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Got stuff coming at you from both ends – kids and parents? Feel like the peanut butter and jelly mushed in the middle of a generation sandwich?
Well, I do. I’ve got stuff coming at me from my mom and dad—80 years of collections and counting—as well as stuff I still can’t shake from 26+ years of parenting. Bottom line, it’s a lot of stuff.
Until recently, I felt that having lots of stuff required having bigger spaces and storage, lots of storage. The responsibility fell on me to keep it all and be ready to receive more if or when my parents are gone and as my kids move out but are not yet willing to “receive” their stuff.
Times and circumstances changed quickly for me, however, and my “storage unit” mentality shifted from “more is better” to “why do I have all this stuff, and do I really need it.” I have moved and downsized twice over the past three years, forcing me to take a hard look at what I have, what I need, and what I want to keep for my kids. Thankfully for me, Artifcts came into being just as I was embarking on my first downsize.
What I See Now When I Look at My Parents’ Stuff
On my mom’s side of the fence, she has lots of stuff. Some of it is really important—mementos of her early days with my father, pieces of family history she’s carefully curated over generations. She is certainly the family-keeper. Other things are, well, I assume just things. The problem is sometimes I’m wrong.
Take for instance a brick that was tucked in the back of her hutch. Family heirloom or home improvement project gone awry? Family heirloom! Turns out it is a brick from the church she and my father were married in way back when. HOW was anyone supposed to know? Even she admits that she only told me the story when I had the brick in my hand, ready to put it in the garbage bag. Family history crisis averted. Family history Artifcted.
I’ll give my mom a lot of credit—she’s Artifcted over 200 items, a lot of them we’ve done together, or she’s done with her grandkids. She’s led the way in capturing and sharing our family history through Artifcts. I know she has a lot more to do, and I am hoping to get other family members involved in helping her in the months ahead.
My older brother retires in a few months, which I think makes him the perfect person to pass the baton to as our family history documenter/Artifcter. As he combs through the generic and obvious stuff, I’ll ask him to put aside anything with a possible story or deeper meaning. The 12-year-old food cans in the cupboard are trash. But what about the vintage kid art (did I make that?), the scraps of cloth in a bin (unfinished baby blanket?), or gold Egyptian hieroglyphic pendant (travel memento?). Those unknowns must have a story behind them. We are lucky that our mom is still with us, and that she is there to tell us the stories as we decide what to the keep, toss, or donate.
The Kids’ Items Got Some Tough Love, Too
On the kid’s side, oh – that’s the guilt factor! I have those odd drawings, the report cards, the clay ceramic blobs shaped like an abstract [insert word here]. The kids just look to their futures and walk out of their rooms without even dusting. After months, you go in and look around and find things that you wish you hadn’t found. Then, you realize they’re not coming back to clean it out. Then you realize you’re moving and they’re still not coming back to help.
For me, I packed up what I thought was important and then started Artifcting the things that I knew were important but would sit in a box FOREVER if I hadn’t Artifcted them. What’s the point of boxing things up if you’re never going to look at them again?
Yes, the kids may get upset that I didn’t keep their heartthrob concert poster signed by [insert name of a not so famous side-stage performer], but a quick Internet search revealed it would cost more to buy a poster tube than the poster was worth. What to do when faced with such a tough decision? Well, Artifct it and be done with it! If the kids complain, I’ll show them the memory, have them add to the story, and make a real moment out of it.
The moral of this tale is simple: sandwich life is tough enough without all the stuff weighing you down. Artifct! Artifcting has enabled me to document our family stories, enjoy reliving moments with my family, and most importantly, let go of the stuff that doesn’t matter! Well, at least not all of the stuff. My wife likes to remind me that we still have bins that have not been opened since the last move, but that’s another story and task for another day.
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