Saturday, January 22, 2011

Insight: Do we own stuff, or does it own us?

I am sentimental about stuff connected to memories.  A little dress that my girls wore, old winter hats, baby shoes.  I have totes in the attic for each of the girls, filled with special items from their childhood.  I have to remember that letting go of old shoes, etc., that they wore doesn't mean letting go of all those memories.
Growing up, I always felt poor.  We moved so often, that if it didn't fit in the station wagon with us, it didn't have value to my parents.
When I finally stayed in one place long enough to graduate from high school, all my belongings fit in my bedroom.  I moved out when I was eighteen, my mother was angry at me, and threw everything into an appliance box and pushed it down the stairs.  When I left for the Army, everything fit in in a suitcase.  When I was assigned to Fort Bragg, a suitcase and duffel bag held everything.  When I moved into an apartment, everything fit in my car.
When Robert and I first married, we lived in a mobile home, which we took to Pennsylvania after he was commissioned as a Reserve officer and finished training at Fort Sill.  Everything fit in that mobile home (two bedrooms) and our car.
When we moved into a house (an old house that we will be working on forever), with two (and later three) little girls, they had their own bedrooms that filled up with stuff.  Over the years, we have filled up the attic, the basement (which I cleaned out this past year), an enclosed porch that we added to the front of our house (which is now a separate sitting room full of sewing stuff and entry (which holds a display cabinet, antique desk and a closet that my youngest daughter now uses).

Still working on not holding on to so much stuff.  The pictures show the new and improved entry, and the dolls explain alot about why I have so much sewing stuff.  I love sewing dolls.  These two were finished after classes I took three years ago in Ohio at the Dollgatherers Gala.

An afternoon well spent

Since I couldn;t go to see my sweet Quinn today (I have the sniffles), and we've had enough health scares with her this winter, I made good use of my time:
I actually reached the bed and look what I found!  Still tons of stuff to sort, but learned some valuable lessons:
1)  I will NEVER buy those huge storage bags again.  I went through and emptied SEVEN of them.  I now have a give away bag started with one of them, a bag full of trims, a bag of yarn and two containers of sorted fabrics (by color).  I love to sew dolls, and have a mountain of supplies.  It used to be three mountains, but, I gave away two thirds of it last year.  Now, sigh, will have to go through the current mountain and keep only what I will really use and love.
2) Although my bed was a great place to sort and fold, and it was convenient, I have to remember to leave enough time to put away stuff next time.
3) The way I've gained control in the rest of the house was in little steps, sometimes only a few minutes at a time, and maintaining what I gained.  So, I vacuumed downstairs today, did laundry, and ran errands before tacking my new project.  I'm not talking hours of cleaning - just the daily picking up and touching up that I've learned from FlyLady.  So, I will try to do a few minutes every day.
4)  If I stick it in a bag, basket, drawer out of sight, I forget I own it (or haven't a clue where it is).  Then I begin layers of piles on surfaces.  Got to work on that every day, and with the door shut, this room became a huge HIDING spot for HOMELESS ITEMS!
5) I can't create a new area where stuff is piled, while sorting the old stuff in the old place.  It finds a home or it LEAVES.
Never fear, as this is what waits on the other side of the door:
It will take many days of sorting.  That's why it is a Mission.

I have a mission for the New Year

For years I have been struggling with clutter taking over my life.  With the help of the books written by Julie Morgenstern, like "SHED your stuff", I've really tried..  But, I always got mired down with the having too much stuff and getting rid of it part.
With online support (what did I do without the internet??), especially, Flylady, I have made progress at times, and at other times, not so much.
So, I have a mission:  turn my daughter's old bedroom into a safe place for my new granddaughter to play in.  Sounds like a fun project, doesn't it?  Except, for years now, the room has become a repository for all things WITHOUT A HOME that take up space in my house.  Here is an example of what it looks like now:
I remember when you could actually see the bed (it's under the pile against the wall).
Well, the baby was born on December 3rd, and her first birthday is my goal date.
I am going to blog as I teeter along.

