My Rant About Storing Things

Time for another “Cathy rant” but in the midst of this rant, I hope it may help other families avoid some of the difficulties we are dealing with.

A few weeks ago my mother died. It was kind of expected. She had been sick for years and was in and out of the hospital for the past year.

But now we are dealing with her house. That’s 50+ years of stuff to go through. Some of it has been wonderful reminiscing about the past. I have found old class photos of when I was in grade school. I found my beloved stuffed sock monkey! He now has a special place on my shelf in my office.

And then it was really interesting finding my mother’s diary from when she was 25 years old. I saw her in a totally different light. I saw her as the young, care free single girl she was, not the sick, scared old lady she had become. It was good for me to see my mother as she once was. And it was fun reading about what life was like in the 50’s. There was a real innocence to that era.

Here’s my rant:  all the things we found in the attic that were improperly packed and therefore, ruined.  We had a beautiful set of Christmas china that was packed in a cardboard box that disintegrated upon picking the box up. Over half of the pieces broke. There was also a set of my grandmother’s china packed the same way, in a cardboard box that had fallen apart. We were able to save most of it but a few pieces of that broke too.

There were loads of clothes. Some really interesting things from the 70’s that are actually popular again. But most of them had dry rot from being packed in cardboard boxes. And they all had a really funky smell.

Christmas decorations had been thrown into nice large plastic containers but they weren’t wrapped or protected in any way so a lot of them were broken.

Please folks, if something is worth keeping, please pack it properly so it will still be in usable condition when it’s unpacked. Otherwise, you might as well throw it away right from the start and save the storage space.

Something else that was frustrating was going through old family photo albums. There were some all the way back from the 30’s from my grandparents I guess. But we had no idea who any of the people were in those pictures because none of them were labeled. My mother was much better about labeling her pictures so we knew who the people were in her albums but the older albums, we just pulled out a few pictures and threw the albums away. I felt guilty doing that but what’s the point of keeping pictures of people when you have no clue who they are?

So my second piece of advice, is to always label your photos. You may know who people in your photos are but future generations won’t.

My last little rant is to please don’t keep stuff because you feel guilty about getting rid of it. It just leaves a mess for someone else to clean up.

dumpsterSee this dumpster? This is about as long as my parents’ driveway. It is filled to the brim with trash and junk. And it all came from my parents’ garage. We haven’t even started on the house. Now we have to go to the expense of getting this thing dumped and brought back so we can get started on the house.

My parents were children during the depression and while I wouldn’t exactly call them hoarders, they did have trouble throwing things away. They were always worried they might need it one day. Of course, these items were not packed properly either. Most were not packed at all, just dumped out into the garage and left to rot. So we had the fun of going through a 5 foot wall to wall pile of junk. It took 2 women, and 4 men to get the garage cleaned out. Only about 15% of what we came across was in usable condition.

If your parents are still around, take a look now at what you will have to deal with later. It might be to your advantage later to offer help your parents organize their stuff now.

And don’t forget to think of your own family and what they might have to deal with when you are gone. I know it’s something we don’t want to think of but let’s face it folks. None of us are going to live forever. Part of a wonderful legacy we can leave to our children is to make our passing as easy on them as possible. A big part of that is to have our homes organized and to have our belongings stored properly. And of course, to not keep a lot of junk we have no use for.


4 thoughts on “My Rant About Storing Things

  1. Amen to this! May I add the advice that one start early on this process?

    Between my experiences and those of my friends I can tell you that even if everyone has the best of intentions, the process of going through a house (and garage) full of things takes MUCH longer than you expect – especially if the person is still alive and you actually have a chance to get some of those pictures labeled or items saved!

    Thank you for drawing attention to this – the holidays are coming, and this could be a great time to broach the subject with family in a gentle, constructive way.

  2. You are right Jamie. It does take longer than expected and would probably be even longer if the person is still alive and you have to constantly ask them what they want you to do with stuff.
    But I do wish we had done this when my parents were alive so I could have asked them about interesting things I came across.

  3. Hi there, I totally agree with you about the storage and stuff, but wanted to comment about the photos. I know someone who knows who almost all of the people in his family in old photos are that he had never met. He loves to collect old family photos and would be heartbroken if some had been thrown away because no one thought anyone knew who was in them. I guess it’s too late, but maybe my comment might help someone else remember to ask around in the family (even extended) to see if anyone might want the old photos. So sorry for your loss, prayers for you and family.

  4. I briefly wondered if there was anyone in the family that might know who those people were but I remember when my mom inherited those albums and how frustrated she was that no one was left alive that would know who they were and that was 30 years ago. I think that’s why she was so good about labeling her own photos. Unfortunately there is no one left who would know anyone in the really old albums. It’s a shame.

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