The message to aging Boomers is that our kids don’t want our stuff. OK, got it. There is even “Swedish Death Cleaning.” No lie. Basically, you begin decluttering in your 50s or whenever you get around to it hopefully soon enough so you complete it before you die. And, the premise is you get rid of useless crap and pass on those things that hold memories. But, let’s circle back to the “Boomers, your kids don’t want your stuff” message. I feel like I’m in a damned if I do and damned if I don’t loop here.
This legacy of things I possess holds a lot of memories for me, but virtually none for my children. My mother, now 100, is in assisted living and a few years ago all of her stuff became my stuff. My mother, a lifelong sewer (seamstress, not an underground plumbing system) accumulated enough thread, notions, thimbles, sewing machines (yes plural) rulers, cutting mats, cutters, various sized ironing boards, hams (things you iron collars, sleeves et al on), thread pullers, scissors (oh golly do I have scissor), and fabric that I could likely open a store.
Let’s take thimbles and scissors as an example:
There are scissors that are for cutting fabric and those for paper. You never ever, ever, EVER use the fabric scissors to cut paper as paper will dull them — and so in a way paper beats scissors over time.
This was drilled into me from childhood and there were times, when I really needed to cut out a photo or wrap a present and well, the paper scissors were God knows where and just this once, could it hurt? “Candy? Were you cutting paper with my good scissors?” How did she know that? Using the pinking shears to cut paper was an even greater offense as they are not as easy to sharpen, I guess. I never asked, but I was in a world of crap the day I made some really delightful little shapes that I was gluing on some paper. I mean c’mon give me an A for creativity, not a lecture on the cost of pinking shears. My father was somewhat amused, however too large a smile on his face and he’d have been in the dog house with me.
I now own many of these scissors. Old scissors that I remember having been the good scissors. I remember the little scissors as having been allocated as my own personal scissors when I was a little girl. There are newer scissors that are now the good scissors that I have squirreled away in the sewing machine drawer, hidden, a treasure of value known only to me. Kind of. Once, when my husband was looking for our ever vanishing kitchen shears, he drifted dangerously close to the cache and I had to reveal that yes, there are scissors in there, but they are not to be used for cutting anything but fabric. “But you don’t sew!”
But I might – one day. I mean I did, may want to again. I have ideas.
Thimbles. Thimbles, little cups of plastic or metal that protect ones fingers when one is hand sewing. Hand sewing — threading a needle and stitching hems, finishing garments, or doing embroidery or needlepoint. Not sure many people even use them anymore. I have a collection of thimbles. I remember my parents using them. The large ring one was my father’s. He was a tailor.
I was born into a world of fabric. In fact fabric, fiber, weaving, cloth, have been metaphors for my life, and words when I first starting writing poetry. The idea of running threads to form patterns in a cloth are like a musical counterpoint. My earliest memories are of my parent’s dry cleaner and tailor shop – The Governor Clinton Tailor & Cleaners, which they owned before the Catskill Valley Hobby Shop. It started out in the Governor Clinton Hotel in Kingston, NY, but then my parents bought it after the war and they moved it to Foxhall Avenue. It was my earliest playground, my home.
I was a toddler and when I grew tired I would be put to sleep in the dirty clothes bin — I mean, I couldn’t be in the clean clothes-to-be-pressed bin. My toys were various sized empty wooden thread spools, pieces of cloth, needles, thread and buttons. When I grew restless, my mother would put me to work sewing buttons on pieces of cloth.
When all of my mother’s sewing items were deposited into my possession, it took me awhile to start going through boxes and I’m still on that journey. Every item holds a memory for me.
I have darning eggs, collar point maker things (I have no idea what they are actually called, but I know what they do), thread pullers that pull thread or an elastic or what have you through a gusset such as a skirt waist (in college they were often used to hold joints. I remember seeing one once and laughed when someone called it a roach holder. You had to be there. Hell, I had dozens at home, but they weren’t drug paraphernalia), patterns — I have patterns from the 40s, 50s, and 60s — vintage as they are called now.
Where in Swedish death cleaning do these things go? I don’t know. In the meantime, they are a treasure trove of memories that I’ll catalogue and find homes for before my children face Swedish death cleaning. I hope.