Handing down… books and garden gnomes

I have never been much of a collector.  Well, books maybe.  Cookbooks, old books, books of my youth.  I inherited the book-collecting gene from several sources early in life and I freely admit books have been the most difficult item for me to weed out. Not to say I haven’t turned over quite a few of them through the years, those that I’ve picked up on a whim here and there or the cooking-fad-of-the-year cookbook far removed from its heyday (fondue or crepes anyone?).  Many books have come and gone in my life but the core books of my existence, those that I’ve inherited from the people who taught me to read and to love reading, and the books that I can read again and again like it was the first time, remain easily accessible on my bookshelf.


old book collection

But what will happen to my cherished books when I’m gone?  Will my immediate heirs appreciate the books like I have?  Do my heirs know the history of the books like I do?  Did my heirs know the people who passed the books down like I knew the people who passed the books down?  These are questions I’ve asked myself over the years and the answer is “No.”  Not that my heirs don’t value items from their past, but I must be realistic if I really want the books to be valued and cherished as they should be once I’m gone.  Yes, it is a fine notion to think that my children and grandchildren will value exactly the same things that I’ve valued over the years, but is it really?  We teach our children to be independent beings, to stand out in the crowd, have their own opinions and feel free to voice those opinions. But when it comes time to hand down those items we’ve chosen to cherish in our own lives, we expect our heirs to think like we do.  Think about it:  we raise our children to be free-thinkers and blaze their own trail, but when it comes down to what they cherish from the past we expect our cherished items to be their cherished items!   We we do the same with our grandchildren as well.  And many times, out of respect for our feelings they dutifully respond just as they’re expected to, be it books, garden gnomes, or anything else.

Some years ago a friend’s mother passed away.  My friend’s mother was an avid collector of yard art, specifically garden gnomes.  LOTS of garden gnomes decorated the flower beds and every nook and cranny of her mother’s yard.  Several months after the mother’s passing my friend had a backyard get-together and all those garden gnomes had taken up residence in my friend’s backyard.  I could tell those gnomes weren’t happy campers either.  They were in gno-man’s land and they knew it.  And my friend knew it, but I think she felt an obligation to her mother to give those gnomes a home.  The problem was… her’s wasn’t a good home.  Would it possibly have been better for the gnomes to be sold on Ebay or a place where someone who actually liked garden gnomes would buy them?  I think so. Collectors of books, cookie jars, salt and pepper shakers, toy trains, old jewelry, vintage clothing, rolling pins, dolls, spoons, garden gnomes, just about anything imaginable, can be found who would love to add to their collections.  They will cherish those items just like they should be cherished, with love and respect.

In my ongoing quest to reduce the amount of stuff in my life I am taking the step of finding good homes for many of my cherished possessions.  A few items will most certainly go to my children, grandchildren, and nephews, but I will make sure it is a good and meaningful fit for both the items and the heirs.  Other items will go to people who will realize the value and meaning of them, either to add to their own collections or give to someone else who will love and cherish them.  And I’ll have peace of mind knowing my cherished possessions will be cherished by someone else after I’m gone.


My Path to Minimalism

Several years ago I had my kitchen remodeled.  Everything had to be taken out of the old cabinets and the kitchen completely emptied of all contents… like we were moving…but instead of putting everything in moving boxes and taking it out of the house I had to find another place in the house for all of it.   This forced me to look at every single item I had stored in the cabinets and drawers, many items I had not used (or even seen) in years.  This was a good opportunity to weed out, throw out, give away… which I did with no holds barred.   When my new kitchen was complete I put things back in my brand new cabinets and… I had some shelves that had absolutely nothing on them!  Empty shelves in kitchen cabinets!  A liberating feeling to be sure.

I have since taken my empty kitchen shelves experience to a whole new level… the entire house.  Over the past couple of years I have gone through every room, every closet, every drawer, every shelf, every underbed storage container.  I have been merciless in getting rid of excess baggage in the form of clothes, jewelry, accessories, books, toys, furnishings, kids’ school projects (from 30+ years ago), more kitchen items, and even some memorabilia and family items that were stored away that I’ve come to realize won’t hold any sentimental value to anyone once I’m gone.   And I feel good about it.   I feel so good about it that I want to share the good, liberating feeling with others.  Minimalism is what it’s called, and minimalism is freedom.

The secret of happiness is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy LESS.