Who’s Going to Take Ownership of All This Shit?

Photo Credit: Timer [Larry, Cheryl, Jill, Steve, Phyllis, Greg, Mary, Jim]

Things are topsy turvy around here. When are they not? It’s sort of like trying to pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time.

Shit happens, time is a fickle bitch, and I can’t seem to keep my finger on the pulse of life.

We can stop our watches, but not time itself. Maybe the only thing that makes a difference is our unique way of being in the world. 

And by the way, if it seems as if half the beds in our house are perpetually stacked on the back porch, it’s because they are. 

I can only imagine what the neighbors think?

The deal is we’re pushing to finish the last phase of the most prolonged remodels of all time. I made a whole baby in less time than it has taken to spruce up this old homestead and it’s still not done.

Our final labor, if you will, involves the carpeting and painting of the last two rooms in the house that haven’t been updated in twenty-five years. Try not to judge. I’m Swedish, chocolate and cheese are my thing, not housekeeping. 

The cluttered master suite and the storage unit, I mean the guest room, which has become a storage unit, are getting a much-needed facelift, but we’re finding it difficult to remove all the wrinkles.

The guest room is more like a rotating dormitory for the children who wander in and out but can’t seem to put a stake in the ground. Julie and Nic lived here for the better part of a year. Kelley and Tim come and go every few months, whereas Tony and Thalita visit occasionally. No pressure. Dante lived here when the floors were being resurfaced.

The point being, my four kids, have stashed all the things they can’t live without in the nook and crannies of this room since they graduated high school. Try as I may, they refuse to take ownership of their own shit.  

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

A mid-week garage sale followed by a clandestine trip to the Good Will. 

Exactly.

Dante and Larry removed all the heavy furniture from both rooms and stacked them on the back patio before Dante had to head down south for a week of installing and painting solar panels.

And then a small kink delayed the plans.

Larry and I got invited to Lake Tahoe for an impromptu weekend with old friends, which means the furniture will remain outside for the better part of a week. We’re retired, and that translates to a lot of unexpected delays and detours. 

We can’t be in two places at once, nor would we want to be, and friends take the win every time.

Twenty-five years might seem like a long increment of time, especially when measuring the span between household maintenance, or the length of a friendship. But it’s really just an illusion because, as we know, time is relative.

But I digress.

By some unforeseen miracle, Mary and Jim, Phyllis and Greg, Jill and Steve, Larry and me all had the same weekend free, and we grabbed it up as if the last piece of bacon. This is the first time we’ve all been together in months, and we’re hungry for this time. 

Photo credit: Timer [Top: Greg, Steve, Jim, Cheryl, Larry Bottom: Phyllis, Jill, Mary]

The thing is when we’re together, it’s as if no time has passed, or all the time we’ve spent together compresses upon itself, and I can’t discern this moment from all the moments that came before. 

You know what I mean?

Comfort settles into my weary bones because I feel loved, as if my worth, my efficacy, dare I say my very existence, is validated. I think it’s not only rare but a privilege to be with people who make you feel this way.

And I can’t help but wonder how I make people feel when they are with me?

It’s as if, once again, my life is sweet, sovereign, a safe haven from the precariousness and fear of an unpredictable mid-COVID world. 

When this crew gets together, we rarely go out to eat because half of us (the half I’m not a part of) are phenomenal cooks and the rest of us know how to chop, grate, and do the dishes. We prefer the intimacy of home, the flavors of our favorite wines, and a slab of hand-rubbed tri-tip on the grill. 

I consider laughter holy, sacred if you will, especially when lounging on the sofa, feet prompted up on the coffee table, entertaining conversations that go into the wee hours of the night but solve nothing.

Mary likes to hike, and she had us tromping through the stunning forest behind her home by mid-morning. The altitude was killer, but corny as it sounds, the sun was smiling down on us. And we felt it, every single one of us, the immense blue of the sky, the potent smell of pine, or how each of us brought the dust from the trail home.

We used to live within a one-mile radius of each other; for years, we swapped patios for dining, sometimes several times a month. Together we vacationed, worshiped, and celebrated birthdays, graduations, and the marriages of our children. As the years passed, most of the couples migrated out of the area, closer to grandchildren and family. It was an adjustment with the sale of each house. 

Larry and I are the only holdouts. In all fairness, our children moved across the street, and another one still lives with us! So there’s that.

