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There Be Dragons, Continued: Quandaries and Apprehensions

Welcome to My Green Vermont - A Blog by Eulalia Benejam Cobb.
By Eulalia Benejam Cobb

What if in the process of downsizing I throw out/give away stuff that I will later wish I still had?

What if I don\’t throw out/give away enough stuff and my adorable \”independent living\” cottage ends up looking like a rag-and-bone shop? 

Will going from six bedrooms and eighteen acres to two bedrooms and a handkerchief-sized garden give me terminal claustrophobia?

If an heirloom was foisted upon me in the first place, am I bound to hang on to it forever?

What makes an heirloom an heirloom?

Will I ever read La Chanson de Roland in Old French again?

Can Kindle and the internet really replace the contents of ten tall bookcases?

How many antique canning jars (the lovely deep-blue ones, with zinc lids) am I morally justified in keeping?

(To be continued.)

14 Responses

  1. these are all tough comments. i keep trying to winnow down the books but even giving away 50 paper sacks of books made no difference at all. you might be the same.keep three canning jars, enough for a lovely row to catch the light in your kitchen window.

  2. Oh my. Well, just remember to have a balance between books and kindle choices. Keep some books. Trust your process. Go slow when minimizing. Maybe read some minimalist books? I recommend \”The Simple Guild to a Minimalist Life\” by Babauta, and \”Minimalism\” by Fields and Nicodemus. Not that you are becoming someone who has only 5 shirts and 3 pants and have nothing in your home but useful items, but so that you have some guidance while parring down. Both books have great suggestions, and I also found both books very non judgmental. I have recently started the process of culling in my house. I did the basement last year at this time, and for that I hired two women who organize for a living. They were expensive, but very worth it. I am doing the main floor this month on my own. Some things I have learned is that it's a process, and doesn't have to have a time limit. Some sentimental items are fine to keep, but not out of guilt – and remember, there is someone out there who may love to have and cherish it. If it is from a deceased loved one, would that person really want you to hang on to something out of guilt? Probably not. Is there a young person in the family who may want it to treasure. Or you might think of boxing up the family items with instructions that it go to a certain family member upon your death or to anyone in the family who may want it/them. Remember that parring down isn't always about less, it can be about more. More freedom. More time. More room. I am finding having less means more time for other activities, which I enjoy more than cleaning the larger space and things I used to have. For me, after having gone through all the things my mother had when she died, and then seeing a friend had to cull her parents house, I see what a burden it can be. I am culling and paring now, while I can. I don't want to burden who I leave behind when I die. They will have enough to go through emotionally, without having to make decisions on what they want to keep from my possessions. Most of all be kind to yourself in the process so you don't stress about it. You didn't accumulate it all at one time, so parring down is not a time sensitive process either. Good Luck!

  3. I'm going to attempt to answer your questions …1. You will survive. Because you know that \”stuff\” is less important than so much else.2. If you're happy, then that's fine. Or you can give it away/throw it away gradually. Sell it on ebay and make a bit of money for a treat.3. Not if you keep your eye on the horizon?4. No. Can you find another relative/person who will treasure it?5. The fact that it is treasured by each generation in turn. When it's not treasured, it's not an heirloom.6. On this one … ne sai que face.7. No. Maybe they can replace 6 tall bookcases – but you need one bookcase for aesthetic reasons. (Just as aesthetic needs that \”a\”)8. As many as you want to keep. Line them up on top of the bookcase!

  4. Thank you, Jaimie! I was just wondering if there were books on the process, and here you are, recommending some. I'll check them out. And I know what you mean about wanting to spare family the task of clearing out a house after one's death. That alone should make us get on with the job.

  5. I especially like the definition of an heirloom too. It is so good to do it now but remember it's often when our children are our age or our grandchildren young adults do they realize what memories that a \”heirloom\” held. One person's throwaway is another's treasure!

  6. (from HCB) I just got caught up and read all the \”Dragon\” posts today! My immediate reaction after the first paragraph was like that of the first commenter: \”Waaaaaaaaa?!?!\” (a combination of \”Whaaaaaatttt?!?\” and a child's cry \”waaaa -a-a-a-a-aaa . . . .\”) OK, then I read through all of your Dragon posts and the comments, and I have calmed down 😉 We will all continue to learn a lot from you, Lali, even as you go through this process. One thought I have had when trying to muster the \”courage\” to declutter my house is this: I think of the people who have lost all their possessions in a hurricane or tornado, and have to start from scratch, and I assume most of them do rebuild their lives. And then I tell myself if they can do that, then SURELY I can let go of a bunch of magazines and many papers from my children's school days!!!!

  7. I go through boxes of things I've kept over the years and am slowly realizing they are not special to me anymore. Some I keep but some I'm able to give away now.I'm going to spend a week or so with my mom helping her get rid of stuff, of course in the process I will be getting more stuff of my own to deal with.

  8. We put boxes of things we thought we couldn't live without, but had no place in our new small home, into a storage unit in May. We have not gone to salvage a single very important thing. We plan to empty the unit, a box at a time, this summer. Only rid yourself of things you THINK you cannot live without. Free yourself of those later.

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