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Warmest regards: Letting go of excess stuff

I am not a pack rat and never could be.

I am not a hoarder and never could be.

I never thought I could be accused of being either.

But now I think there might be a little bit of both in many of us.

I’ve come to realize I hang on to things I don’t use and absolutely don’t want to throw them away.

It’s more than I don’t want to. I don’t think I’m capable of letting go of some of the stuff that would be better in a new home.

My husband has closets full of stuff from his parents and grandparents. He never looks at it, never even opens the boxes. But there is no way he would ever consider paring it down or asking his sons if they want it. It all has great sentimental value.

I agree it’s not hoarding when it involves things with sentimental value. Someday, he says, it will be up to his sons to open the boxes and keep what they want.

My jammed cabinets probably hold little that will hold sentimental value for my daughters.

So why am I saving so much stuff?

When my daughter Maria came to visit this week she gallantly offered to organize my food pantry and laundry area. When she tried to put paper products in one wall cabinet, there was no room. My collection was there.

For years when I’m at an estate sale or thrift sale, I look for the colorful enameled cast-iron cookware. The Le­Creuset French cookware pieces sell for as much as $400 at William Sonoma. But a dedicated thrift store shopper occasionally makes a great find.

I found a cobalt blue LeCreuset casserole at what I call an upscale thrift shop for the unbelievable price of $9. If you go online it’s still selling for several hundred dollars.

You can bet that pretty little casserole came home with me.

My friend Jan also collects the colorful cast-iron cookware. She creates a stunning display by hanging the pieces on one wall.

Because they are heavy cast iron, I could never hang them on my wall. So I just kept all my collection in one wall cabinet.

OK, true confession time. Do you know how often I use any of the casseroles?

Never. I don’t find them to be very practical because they are too heavy to handle.

So, why do I keep them? Because I can’t bear to give them up.

Is that hoarding or being a pack rat?

A male friend of mine says no. It’s just keeping something you like. Nothing wrong with that, he says.

He points out that he has a collection of antique car parts taking up all the room in his garage. He has to park in the driveway because the garage is filled with car parts.

After my daughter Maria did such a good job organizing my pantry shelves, it inspired me to keep clearing away clutter.

I live in a small house with limited storage. That’s both good news and bad.

If I had more room I would fill that space, too, creating more clutter.

I’m finally at the point where I am clearing away things I no longer use. It took a lot of resolve but I packed two boxes with my prized colorful cookware. I’m taking them to a thrift shop that raises money for the needy.

No longer can I hang on to what doesn’t get used.

I have two acquaintances that have a part-time business clearing away households when the owners passed away.

They get hired by family members appalled to see what they view as so much junk they will never use. It’s too daunting a task to go through the stuff so many are happy to sell everything to my two friends specializing in estate clearing.

I watched a sad scenario unfold this week in my neighborhood after a neighbor’s son had her admitted to a memory care unit.

Then he took care of clearing her house that was filled with Jean’s treasures. Because Jean once owned an upscale store, she did indeed have many fine pieces.

This is how her son cleared the house. He hired a big dumpster and two men to haul everything away in the dumpster.

As I watched I recalled how Jean asked her neighbor and good friend if she could put some sealed boxes in her garage. She said they were filled with valuable things she had collected over the years. Jean packed it carefully, saying she was saving her most priceless things for her son.

I watched as those “priceless boxes” were thrown unopened into the dumpster. Her son didn’t bother looking at them to see if he wanted them.

In one clear swoop, everything Jean had saved for him was thrown in the trash.

That sad scenario reinforced for me that we oldsters need to stop saving stuff for the next generation unless we check with them. Our grown kids have their own house filled with things that are more in keeping with their taste.

I know without a doubt some of the priceless things that can successfully be passed from one generation to the next. That includes sweet memories from family times together along with a heart filled with love that was stored up through the years.

That will never end up in a dumpster.

Contact Pattie Mihalik at newsgirl@comcast.net.