These get-togethers are now few and far between. We realize how we spend our time is becoming as important as who we spend our time with. I think we discovered this with the painful loss of each parent, which makes you reevaluate the purpose and complexities of the time you have left.

If time is a resource, then kindness is our wealth, and friendship our fortune.

I don’t want to waste time on people who make me feel unwelcome, unwanted, or unappreciated. Do you? That’s why they don’t sell friends at Walmart. 

On our last evening, we packed up a gourmet picnic basket with select wines, deli cheeses, crackers, seasoned shrimp, chips, and dip. We headed to the beach to enjoy a summer concert, settling our beach chairs in a row, we lounged by the pristine waters of Lake Tahoe, listening to the music of Joy and Madness. 

Sounds a lot like life, our weekend, and the complicated relationship we beget within ourselves.

Larry denied my plea to extend the weekend, I’m sure Mary and Jim let out a collective sigh of relief, and we were on the road by 9:00 am. Back to the Bay Area, to the final phase of our home improvement project, and the decluttering of our lives. 

By 2:00 pm, I find myself sweating profusely. Not because I’m working like a mad dog, I am, but we had to complete this blasted project during the hottest week of the entire summer. All I have to do is raise an eyebrow, and I’m perspiring as if Rocky Balboa in the tenth round. 

I’m not exaggerating.

While I’m trying to locate a clean dust rag with which to wipe my sweat, I hear a loud crash coming from the general vicinity of the garage, which could only mean Larry is relocating something, and it’s not going well.

I say, “What the hell happened?” Because I’m cultured and compassionate.

I find him leaning over one of those extra-large Uhaul boxes, which is now spilled out onto the floor of the garage, and he says, “Could you help me pick this up.” He sounds demanding instead of conciliatory, and it irks me.

As we’re shifting the box so it sits upright, I hear shards of broken glass settle in the bottom of the container. I sigh and say, “Did you hear all that broken glass?”

“It’s fine.”

“That’s like saying the stock market is fine!” There may have been a testiness to my tone, and it doesn’t help that every pore of my body is leaking profusely. 

I shake my head. This was the final box I still had to unpack from phase one of the remodel, and most of the contents are delicate. I had it tucked away in the back closet of the guest room, and I admit I was avoiding it like the plague. 

The thing is, I have limited storage options in this house, and the things sequestered in this particular box have sentimental value but lack purpose.

Sounds as if I’m describing myself?

Things like the glass swan cake toppers from our wedding which have morphed into fragments of unrecognizable shards. Or the superfluous sets of antique salt and pepper shakers I collected through the years. I was going to use them to create a unique chess set but never actually completed the project. There were tea cups from Grandma’s collection, a tooth fairy box, a small perfume bottle from my aunt, and such.

Anyway, it’s all in shards, and no amount of super glue is going to fix that. 

I suppose I could scan for the positive because my worries over storage have just been ruthlessly resolved. So I should thank Larry?

I didn’t think so either, but I’ll acknowledge the blessing, if not begrudgingly.

The truth is much of life is delicate and can break as easily as those glass swans. Relationships, marriages, even our health can shatter unexpectedly. Jobs and opportunities come and go, but true friendships are resilient, and they withstand the test of time.

Let me paint a picture for you. Larry is walking around with a paintbrush in his left hand and a bucket of paint in his right. He has smeared dove grey paint across his upper lip and under his nose as if a mustache.

It’s hard to take him seriously. 

He’s painting over decades of dust and grime while I’m disposing of the things that no longer have a place in our lives.

I’ve been going through drawers and drawers of memorabilia, and it’s exhausting. There is one question floating through my head as I shift through old photographs, thank you notes, and mementos. 

Who will take ownership of all this shit?

What do I do with a framed picture of the cat I cherished as a kid, a beautiful red tin filled with bobby pins from my grandmother, or the bounded manuscript of my first novel that I sent cousin Vicky and she wrote on the cover, “find a publisher.” The hat and paddle from the year I pledged Alpha Phi, an old teddy bear I used to sleep with, and a note from my deceased aunt thanking me for the words I put together for my uncle’s funeral. There are so many cards. I sat on the floor and read them all. I admit to keeping every single one from my mother.

I feel this dull ache forming in my heart, and I stop to consider why this is so?

I think it has to do with the passage of time. 

Our lived experiences, our memories, and our relationships can not be effectively passed on to our children. You can’t inherit feelings, just things, and most of those things were only important to me for reasons all my own. The kids don’t need, want, or remember the things that give me pause.

