Sorting lifetime possessions and valuing the history behind them

Merrilyn discusses the realization of, "that what is precious to one person may have no significance to another."

A good friend of mine and I were chatting the other day about the family ritual of helping elderly parents sort a lifetime of possessions. A fair number of my generation are being recruited for this emotional activity and as one who has recently participated, the feelings remain strong. It also brings a realization that what is precious to one person may have no significance to another.

Having lived in four provinces over my lifetime and having moved several times in each province, I haven’t the same attachment that a person might have if I had settled somewhere, but I still have managed to carry with me a few things from each place that remind me of a special person or time.

The conversation turned to the realization that participating in this exercise underlines how much “stuff” a person accumulates. We find ourselves burdened with the problem of dealing with it. We are encouraged to keep our stuff organized by magazines published for that reason only. We see lovely boxes, large and small, made especially for sorting and storing. There is an appliance for every kitchen activity dreamt of and then some, and honestly, how many remote controls do you have on your coffee table?

I don’t for a minute believe that this is a twenty-first century issue but I believe that it is exacerbated by the public busyness we all experience, especially now that we are so technologically connected. The possibilities for complicating our lives are endless and apparently it is human nature to want it to be so. Behind every neat freak there is a pack rat waiting to come out.

When it comes time to do the sorting, if you are a person who makes “things” as my friend and I are, you can see that this creates a dilemma. So, the discussion turned to whether it is of any use to continue in our chosen craft. After all, aren’t we just producing more stuff for people to have to deal with? Fortunately, we both got over that in a hurry.

We have been practicing our art and craft far too long to kid ourselves. We are creators by nature and we create first because we are driven. These objects carry meaning, emotion and spiritual depth when well made. We have invested all these aspects of ourselves into the creating. It becomes apparent that beautiful objects, whether useful or not, will always be the last things that most of us will give up as we come close to the end of our life journey. Those objects will usually carry a part of our history, if you listen.

Back to the sorting issue. Paul and I have several lovely objects that we have acquired over our years together. We’ve tried to do a pre-sort to spare our kids some grief. We also try not to kid ourselves that our children will place the same value on our things that we have done when it comes time for them to do the sorting. How could they? — For these works of art carry our own memories of wonderful vacations, interesting experiences and people who we have met. They will, however have the same opportunity that I had to see in a different light the things my mother valued and to understand her history and therefore, part of mine.