memory clutter

Getting Rid of the Stuff, Not the Memories

Peter Walsh was in town recently to support the efforts of the Littleton Children's Fund, a group raising funds to build a playground in memory of a little boy who tragically drowned when he was just 10 months old.  The event's theme, De-clutter Your Life, was presented in conjunction with O Magazine, and began with An Evening with Peter Walsh.  During this surprisingly intimate gathering, Peter very graciously mingled with the crowd, taking time with each guest to autograph books and take photographs.  Peter then gave some brief remarks sharing stories and insights from his many years as a professional organizer, host of the hit TLC series Clean Sweep, and author of several best-selling books.  I'm in the process of devouring Peter's latest book, It's All Too Much.

One of the things that Peter spoke about, and that struck a personal note with me was about the types of clutter we hold on to, specifically, memory clutter, things that remind us of the past.  If we get rid of the stuff, do we get rid of the memories as well?  As I clear out the contents of my parents' home, together with my sister, we are barraged with memory clutter. There is the bowl that was used exclusively to serve cheese curls at every birthday party, holiday celebration and family gathering, with all the cousins present and accounted for. The dining room hutch, which I dusted every Saturday, is home to sets of dessert plates, each with a different floral pattern and matching cup and saucer. When it was my mother's turn to host 'The Club Girls', Mom's friends since childhood (90-plus years strong), the table was lovingly set with this china. I can still hear the chatter, laughter, and clacking of knitting needles, not to mention the taste of Mom's homemade cheesecake, served to The Club Girls without fail.  A row of shot glasses live on the top shelf of the built-in china cabinet. After a long day of building snowmen and forts, ice skating in the parking lot of the high school athletic field or sledding the hills of Tufts University, when we came home cold and wet and couldn't feel our toes, my sister and I were greeted with a bit of brandy in a shot glass; a quick fix for a rapid warm-up. 

Broken crayons, spools of thread, recycled ricotta containers - each item tells a story, and adds to my ever-more-precious memory banks.  There is a lot of stuff, decades of stuff that needs to go; the memories will last forever.


Welcome to the everyday ORGANiZiNG Blog

Today (May 29, 2013) marks the six-month anniversary of my mother's passing.  I know, it's a little unconventional to begin a blog with this news.  Since she has been on my mind all day today (as she is most everyday) I write this first blog in her memory. 

My mother was a pack rat - terrific fodder for a professional organizer.

Born in 1920, she lived through The Great Depression, and I am convinced her life was guided every day by that historic period.  Nothing went to waste and nothing was thrown out that couldn't be used once again in some way.  Just the other other day, as my sister and I were at her house continuing the daunting task of cleaning out and deciding what to do with - all  - that -  stuff, we found plenty of examples of her no-waste policy.  Buttons, with a stray garter belt clip thrown in, were stored in glass boullion cube jars, a ceramic vase gracing the dining room table held ribbons and artificial flowers from baptism and bridal shower favors, and an already-used-and-rinsed plastic sandwich bag housed cut-out Box Tops for Education. (My sons are 22 and 25; my nephew is 18.)  My favorite, though, was finding plastic, disposable spoons wrapped in a green plastic band that was originally used to bundle a head of escarole. I know this because the word escarole was imprinted all around the green band. It was good for a laugh; it was good for a cry.

Reduce, re-use, recycle.  My mother was ahead of her time.

I miss you, Mom.  Rest in peace.