Our house has a great collection of items handed down from previous generations – books, furniture, china, goblets, artwork, all sorts of items. My husband and I believe they bring meaning to our lives and help us remember who we are and where we belong. I am currently looking at things from at least three generations back, nearly one hundred years ago. They remind me that I am living the life that others paved the way for me to live. None of us got to where we are on our own, someone else paid a great price for our current success.
My paternal grandmother was the first person in our family to graduate from college, my husband’s maternal grandfather was the first one to graduate on his side of the family. We have both their hand lettered diploma’s hanging on the wall. On a recent visit my great nephew was asking about the diplomas and I told him who and the how and the when. He is sixteen and stood there for a long time gazing at the paper, realizing that someone he was related to graduated almost one hundred years ago in the same subject he is studying today. THAT is vintage excellence!
As the saying goes, if we fail to learn from the lessons of history we are destined to repeat them. How can we learn those lessons if we do not know about our history, about the people, places and things that have endured the ravages of time? In this song by Billy Joel the line, ‘is it a curse or a blessing that we give?’ expresses a great question? How can we answer it if we do not know our history? I do not believe that history defines us, it prepares us but only if we choose to learn from it.
What legacy are you leaving behind? Happiness, joy, contempt, fear, control or maybe just a bunch of old documents hoping someone else will do something with them all? Maybe today is the day you think again about all the stuff you own and decide how you want it to be handled, inherited or given to those you love? Let’s face it, it’s not about the stuff it’s about the blessing or curse you leave for the next generation to inherit.
I guess if someone is going to continue to live in the family home for a long time, and they can afford the death duties, then it doesn’t make any difference to how much stuff you leave behind. If you’re a collector or some random ‘mint-in-box’ toy that you’ve always maintained will be worth thousands, then it seems a bit mean to expect your family to try and sell it after you’ve gone. For example, if it’s sci-fi related merchandise and they’re just not that interested in it, then there’s the chance that they’ll sell it as a job lot for a fraction of what you thought it was worth. They’re hardly likely to schlep it around the fairs, shops and internet auctions to get the best individual prices for each figurine. If you’ve got a lot of stuff, and you’re knocking on a bit or think you might pop your clogs soon, then a bit of Swedish Death Cleaning would be a great gift for your family.
A curated box of memorabilia, paperwork, photographs, trinkets etc is one thing, a whole house of clutter is another.