No one asked me, but if they did, this is what I would say. “On your 50th birthday, stop collecting stuff. Immediately. Tell friends and family members that from here on in, you only want comestibles or donations made in your honor. No stuff. No tchotchkes. No clothing. No toys. Nothing that will permanently take up space.”

Getting Started

On the 60th birthday (with a reminder on the 65th), I would remind everyone to begin the process of divesting. Start cleaning those closets. Marie Kondo has a point. If you are not using it and it doesn’t bring you joy, move it on to someone who will use it and for whom it will bring joy.

If some things can be sold, start a fund dedicated to future fun: travel, education, the garden. Donate “gently used” items to charity. Pack up some of those books and give them to the annual library sale. Start cleaning your files. You probably don’t need manuals for small appliances you no longer own. Receipts for possessions you can barely remember and tax receipts from ten or more years ago are nothing more than trash.

One Plus One Equals So Much More

a few feet of art library shelving

I am dealing with the detritus of two long lives, two collectors who joined forces as adults with quantities of stuff and substantial libraries. I am emptying out closets and boxes and bins and shelves jammed with material that was deemed valuable only by our imaginations and fantasies. It is taking months and requiring arduous labor.

The books.

Dan said, near the end of his life, that he wanted more than anything to take those books with him. I think he was speaking the god’s truth. He felt that every book he owned was essential to his work as a writer, his research, and most of all to his sense of self. I was something of a bibliomaniac myself, having assembled a working art history library over the past fifty years. I still had books I had read in high school. The situation was exacerbated a decade or so ago when Dan and I decided that finding delightful and personal gifts for Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, and random celebrations was a waste of time. We would just buy each other books. So, that added something in the vicinity of fifteen or twenty books a year to the shelves. Or more

Sentiment Creates Clutter

Lowestoft and pilgrim ware

Dan had four four-drawer file cabinets filled with family records, correspondence, and drafts of mostly unpublished novels and poems. There were countless bankers boxes stacked in the rooms he used, filled with notes, clippings, old drafts and more. The grist for his novelist’s mill, it was all indispensable. I had two four-drawer file cabinets, other file cabinets, and shelves and shelves full of my own genealogical accumulations. Other files held old records, manuals, receipts and heaven knows what else. So much paper. I can only imagine comments from the guys who have to pick up my recycling each week.

I have not yet touched on the overflow of kitchen utensils. And did I need that collection of bits and pieces of silver, crystal, and porcelain only some of which I hauled out on the holidays? Some are quite wonderful like the eighteenth century Lowestoft plates. Some are a bit goofy, like the enormous tea set, probably turn of the twentieth century, decorated with images of the Pilgrims. We kept every vase that came with every delivery of flowers and hoarded pitchers and carafes, platters, and cannisters.

Did I mention the boxes of games, the collection of fishing rods and lures, and my old riding breeches, boots and helmet? And all the afghans. So many crocheted afghans.

It’s All About The Math

I am moving from about three thousand square feet to eight-hundred seventy square feet; I don’t think I am bringing more than twenty percent of my belongings with me. In just about four weeks there is going to be a massive “estate sale” and I am so, so glad I am not the person who had to conduct it.