Why did I accumulate so much stuff?  More on that later.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Motherhood, Grandmother stuff - Did we gain more or give up too much?

Well, youngest daughter is back at college (just in time before the drive would have been REALLY nasty), daughter #2 has returned to work after giving us an amazing granddaughter, other daughter wishes for a family.  I had a long conversation with DD #2 recently, about how motherhood has changed for most of us.  I was fortunate to stay home with my oldest two when they were pre-school age, and my youngest until she was two, and yet still get an education and a career in the mix.  Do I regret some of the opportunities that no doubt passed me by, as others fast tracked into upper management?  Nope.  I'm old enough (and mature enough, I hope) to see what some of them have given up (and they are welcome to all that stress).  I was on that fast track, but, stepped off, and have declined the opportunity to climb back on.  Why?  The things I regret weren't promotions, more money, impressive titles.  The things were moments in time that I can never reclaim, that were fleeting.  I remember being on call, and being called away from my youngest daughter's soccer game, rushing back, only to find out I missed her first goal.  I remember my oldest daughter, dressed in a long green dress, heels, etc., coming to the hospital where I worked (and couldn't get the evening off) to let me see her before she went to a formal dance (I remember medical residents and doctors gawking, too, but, that's another story).  For her senior prom, I did take the whole day off, did her hair for her, and even sewed her into the dress (another long story). 
I remember not being able to drive my middle daughter to cheer leading practice, because I was working. 
The moments I most treasure were fleeting and special.  First days of school.  Graduations.  Halloween parades.  Parent teacher meetings.  Each birthday (except one when my daughter decided to go to Canada for her special week - which was totally beyond my control).  Weddings.  The first hours of my first grandchild's life.  The ghosts of memories run through family pictures and echo in the empty nest of our home.
My daughter faced returning to work, leaving her six week old baby in capable (other) grandmother hands.  What did we gain?  That was her question, after she asked me what it had been like to stay home with my babies for so much longer.  What did we gain, giving up so much with our children.  I tried to describe the women I had known, growing up.  Capable women, who gave up professional careers, because it was expected "once you get married and have a family".  My grandmother who had taught school, loving every minute of it, and then stopping when she married, because she was "expected" to.  My grandfather was a good man, a finish carpenter and farmer who could create magic with his hands.  A man of few words, a little education.  They had a happy marriage and loved their three children. 
It was my grandmother who told me  "You can be anything.  You can have everything.  You won't have to choose."  She was wise, and far ahead of her time.  It's true in some ways - two of my daughters have college degrees, another is in college (and I have a couple of degrees myself).  We have opportunities, choices, that my grandmother didn't have.  She taught me to love books, explained the intricacies of heart chambers (with a chicken heart), tried to teach me to sew (I'm still working on that).  She didn't know, however, that you can't really have it all.  You have opportunities, choices - and responsibilities.
My husband and I both earn roughly the same (my hourly rate is higher, but, he works more hours).  Our house isn't as nice, or as expensive as the ones our married daughters have.  My youngest daughter's car is newer than mine (she earned every penny of its purchase price, working throughout high school) and has more gadgets.  Our house has been mortgaged multiple times over the years, paying for educations (yes, we've paid it off several times), medical emergencies, etc.  I haven't had the financial ability to stay home for years. 
My daughter doesn't have that choice, either.  She still has student loans (we couldn't pay for it all), car payments, a mortgage.  Her husband also has student loans, a car payment, etc.  They both have busy careers and a beautiful baby daughter.
So, yes, we gave up moments we will never have.  We will have choices of quality vs. success.  I wish I had the wisdom to say it's totally worth it.  I can't.  You just have to make time for the moments that matter, and try to make the right choices.
I wish I could give my daughter the time with her baby she's struggling for.  Because, you never know what it is to love a child, until they crawl into your life and enlarge your heart with so much love you can't believe how it feels.
No answers here.  Just thoughts.