Many of us grew up hearing that old adage,
Use it up
Wear it out
Make it do
Or do without
And that is the reason there are so many old homes in Maine that are stuffed to the gills with the belongings of several generations. We who grew up with “practical savers” can tell you stories of the things to be found in parents’ or grandparents’ homes that defy reason.
I can remember my mother helping one of her cousins pack up her home to move. I was a young child, but neither my mother or her cousin thought it strange that her wringer washing machine, in the kitchen corner, was used to store the leftover waxed paper wrappings from her husband’s lunchbox. This had nothing to do with recycling and everything to do with not throwing anything away. Other than that the home was reasonably tidy.
Many decades later my husband and his sisters helped their parents empty a family home and move into a senior community. It took many visits to accomplish the job because, to his parents, nothing was considered worthy of being thrown out, but should go home with one of us.
I have had a successful marriage for over forty years with a man who sees the world of “stuff” differently from myself. I am easily content to go with the maxim “when in doubt – throw it out”. But my husband has categories such as:
- Might come in handy someday
- Maybe somebody else could use it
- This could be spare parts for something
- If I get rid of it I might be sorry some day
There are many other reasons but it boils down to – it’s mine and I’m keeping it. Over the years we have had more disagreements over keeping stuff than over money, children, relatives ,or the myriad petty annoyances that crop up in a marriage. I learned early not to give him the gift of a cleaned up space. What I have learned is how to create boundaries within the home so that we can live together peaceably. One requirement is a property that has extra buildings. Our present house has an attached shed which then leads into a barn. The shed and barn are his domain. Inside the house is my domain. I do not clear out, clean up, or re-arrange things within his domain other than where we overlap a bit such as the garden tool and supply area. On the other hand he is limited, time-wise, to how long he can leave an accumulation of tools and pieces of projects for the house that he may be working on inside my domain. I have the right to insist that they be contained in a box of some sort so that they can be moved en masse as needed. I also leave his desk alone even when it overflows. He knows what is there and can find it – or so he says. I know that I am just as possessive and clutter-bound by my books. They’re my old friends. Even though I now own a kindle reader it doesn’t give the same pleasure as holding a book in my hands, so I don’t think I shall be giving up the pleasure of book ownership any time soon.