So I keep asking myself, “Who will take ownership of all this shit?” 

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

A mid-week garage sale followed by a clandestine trip to the Good Will. 

And I’ll just have to learn to live with the dull ache in my heart.

I’m Living in the Gap, mourning the passage of time, what are you doing?

40 Comments

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    1. Oh my, thank you for your kind words. I was so hoping someone would relate to these thoughts, to the fervent passage of time, and the sacredness of our relationships. I suppose as I age time becomes all the more precious and how I spend it all the more important. Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I feel your feelings and have been purging for a couple of years. Donating has become an important part of my life. My kids have no desire to inherit any of my “treasures. Deep sighs of reality.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s never been about ‘where’. . .

    It’s never vmbeen about ‘when’. . .

    It’s always been about ‘who’. . .

    The sooner you grasped this? The sooner you understood one of the key truths about life on planet earth.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It’s so true Chris, it’s “always been about who,” but I get caught up in the where and when sometimes, which always leaves me stranded. And you know “who” saves me each and every time. Hugs, C

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    1. Fraggle, you are hysterical, I could have Larry on a plane tomorrow, and he would not disappoint. Unless of course you’re teasing? You know, discovering there is not a demand for my most precious positions shifted my entire reality, and now I find it so much easier to donate, repurpose, dispose of, or smash! Hugs, C

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  3. Whenever I look into the packed garage, or clamber up into the overstuffed loft, I just know that the accumulated treasures of my life will end up being skipped by step-children who have no interest in them. Perhaps I should throw them all away myself? Maybe pack them into a nordic longship and set it on fire as it drifts out to sea? Give the accumulated detritus of my existence a Viking funeral?
    But it still makes me too sad to consider parting with it. Let someone else do the hard work when I am dead.
    Best wishes, Pete. x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is gold, “give the accumulated detritus (I had to look up that word) of my existence a Viking funeral.” I have a few things I can’t bear to part with at this time but there are many things I’ve donated, repurposed, or trashed because I can’t use them and my children would rather eat with their hands than take on my grandmother’s china! It guess I just have to accept and move on. I do feel lighter, happier, and maybe a little freer without all the “detritus” taking up space in my life. Hugs, c

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a beautiful post Cheryl! I can relate to all of it. I am also trying to downsize, we’re moving from our 20-room Victorian inn to an Adirondack house up north where we’ll be closer to my daughter, but the purging is really tough. I am also thinking a lot about “Who will take ownership of all this shit?” and some of it is obvious, but much of it means something only to me. I will have much less space, so it needs to be done. And I still have tons of stuff of my kids from their teen and college years too!
    When my husband’s mother died two years ago, she left all her two houses full of stuff and absolutely no one wants most of it, so it has been a massive chore. I don’t want to leave a mess for my kids.
    I’m giving the kids a deadline, then a garage sale and trip to Goodwill. Nope, a bunch of trips to Goodwill…
    This too shall pass!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You really are doing a deep purge Dorothy. I’d like to hear more about this 20-room Victorian that you’re leaving behind? Sounds divine! And now you’re moving to an Adirondack house near your daughter! How exciting except for the excruciating purge. I realized the same thing after my mother passed away several years ago. No one wanted her things? It was tough turning this wisdom on myself. But I’m doing a little at a time and hope my children appreciate the pre-mortem sacrifice. So here’s to new chapters, less clutter, and more time with those we love. Hugs, C

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  5. I allow myself very limited spaces for memories…in my house. In my heart they’re unlimited. I’m trying not to attach more feeling to the object than the event. Does that make sense?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s key LA, “limited space for memories.” Then you aren’t tempted to build a mausoleum of memorabilia in your own home! I agree, objects are phlegmatic, but memories of events and the people we shared them with are unlimited. That makes total sense. Here’s to the less is more theory. Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I understand this very well. I smiled and nodded ferociously at every paragraph except the line “That’s why they don’t sell friends at Walmart” which made me spit coffee which meant I had to get up to get a cloth and also now I have laundry. 😬😀

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    1. I’m so glad someone gets my humor Claudette although I am sorry about the additional laundry. It’s a risk stopping by Living in the Gap with a fresh cup of coffee but I’m oh so happy you did. This seems to be a topic that is resonating with many. I know I need repeated reminders to let shit go, literally and metaphorically. Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

