Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Burdens (and Vintage Kitchenware) We Carry that Aren't Our Own

Over the last several months, my siblings and I have been clearing out my mom's house, and getting mom settled into a new apartment. It has been an all-out effort by all of us. Mom was actually very quick to decide what to take with her to the new flat. Until we came to the kitchen.  Drawer after drawer, mom needed it. From the wacky looking spatula thingy that is actually an egg white beater to the Tupperware Jell-o mold with interchangeable centers - Christmas tree, heart, Easter chick, St Patrick's Day shamrock, and I can't remember the July Fourth center.  She actually had two sets of the Tupperware.
No. I'm serious. Two sets.
Mom tells me, as she mournfully watches me discard 3 of her potato peelers (at least one of which is from the 60s and so dull I doubt it could shave butter let alone a cucumber), that she always wanted a complete kitchen because her mother "never had one". Besides, she insists, her three 2-quart saucepans, as well as her 4-quart, 1-quart, and 6-quart, are all Good Pans. Same with her frying pans, saucier, and Corning Ware casseroles.  She has a drawer full of strainers, another of measuring cups, and another drawer with potholders from when she moved into the Wehawken Road house. In 1965. The orange, brown and autumn gold are back in style, so no point changing those out.
Of course, every time I drove away from her house, I said, "I'm going straight home and throw crap out." Then parked my car, set down a box that held the egg-white beater and a pie dish, and turned on the TV. Because the emotions of disbanding my mom's house is exhausting. So exhausting that I also have one set of the Tupperware Jell-O molds because it was hidden in the cake carrier I brought home with me. The cake carrier reminded me of Wednesday Night church suppers and family birthday parties. We didn't have Facebook, we had every item in mom's kitchen to remind us of life events. The harvest gold fondu pot. The cookie sheets. The cheeseboard.
Yeah. It will come as no surprize that I have trouble separating the gift from the giver or the item from the event.  And every trip that I make to the thrift store feels like a victory. (and I have to do it quickly or the item gets piled up in the corner, because I might need it/sell it/gift it).A friend told me that my father's passions (his books, tools, musical instruments) didn't have to become mine, and nor does my mother's need to have a complete kitchen. Because, let's be honest, if I ever have to beat egg whites, do you seriously think I'll be doing that by hand? 

Do you have a difficult time de-cluttering or letting go of clutter? Or are you one of those who can live a Spartan existence where too many possessions would be more than 20 items of clothing, a chair, a bed, a toothbrush and a TV? If that's the case, tell me your secret? Because you much have superpowers.  


  1. Yes, yes, any of you Spartans - please share the secret! As a person sitting among generations of "stuff," i can completely relate to your post. Only place i've seen the "secret" (and i still struggle) is the free website,

  2. I come from a long line of packrats, so I've spent many sad hours sifting through piles of junk and meditating on the pleasures of minimalism. The older I get, the more I desire to reduce my load of possessions, and yet the more I seem to accumulate. Frustrating!

    I've recently decided to read "The 100 Things Challenge" by Dave Bruno to see if I can declutter and simplify.

    Good luck to you, Marjanna, on your own decluttering project! :-)

  3. Misha. I actually started a project once of getting rid of one thing every day for a year. This lasted actually for a couple months. Until I forgot about my project. But I did get rid of a lot in that time.

  4. Marceline, when you mentioned "free website" I immediately thought "freecycle" where I could get more stuff… It's probably why I have such trouble "killing my darlings" with my writing. Or completely changing a character/situation because I've become attached. ack.

  5. I do not live a Spartan existence, but mostly because of lack of time rather than an attachment to too much of anything these days. Three boys will do that to a Mom. Or at least this Mom. I had too many precious things broken early on and learned a long time ago not to grow too attached to anything in my house. ;0)

    Although, I must say, I do have a touch of what you explain. When my mother died 16 years ago, I was responsible for packing up her house. I brought several dozen boxes of her things into my house--mostly house decorations and kitchenware. I promptly stacked the boxes on tables in my utility room, and now, 16 years later, I still have not gone through the stuff because I'm afraid it will be too painful. I was very close to my mother and we lost her way too early. So I know that some day, when my nest is truly empty and my time is again my own that I will need to face the printer's drawer, clowns, butter molds, Easter decorations, etc., etc., that I squirreled away so along ago. And in those items, I will touch my past and hope it's kind to me, reminding me of the loving memories packed away in a few boxes of random items that mean nothing to anyone else but me.

    Glad you got your Mom's place cleared out and you got her settled in a new apartment with everything she needs around her. Enjoy having her close.

  6. Mackenzie. Remember, you never have to do it alone. Alone works at times, but also sharing the memories as you open a box. Telling your sons about how you remember your mom making cookies in this bowl or maybe how she laughed when she received htis vase from you or your brother. Whatever the memory is, sharing it helps remove it from the object and place it into a new relationship.

  7. Oh, Marjanna, you are not alone! I've got doilies and wine coasters and at least three kinds of place card holders, not so much because they mean something to me, but because they we're given to me along with the story of how much they meant to the original owner. My brother's theory is if you take items to the thrift shop before you bring them into your house, you won't get attached. I'm not so sure. It's the story. It's the meaning. They become part of our story, don't they? Well, I vow to follow your example and value the stories that come with Mom's stuff, but to also follow my brother's advice!

  8. I hear your pain, Mx! Objects have always held the love of the giver for me, or a memory of a time and place. I like the idea of 100 objects, 100 days (or whatever the challenge is). Think I'm going to do that.

    I remember an episode of Clean House where Niecy Nash told the victim, uh, guest, that the essence of their granny didn't reside in their granny's couch and that is was okay to get rid of the couch. Somehow I've kept that close to heart and it (occasionally) makes it easier to part with this or that item.