Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - September 4, 2015

Pantyhose, papers and more

Every year when husband Art and I return from our northern Wisconsin cottage, I get the urge to organize and downsize. I'm not sure what's at play, but I think it has to do with the fact that the cottage is small and our Kansas home, while not large, covers more area than I have the energy and desire to clean. Another factor is that we just seem to have too much stuff and I don't want our daughters to have to deal with it when we're gone.

I've heard many stories of children going through their parents' belongings and finding items that just don't make sense. One friend helped her parents when they moved into assisted living. She told me she and her husband got rid of several dumpsters' worth of junk, including 20 bags of pantyhose. Her mother had told her she had saved the pantyhose because they might come in handy for things like tying plants to stakes. I'm not sure, but I think one would need several greenhouses worth of plants to justify keeping that many pairs of pantyhose. She said her mother also saved lamp shades, even though the lamps had long disappeared, and she had so many bed sheets that she piled them on a desk.

When Art's mother Donna had her stroke and had to go to a nursing home, we went to a lawyer to have Art's brother named as her legal guardian since he lived close by. When the lawyer asked us if Donna had any collections that needed extra attention, I told him she had quite a large accumulation of rubber bands, bread wrappers and twist ties.

It's easy to make fun of those examples, but then I look at what Art and I have collected over the years and it makes me a little crazy. Art's an engineer and a "fix-it" man, so he keeps stray wires, connectors, nails, screws, 2 x 4s, odd pieces of plywood and other detritus that I can't identify, but that he "might need some day."

Because we're both family history nuts, letters, Christmas cards and photos fill albums, drawers and boxes.

I'm extremely sentimental when it comes to our daughters Mariya and Katie so I've kept baby clothes, toys, art work, newspaper clippings, school programs, old videos and anything that reminds me of when they were little.

But now that they're older, perhaps I can take lessons in organizing from them. Mariya always seems to be in a "cleaning/organizing" mode, so I think she takes care of things before they become overwhelming. Katie, on the other hand, tends to let things go until they get in her way. Then she goes into an organizing frenzy. Just this past summer, I received text messages from her every other day about one organizing project or another. One day, she organized her clothes, shoes and jewelry. Another, she rearranged her kitchen cabinets and spices. Then she moved on to her desk, where she designated certain drawers for schoolwork, crafts and office supplies. Her bathroom was next. Small black trays now hold make-up and toiletries.

I did notice, however, that a few things that were formerly in her apartment somehow made it to our house. The trumpet that Mariya had played in junior high and that Katie borrowed when she was in High Brass Techniques at K-State ended up in Mariya's old bedroom at home. And a comforter for a single bed mysteriously showed up in Katie's bedroom. I can't say too much, though, because games and other items that brother Dave, sister Gaila and I had growing up are stored in Mom's basement.

It gets a bit more complicated if you are a bonafide collector like my brother. I never have been certain how much of his comic book collection, Pepsi memorabilia, lunch boxes and other things are truly collectables and what part comes from an inability to part with old junk.

So what's the solution? One Japanese "cleaning consultant" suggests category-by-category de-cluttering, that is, going through and clearing out clothes one day, then books another, then papers, then sentimental items. Others suggest room-by-room or little-by-little approaches.

My approach?

"Hey, Mariya and Katie, want to come help your Mom?"

Comments? [email protected].
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