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  • Writer's pictureDonna Gerard

TREASURE OR CLUTTER?



Treasured items? I do have a few things that have sentimental value- photo albums, my favorite coffee mug (I Don’t Believe In The No-Win Scenario), and a necklace with a pendant that used to be an earring that my father gave my mother on their wedding day. My sister has the other one. It would be a shame if the photos or the necklace were lost, but in real life I rarely wear the necklace or look at the pictures. I would be briefly sad, but not devastated if anything happened to them. What’s important to me is the people they represent. The people we love are what’s important and I make the effort every day to be in contact with the people whose pictures I would look at. As for the people who have died, they are part of me and live on in me every day. No objects required.


The coffee mug? If I were to drop it and smash it to smithereens, I can order another off of Amazon. Why is it a treasured possession? Because it is a daily reminder to stay positive, never give up hope, and fight like hell for the things that are important to me. By the way, “I don’t believe in the no-win scenario is a movie quote from Star Trek.


That’s about all I can say about treasured items, at least from a normal person’s perspective. A very long time ago I used to keep things. Back when we were first married we kept Stuff. Stuff is an entity in it’s own right. We kept the very artful, intricate, classic mantle clock that we’d received as a wedding gift. It is now in a much better place- my mother-in-law’s mantle. We picked out formal China dishware because it was the thing to do. It’s sitting unused on the top shelf of the family room closet. We came to own three sets of espresso cups, two fondue sets, mugs that we collected from giftshops everywhere we went, and all sorts of Stuff that could be deemed sentimental. Then we ran out of room for us.


No one needs three espresso sets. We made a pile in the middle of the basement floor. We kept the, catch the irony here, Chinese espresso set that was given as a gift to my husband’s Italian grandmother who happened to live in Chinatown. I imagine it was bestowed as a tea set but changed beverages as it was received. We still have it on display in our dining room and use it for tea with our granddaughters. I digress. The other two sets went to the floor to be joined by the second fondue set, empty photo albums that we would never use, way too many extra sets of sheets, an a ridiculous number of things to put on shelves- little statues. We added a multivolume set of The Fisherman’s Encyclopedia that we inherited, and lots of other Stuff I don’t even remember. We had every intention of getting rid of this pile of Stuff at the yard sale we planned for the last weekend of September, which coincided with the biggest nor’easter of the year. So the sale didn’t happen.


We decided that we would postpone the sale until next spring. During the next seven months we found it pretty easy to keep the living area of our house relatively neat. When the kids outgrew toys or clothes, they went down to the basement. Ditto books, unused items that we found as we cleaned our shed and closets. We went through the kitchen and found gadgets, small appliances, and cookware that we didn’t really use and just crowded our workspace. Why did we need four sets of measuring spoons, eight frying pans, or three kinds of mixing bowls? We didn’t! We needed space. Yes, Aunt Winona, Grandma Louise, and a spate of other relatives and friends went to the trouble of picking these things out, but we brought these things downstairs just the same. We can still enjoy the company and memories made with our family without having the contents of our kitchen cabinets spill out onto the floor every time we wanted a pot to make spaghetti.

After assessing the state of our living room we decided that life would be easier if we didn’t have things to dust around, especially things that didn’t really have a use. That included the tchotchkes we bought on our travels and tabletop picture frames. To the basement! The pictures went in a box.


By spring most of the house was uncluttered and we could easily find the things we wanted. There was room in our drawers and closets, and we felt organized. However there was the basement. Every time we ventured down to do the laundry we had to skirt the pile of Stuff that we named Mount Gerard. We started with a few things and now we had a pile seven feet in diameter and a foot taller than me.

We had our Saturday garage sale with two rules:

  1. Nothing could come back into the house. All unsold items had to go to the curb. If people wanted to pick through our Stuff, fine. On Sunday I took leftover books and clothes for donation. Everything else fed the garbage truck on Monday morning.

  2. Never again would I grow a Mount Gerard of Stuff. No, we do not have keepsakes. But we still have memories that we treasure with people that we treasure even more.

I totally understand how people can get attached to objects. I have a cabinet in the basement dedicated to photographs. I have two storage boxes of Stuff on the shelf of a closet. Yes, I have saved some particularly sentimental cards and a few things from the kids. To me, however, life is more about the present than the past. I think of my home as a stage set for today rather than a museum showcasing yesterday. So on I go with today’s agenda. Onward to the future!

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