I am primarily in charge of cleaning out our current home. We live in a home that I purchased when I was single. I had my own stuff; then my great-aunt Fanny passed on and left me all her stuff. Lots of antique, vintage furniture, dishes, glassware and linens. Then my mother, Maria, passed on and I shared her things with my sister. Then I met and married Zaf – once we decided that it would be best for us to live here, his stuff came in too. Our garage was packed to the rafters. We had 4 toasters and blenders, 134 spoons, 90 glasses, over 150 dishes and 50 towels. And that was just the everyday items; the “good” stuff was equally numerous; beautiful to look at but hardly ever used – even for company!
Several years ago, I had to assist my sister and brother-in-law in clearing out their home to put it on the market. Due to health reasons, they were not able to do the majority of work. I spent the better part of a month going through their things: throwing out, giving away and packing up. That’s all we had: 30 days. The house sold faster than expected and the new owners wanted to move in right away. The last day was a beauty! Even though we had a cleaning lady to go through each room and make sure it was spotless, I was a wreck. Last minute packing and moving was on a fast track; coupled with the emotional side of their leaving their home, I had my hands full with their tears and sadness. Finally. it was all done; driving home – exhausted and smelly – I made a vow to the Almighty, that this would not happen to me when we moved.
And so, it began. The hardest separation I had to face was with my books. A life-long avid reader, I owned over 3500 books. All nicely placed in bookcases, on the floor, on shelves and tabletops, all over the house. I tried to sell them, but in speaking with three book buyers, they all told me that the books I owned would not fetch much; people were reading books on their computers and Ipads these days. Selling them online (exploring my options!) was competitive and indeed a chore. I took a deep breath, got some boxes and did what I call the first “pass”. Textbooks and school books were the first to go – honestly, they don’t’ do math the way we did math! Then came some books that were basically not important. Best sellers in their day but having a copy of “Valley of the Dolls” was not really necessary! I packed up 850 books and donated them to the local library. I cried a couple of time, but felt a lot thinner once I got rid of this weight.
I also own about 100 books in the Greek language, my own, my mother’s and my aunt’s. Our ethnic background is Greek, so they are treasures to me. I have put my favorites aside to keep, but the bulk of them will go to the Greek School; that makes me feel good. Bibles and other religious books will be given to our church; that makes me feel blessed.
Zaf and I went through the garage and picked out things we could let go of. Tables, chairs, clothes, filing cabinet, office supplies, etc. were packed up. I have no idea why I kept 2 lamps, without the shades, for over 10 years!!!??? I then called the local charities who picked up most of these items. Some things were too “used” even for them, so we had to toss them. There was one item I could just not let go of though. My mother crocheted a beautiful table cloth, which had a stain on it I could not get out. And even though, she made several of them, I could still not see myself throwing this one out. So, one day, Zaf was cleaning up his side of the garage (tools!), I placed the tablecloth on the bench and said, “I can’t throw this out, so you can handle it”. It was a lot easier to leave it there and walk away then to put it in a garbage bag.
Since then, I often walk around the house and eye-ball what will be in the next “pass”. I have a section in the garage where I put things that will be the next to go and we do a good job with adding to it often.
In speaking with other people who are planning to retire or have retired we are all in agreement. The next generation does not want our things. They are not emotionally tied to them as we are. A visitor to my home may see things and say: “what is this and why are you keeping it?” Well, that little bell that is shaped like a lady’s ball-gown was the bell my great-aunt Fanny got in Portugal; she would give it to me to use to announce that our family dinner was ready when I was a little girl. Will I throw this out? – no, never. The kids and grand-kids will pick out maybe one or two items but that’s about it. Whatever will I do with all the china and crystal?!!!
Exploring what is of value is where we are today. We are on it!
The Bell Lady Photograph from The Personal Collection of Helene and Zaf
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