As a confirmed clutterer and hunter-gatherer of stuff, of course I’m going to check out decluttering advice when it crops up; especially now that I’m old enough to be thinking of downsizing to spare the next generation the pain of having to shift through the accumulation of said stuff.
So, when decluttering guru Marie Kondo took the world by storm a while back, I was very interested to see if she had any advice that I could follow. She certainly had some very explicit guidelines, but when I studied them, I realised that they weren’t for me. Except for the very last and final and decisive question that had to be asked about each of the items that had survived the process until then: does it spark joy?
Thank you, Marie Kondo, for that, as I surveyed the ornaments, books, pictures, albums, memorabilia, hobbies, letters, jewellery, artifacts and other stuff in our home. Individually and collectively, they absolutely give me joy – in what they are, and what they remind me of, in so many ways. So, I decided, there was good reason for them to survive any culling; and the next generation could work out what to do with them.
That was a while ago and, by and large, I still do feel the same.
At the same time, however, now, suddenly I’ve found myself taking some baby steps towards letting go. This is how that came about. We were travelling overseas, and I very much wanted to buy something special (that is, jewellery of some sort) for each of our three daughters, as my mother had sometimes done for my sister and me, on her later travels.
However, I didn’t see anything anywhere that I really liked, or thought that they would.
And my husband wondered aloud whether, instead, I might like to give them some good jewellery of mine. That percolated for about 10 seconds, and then I realised that that was a brilliant idea. And I worked it around giving each of them something with an extra dimension: something that had a direct link with one or other of my parents, their grandparents.
To make it sort of equal in value as well as sentiment, I ended up with three pairs of jewellery items that were special to me in some way, with one of each pair having that link. I then told them about the pairs, and asked them to let me know separately if they had a preference for a particular pair. If they each wanted a different pair, that would be great. Otherwise we could make it into a lucky dip or something. Anyway, long story short, amazingly, they did each prefer a different pair, so I’ve now distributed each pair, to each daughter.
And to see how much they love having these items is a sheer delight for me. Each piece of jewellery is something that I have always enjoyed wearing, but lately was only wearing very intermittently. And I find myself feeling a rosy glow, now, to have my daughters getting that same enjoyment from them while I’m alive to see it, rather than it being a posthumous thing, where ownership comes with the sadness of loss.
As a little bonus, I also came across three items that I realised that little girls would like, so am giving one to each of my three granddaughters.
And the overarching bonus to all of that is that I can see that I’m advancing to a stage where I’m getting a spark of joy not only from holding on to stuff that is special to me, but also from letting go of some as well. And it’s proving to be such a relaxing feeling to be able to look at other items that I love, and wonder with whom I can share the pleasure of having them.
As a rider to all of that, I do have to say that I feel very lucky that a serendipitous series of steps led me up to this happy outcome, which is why I wanted to share it more widely, in case it sparks interest in doing something similar. And as a final point of interest, I was fascinated to hear – when I told a Hungarian friend about it all – that the Hungarians actually have a saying that covers it: “to give with warm hands”; that is, to give while still alive. Definitely a warm and fuzzy conclusion.