Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Family Things (continued)

My husband's Aunt Zelda was such a minimalist.  It’s not at all surprising that her lifetime of possessions (not including her clothes) fit into two small boxes that arrived in the mail today.

There are a few photos, mostly unlabeled.  The above picture is of a much younger Zelda.  She was quite a knock-out.  The one below is of her mother.

There are a few pieces of jewelry, which my husband as executor will distribute to people who knew and loved her.  There are some records, including her past taxes, a signed copy of her will, and some other official papers.

She lived all her life in an efficiency apartment, which probably meant she was constantly deciding what was important and what was not.

I’m wondering if by the time I die I will be able to distill the important things in my life down to two cubic feet.  I seriously doubt it, but it’s a worthy goal.

As a follow-up to my tales of woe about historical family items a few days ago, both things seem to have had a much happier ending. 

During my Monday night yoga class, I had an epiphany of a thought to go home and dig the mouse-spoiled linens out of the trash.  On closer inspection, only 3 of the 12 napkins were damaged and there was a hole in the middle of the tablecloth.  A tag on the tablecloth said “Made in Ireland for Kaufmann’s Fifth Avenue Pittsburgh.”  Does anyone know if Irish linen can be rewoven or otherwise repaired?  Maybe a serving dish strategically placed would cover it up.  Anyway, I washed all the linens in sudsy, Clorox-y hot water.  They are beautifully white once again.  And they are packed away in a plastic box labeled “From Lena Small, grandmother of David.”

The biggest surprise came today when I visited Andy at the MotoPhoto on Capitol Hill, bringing my sadly damaged large photos.  He must have seen some really bad ones, because he didn’t even grimace as he looked at those and said he could make them both look like new.  He commented that it was good the missing chunk in the photo of the two brothers was mostly in the background section and not one of their heads.  Next week I will get to see the results of Andy’s efforts.  The price is actually quite reasonable given memories like these are priceless.

One of my goals for 2010 is to collect photos of key people in our family’s history and make them more accessible to those who will one day inherit them, instead of leaving them in so many albums or worse yet loose in boxes in the basement.  We can scan them and create a digital record of our family for future generations. 

I felt good about the piles of garbage that got carted away today as a result of this week’s clean-up efforts.  I will feel good when Purple Heart comes next week to pick up the remaining piles of useable items.  By getting rid of all those things, perhaps there will now be room to better organize what is left.

It’s interesting to muse about the comings and goings of possessions.  I’m never sure just how important the things of life should be.


Blogger Cyndy said...

Organizing, repairing, and getting rid of stuff can be such a positive experience. Nevertheless I'm kind of dreading the eventual return of all of the things we put in storage five years ago. I'd be just as happy at this point to never see any of that stuff again. But it's all pretty well organized and labeled, so at least there's that.

I'll bet there's some sort of linen repair service out there that can re-weave that table cloth for you. I think there are places that specialize in that sort of thing.

3:22 AM  
Blogger Pauline said...

Go here ( for reweaving services. Or as an alternative, you could cut and re-hem the cloth into one or two smaller cloths. I've done that with a couple of my Memere's linen tablecloths. I'd also suggest wrapping the linens in white tissue paper before placing them in a plastic container.

Good news about the photos.

The constant sorting and discarding of things is a refreshing exercise. It lets you decide what is truly precious to you. I'm trying to get down to just what I can carry out in case of a fire but as of today, I'd never make it. I like just too many of my things!

7:15 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

I'm with Zelda in my affection for a studio apartment, as you know!

I'm glad you salvaged the linens -- it sounds like they're still usable. I like your idea to position a serving dish over the hole. And even if the hole is discovered, it makes a good story for your guests! (Omitting the part about the mouse droppings...)

7:45 AM  
Blogger Kristin said...

You inspire me, Barbara! This weekend I plan to tackle some of the clutter. I've been living in small places but I still have too much stuff. (Even so, I doubt I'll ever get to two cubic boxes, but it's a start.)

It sounds like you've been wonderfully productive lately. Congratulations!

7:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad to hear about the encouraging photo restoration news!

I'd be so interested to walk through your house now, and feel the cleaner, lighter, more grounded energy, after all your efforts to sort, clear label, prioritize... Does your home "feel" any different to you?


12:54 PM  
Blogger lacochran said...

Having cleaned out whole households of family members who could no longer do it for themselves, I embrace the "less is more" mentality. We have not been in the "accumulation" phase of our lives for years now. We give away more and more to charity every quarter. And we don't "save" things anymore. We drink out of the Baccarat (a present) now and then.

3:43 PM  

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