Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Why it's hard to get rid of things.....

As a member of the board of Northlands Storytelling Network, I participated in a retreat a few years back to help us define our mission as an organization. Part of the retreat also allowed us to do the same for ourselves as storytellers. One topic that somehow came up was "stuff" and what to do with it. Seems that for many storytellers, an accumulation of stuff is an occupational hazard, because once the question was broached, most of us said, "YES! What do we do with our stuff?"

I have stuff. I admit it. I have been trying very hard to divest myself of much of my stuff, and I'm making progress. Readers of this blog know, for instance, that I happily gave away several hundred dollars worth of camera equipment last fall. I regularly give away books and scrapbooking supplies I no longer need or will never use. I admire the homes of others that are spare and serene, creating space to think. I don't know if my house will ever be such a house, even though I'm really trying to keep only the things that matter.

Problem is, everything matters. I am realizing this as I have gathered up some more things that I'll never use to give to someone who will use it. I have a nice stack of lovely all-natural fabrics, ready to go to an area Waldorf school for use in handwork projects. This fabric is the remaining stock from a small cottage business I had about twenty years back--"Fleecy Friends." I was making Waldorf style dolls to custom order, and these fabrics were my stash for making the clothing. It has been years since I made any of these dolls, but I still have two of them.

One for Cooper.

One for Taylor.

Both my boys, along with all my nieces and nephews, had their very own Waldorf dolls, made with eyes and hair to match their own. Taylor just kept his doll in with all his other soft toys, never paying it much mind, so it looks almost new.

Not Cooper's. "Dolly," as it was known in our household, had to have a sweater and pjs. He was changed almost as often as the Thursday night lineup on network tv. He came with us everywhere for a couple years. I can remember with a smile one trip to the Como Park Zoo with my sister-in-law, her kids, my mom and my kids. We had brought the stroller along, but my son didn't feel the need to have a ticket to ride. However, Dolly needed to ride, because "he gets tired." There came a point in the day when my mother had had enough of pushing a little doll, albeit one made of completely natural fibers, around in a full-sized stroller in a public place, and told Cooper he had to "take care of his baby now." He most willingly accomodated her request.

Cooper towers over me now. He is struggling to find his own way, stroller-less but driving a Saturn, into adulthood and his purpose in life. Though it's a struggle, I can think fondly of his care and concern, look at photos of him doting on Dolly, and know that the foundation is strong, even if the girders of late adolescence are weak.

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Giving these fabrics away is like giving away some of my stories. Each doll made had its own story. So too with all of my stuff. My father is even worse in his "packratting." My youngest brother once wisely commented that what needs to be done is to sit with Dad, let him tell his stories about his stuff, and then he can give it away.

Taking my brother's advice, I've just shared the story of my pile of fabrics and a chapter of my life, just one chapter that tells the story of who I've become, at the same time telling the story of who my son is yet to become.

For those reading who might want a similar doll for their child--and why wouldn't they?--fear not. Magic Cabin, which started as a small family business much like my own, continues to sell online. Check it out!

15 Comments:

At 4:37 AM, Anonymous greenfern said...

Hi Gwyn, I enjoyed your blog, and have read as far as the possum story. That is a sweet photo of your son with his doll. Yes, many possessions have their stories, which stay in our hearts. When I give things away, I like to think they will now have new stories. Then I can happily let them go.

 
At 5:09 AM, Blogger Corinnexxx said...

great entry! perfect picture and what a sweet doll that is! have fun today!

corinne5xxx

 
At 7:06 AM, Blogger Becca said...

You're soooooooooooo good at purging & keeping only 'needful' things. I wish I knew how to do that! Maybe in my next life...

xoxo,
Becca

 
At 7:31 AM, Anonymous Jen said...

Love your thought on this. There are so many memeories attached to things. I'm also working on keeping the memories while reducing the amount of "stuff"!

 
At 7:32 AM, Blogger Gwyn said...

Becca, No, I'm not. Believe me, I have WAY too much stuff! Too many stories I still need to tell!

 
At 10:36 AM, Blogger Karen Carter said...

Just this week we were faced with evacuating our home because of a wild fire in the area. I was shocked at how little I actually packed and I had plenty of time to really load up. Up until this week I thought everything I owned was important and/or needed, but suddenly I realized that almost none of it matters in the least. All I packed was photos, documents and a change of clothes. Also, my grandmother's apron and my dad's hankercheif becuase some things are priceless.

 
At 10:45 AM, Blogger Nicky said...

Hi Gwyn - Boy, did your post hit home today. I've spent most of the morning unpacking a box that's been stored in the garage since I moved in 2 years ago. It's full of left-over craft goodies that have seen better days...and I thought I might be able to dispose of most. Well, the reason it's taken so long to unpack the box is that I had to oooh and aaah over each item like they were new again. My pile to keep is much bigger than the pile to pitch. All because of the memories that were attached...and the hopes that they might be recycled for new uses. DH calls them "might-need-'ems." He's right.

 
At 1:30 PM, Blogger ~Kathryn~ said...

as you know - i've been purging myself ... one thing i've found useful when getting rid of stuff is asking myself is that 'thing' the only thing that will remind me of a particular event ... ie if i throw it out will it mean i will not think of that special time again ... usually NOT cos i have a dozen other things LOL i am such a hoarder - its my mums fault - i learnt from her

 
At 1:54 PM, Blogger knitsteel said...

I am so glad that you have shared this story. It completely changes the way I look at the fabric. Now I have a greater sense of reverence that I can share with the students. So many items in the handwork room have a story- sewing machines from parents or grandparents, projects never finished, forgotten ambitions...

 
At 6:44 AM, Anonymous Kelli said...

Beautiful story Gwyn! And a sweet, sweet picture to go with it. Here's hoping that Cooper finds his way into adulthood with few bumps on the road—he certainly does have the infrastructure that he needs to be good and wonderful parents to help guide him on his way.

 
At 9:01 AM, Blogger Bay in TN said...

Dang, Gwyn, it's too early in the day to make me cry! What a sweet photo of Cooper. Why do children grow up?

 
At 4:55 PM, Anonymous Becky said...

Gwyn, this entry had me alternately smiling and teary at the same time. So many things said in the words you wrote. Good stuff. Cooper is lucky to have you, even if he doesn't always realize that.

 
At 8:31 PM, Blogger Endment said...

Well--- your post about STUFF really touches home! I am still trying to find a new home for the floatsum and jetsum of a closed doll business. Amazingly the things that used to bring so much joy have become a burden...

Hopefully we will both succeed in divesting ourselves of our STUFF (By the way - Disaster Response people define STUFF --- Surplus Trash Useless to Frantic Folk)

 
At 10:15 AM, Blogger Thena said...

This is a wonderful lesson for me....I have too much stuff!!
Thena

 
At 3:52 PM, Blogger Jennifer Lynn said...

Lovely story. I'm a big fan of boys having dolls of their own.

 

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