rubber bands around one leg of a pair of jewelyy pliers to give my fingers traction. Who knew that rubber bands melt in Phoenix’s insane heat? And who knew I’d figure out how to get melted rubber band off a tool handle?

The first people thought snakes were magic because they shed their skin. There may be some good re-birth in shedding a past life.

-Quinn McDonald is cleaning out her garage. The task is daunting.

 

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22 thoughts on “Cleaning out Your Life

  1. And you can get silver replated and polished up again (which doesn’t affect the actual value of it according to the British Antiques Roadshow) as it is something the Brits had to do all the time. If you have a grandchild or neice, save the hanky for a brides gift or a newborn’s bonnet (there’s a pattern for it on the internet). Past art materials are best sold or donated instead of hoarded and shedding stuff is a great thing to for lifting the spirit. Too many belongings can clog your mental arteries just like cholesterol blocks your physical ones.

  2. Candlesticks my mother thought important enough to take up space in the two crates they were allowed when they left Europe, but are worn bare to the copper beneath the silverplating….QUINN!!! looks / SOUNDS like Sheffield Plate, to me, they were supposed to look like that, and quite valuable to the right folks!!

  3. We must be in the same place in life – only the stuff I need to deal with is my own and my sister’s, who is now being treated at MD Anderson in Houston and will probably not be back here in El Paso any time soon.

  4. I find it’s easier to cull when the art supplies go to the Tucson Museum of Art, the books to the Friends of the Pima County Public Library and the clothes to Goodwill. Environmentally, I can’t throw them away.

  5. I agree about not wanting someone to have to sort through your stuff. I had to do this when my mother died suddenly with no warning, and I am sure she would have been mortified. I have downsized int he last year and let many things go.

  6. I moved 5 months ago 3 miles from my home of 20 years, a home where I raised my kids, painted murals and various types of sponging and ragging on almost every wall in the house, and let my youngest create and paint a superhero on his wall. It was the hardest thing I can remember doing. The move almost did me in. Once moved, I spent several evenings after work just sitting on the front porch, not moving. I filled a dumpster with stuff I no longer needed, and a few people had a field day just picking through it.
    My garage still has too many boxes, but now I look at the stuff with new eyes. Many more boxes will be gone before it’s time for my next move.

  7. Hi. I have about 12 boxes to go through. Many are my son’s toys but some are mysteries. Some things I keep for their value, or because my son may want them, but some I just keep for me. Jane

    • If I could get it down to 12, I’ll be thrilled. I think the garage sale will really help cut things down. Our garage is a terrible storage space, because of the heat of summer. And I’m not insalling air conditioning!

  8. I often do the throw out old to make room for new. I have a book shelf in the office and that’s the space I have for papery stuff. If I get more, something else has to go if I can’t rearrange (sometimes it’s not a matter of too much, but just sloppy piling). And not into the attic… I just threw out some old clothes to make room for a drum carder in my closet…

    Btw I LOVE that necklace!

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