Monday, August 27, 2012

Inheritence and Hoarding
What I learned from reading Stuff

Four years ago my father's brother died. Fifteen days later their sister died. My father grieved hard for them both, we all did. It was up to my father to clean out her house. The house he grew up in. The place where three generations of mementos, housewares and furniture were stored.
Going through the house was an emotional roller coaster for my father and me. I would find something interesting and we would stop and he would tell me about who it belonged to and then he might need time to cry a bit more at the loss of his entire family. Maybe when you lose all your siblings your children don't really count as family because you are feeling like a lost child.
After the furniture and china, silver and jewellery my aunt had were divided up among the nieces and nephews there was a lot left. My aunt collected McCoy and other pottery. Their grandmother collected dishes. All these things went to my father's house to be stored. He wanted to sell the pottery on Ebay but he never got the chance. He didn't want rush into the process. The emotions going through that stuff might be too much for him. 
A couple of years he told me he wanted to get rid of a lot of stuff because he didn't want me and my sister to have to go through what he did. Dad got sick before he really got started on this massive project. 

In the spring of this year, I happened upon the book "Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things" at the local library. I decided to check it out & Gail Steketee, psychologists who specialize in hoarding behaviors, not only discusses case studies but also goes into the reasons people hoard. How it begins and how it can be overcome. The bad news, it often starts after a traumatic event like the death of a loved one. 
I have brought two car loads of stuff into my house and I am not done moving my inheritance. In my defense I got rid of a lot of things. We gave away kitchen stuff to a friend whose son needed to outfit his first apartment. My childhood doll crib and doll clothes were given to a friend's daughter for her American Girl dolls. (The original 70's polyester double knit that my aunt made for my dolls was called "retro" which made me feel old.)

However there are other things that I just couldn't let go to Goodwill. Not yet anyway. I have always dreamed of a guest room. A place for visitors to sleep without having to open the 20 year old sleeper sofa and ruin their backs. I place for guests to put their luggage so it is out of sight, out of mind and out of the way. The bedroom set my aunt purchased with the first money she ever earned will wait in storage for that room. This is most likely a red flag for Drs. Frost and Steketee but I don't really care.

Old scrapbooks, yearbooks and a handful of sentimental items came home with me. Power tools made their way to my house. Boxes of photos and other craft able items like shells, crayons, books and my father's drafting supplies have joined the craft room clutter. When I was deciding what to keep, donate or toss I had to keep in mind the difference between possibility and probability. The inner voice says, "I could make ____ with these." I had to keep asking, "But will you?" I let a lot of things go based on the knowledge that I probably wouldn't.

From reading "Stuff" I know that people can be hoarders in one area and not in another. I don't like buying clothes and hate buying shoes (a size 12 will do that for a girl) so I wouldn't be considered a hoarder if you looked in my closet but craft supplies that's another story. Why can I recognize the difference between possibility and probability in clothes but have difficulty when it comes to craft?
Since all this new old stuff has come into my home I have started to feel agitated and overwhelmed to the point of dreaming about putting a match to the house and walking away - possibly to a convent. I have started a lot of those possibly projects and have sketches and notes ready to make the others once the dust settles. The boxes are being cleared out and the clutter is beginning to find it's way off the floors and into more permanent homes. 

Now that school has started I'm hoping that I can get into a routine that will include crafting the crap out of the treasures I've brought home and getting them into my Etsy shop.

Currently the only things in my Etsy shop are stamps sets.  I will donate these sets as soon as I can get down to Memories & Beyond (Downers Grove, IL). They take scrap and stamp supplies to Mooseheart School for their art therapy program. 

Happy Crafting,

1 comment:

alexa said...

I empathise with the stuff-clearing and the story-telling and the meaning-making... I am being alongside my Dad while he does just that, at a pace he chooses and can manage. It's emotionally tiring for him (and me). It is making me want to re-evaluate everything I own. I'm a bit stuck on craft stuff too, with a chest full of paper I never use, except for the white! Looking forward to hearing how things shift for you ...