  7. You are blessed with friendships and a talent for writing your feelings. I can relate to all the memories you stored in your house and how difficult it is to get rid of them. I did the same after 28 years in our Palm Springs house. I did move boxes of stuff from my childhood and my children’s lives that are in unopened in our new guest room closet!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s so strange to enter this phase of life where we are no longer collecting things but downsizing and hanging on to the people we love for dear life. Old and new friendships are so important. I can’t believe you had to box up your life after 28 years and move! That must have been challenging to say the least but oh so good to have done it. Thanks for the kind words Elizabeth, means the world to me. Hugs, C

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It was difficult and I didn’t want to leave Palm Springs at the time. So there was tension between my husband and me! Now I’m thrilled we moved. Old friends and new friends are a treasure.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I love how you described your longtime friendships with “your clan”. That kind of friendship where you simply pick up where you left off as though no time has passed … that’s priceless. I get your “adult kids stuff” issue. I also have an attic area filled with tote containers of my kids “stuff” that I thought was important. Like you, not sure they feel the same way. May your renovations come to completion soon and may your heart find solace in the clearing out of “closets”! Best Wishes! Leigh

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Leigh, It is amazing how many of us are dealing with the same storage issues. Housing our children’s belongings along side that of our parents just when the old homestead is in need a facelift! It appears to be more of a season than a stage? We’ve spent the entire day putting the recently carpeted rooms back in order. I’m dripping, exhausted, and looking forward to a visit from my sister when she gets off work! I’m closing the door on renovations for a while and looking forward to enjoying what’s left of the summer! Blessings on your weekend, hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

  9. What a lovely composition of what matters (love and friendship) and what ultimately doesn’t (stuff – even though we cherish it). I can so relate to the process of decluttering. For me, it’s been a life-long process, and there will still be boxes of stuff that someday my daughter will need to go through and get rid of. She’ll be cursing me all the while too. 😀 Love your posts, Cheryl.

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    1. Hi Diana, thank you for the kind comment. So many of us are struggling with the same process, discerning what has served us well and needs to be repurposed, what we still need, and what continues to comfort us. And you’re right, it is a life long process! I recently had to go through my mom’s things, it was a bittersweet chore, and she was prudent about what she kept and gave away. I promised I would do the same for my kids, although like you, there will be things! Enjoy your trip, I look forward to reading about your adventure! Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi Cheryl,
    Oh my this struck a chord. I think I will post a sign by my desk quoting you, “Who is going to take ownership of all this shit?”! It might help me tip the scale into tossing a few things instead of keeping them.
    But don’t worry, the Christmas letters your Mom sent me 20 years ago are still safe in my family newsletter file. They still bring me joy so I’ll keep them. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Gail! It amazing how this topic has resonated with our peers. Maybe we’re too lenient? I remember my mom calling both Nancy and I to let us know she was donating all our old prom dresses to the Goodwill. We didn’t want them but we were still appalled. On my next trip home I gathered up all the indispensables just in case she had another decluttering attack. I believe that was her intention all along. I’m sort of amazed by all the things I have managed to keep and store over the years. I find it interesting that handwritten notes become all the more precious when someone has passed away. I guess the idea of never seeing their handwriting again captures me. I’m overjoyed to hear you’re keeping Mom’s Christmas letters. After Dad died I used to help her write the newsletters, you might recognize the voice embedded in the notes. Looking forward to your next visit! Hugs, Cheryl

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    1. Thank you Belladonna, I so admire strong organizational skills, something that defies me! But as I age I can see one of us has to go, the clutter or me? So far the clutter is winning! But I’m learning to let things go and resist new shiny things that I don’t need. It’s a process. Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

  11. See, this is why I love art-making! Those shards and bobby pins and photos would make such a lovely assemblage if you were so inclined. If not, though, every corner of all of these treasures will of course live in your heart forever. Still, you capture so well how hard it is to let them go, items imprinted (literally) with the fingers of your loved ones…another trailhead on the road to elder hood.

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    1. Oh my goodness Mary Ellen, you never fail to amaze me, always scanning for the positive in any given situation. Even a box of broken memories. But you’re right, they live on in the heart, hopefully forever. “Another trailhead on the road to elder hood,” oh, how I resist these passages. Wrapping you in hugs and love, C

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    1. Hi Debby, so glad this resonates with you, and I’m not the only one standing here holding on to broken memories, and things I need to “let go.” It’s a daunting process, requires maturity, and possibly a little courage. Thanks for the good wishes. Hugs, C

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