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Saturday, September 17, 2016

On Clutter and Memories and Downsizing

Jean Sexton muses:

Wherever I have lived, I have had "stuff." I like unicorns, dragons, and other mythological creatures and people have given me art, stuffed toys, and figurines of them over the years. I like shells and minerals, so I have those as well. Cats, dogs, frogs, and bears all have room in my home.

Some folks ask, "Why do you have all this clutter?" The answer is that to me it isn't clutter; it is memories made tangible. My unicorns were mostly from my father with a few that either I picked up or others gave me. My Chowan football was caught for me by my father. Later he caught a basketball to go with it. A huge chunk of petrified wood reminds me of Robeson County, whence it came. My marble darning eggs came from an old country store in Burnsville, North Carolina. A panda bear plate was a thank you from a class I worked with at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. My white buffalo came as a present after my mother traveled to South Dakota. A beaten-up orange squeeze ball was Markie's favorite toy.

Memories can be quite strong at times and I never know what can trigger them. Sometimes it is a smell. The smell of fresh-cut grass takes me back to my childhood when my mother sighed over the grass-green soles of my bare feet. Popcorn can take me back to a Sunday evening watching TV with my parents and brother. Music can take me back to listening to songs with either my mother or my father. Recently I reviewed some CDs by Peter, Paul & Mary; my strongest memories were listening to them with my father. Since I inherited most of his CDs, I can go back to those days easily. A touch of cool, moist wind reminds me of my North Carolina mountains near Lansing.

The trick with memories is to not to lose yourself completely to them and to forget to make new memories. I try out new musical groups and performers and add them to my list of "good music." Lindsey Stirling, Peter Hollens, and Jordan Smith have all made the recent cut. Hamilton and Bright Star have been added to my CDs of musicals.  My travels continue, albeit a bit less frequently. When I travel, I try to pick up something small to remember the good times I am having. I even have some dried purple flowers that were in an arrangement that good friends sent me while I was in the hospital. The stay wasn't fun, but their kindness deserves remembrance.

Sometimes it becomes necessary to turn loose of an item. I finally gave up the lampshade that my grandmother had made. It was a Tiffany-style swag light and I had it hanging in the den where I lived in North Carolina. I kept it for three years in Amarillo. It was in a box because I couldn't find a place to hang it where it wouldn't either scream, "LOOK AT ME!!!!" or block sight-lines to some art that I really like. So I told its story to a young couple I know who understand art and handmade items. Now it will start a new set of memories and a new set of stories will grow up around it. The fact that it will live on long after I am gone makes me happy. That's the kind of downsizing I think is best.