|My Grandmothers' things|
A couple decades ago my mindset about stuff used to subscribe to the philosophy, "maybe I'll need this someday," now it has changed, and radically so... I have felt almost possessed by the urge to clear out. While I continue to be seriously sentimental, I have realized that the physical burden of am item sometimes overshadows the underlying meaning or memory of the memento.
When these periodic purge-modes take hold, they get me to shed all sorts of possessions that have been languishing in dark corners or no longer benefit my lifestyle. While it is tempting to pawn some of these things off on my kids, I realize that I am doing them no favor by just shifting junk around through households.
I have been to many estate sales that were cluttered with the detritus of a long life; so many tchotchkes, years of "Precious Moments" figurines gifted when the family couldn't decide what to give a Mom for holidays. Believe me, estate sales are littered with useless stuff that cost hard-earned cash to purchase, yet is not worth $1 for anyone to buy on the second-hand market. That theory also applies to "Beany Babies," Hummels, Christmas plates or any other collector special edition knickknack.
I buy second-hand frequently, because I look at it as an effort to reduce, reuse and recycle, but trinkets from another person's life are rarely valuable outside their family. Occasionally, I will buy something to collect, but I have learned the best collections are intensively curated, not overwhelmingly large.
Conscientiously, gathering items of interest and beauty marks us as human. Our endeavors to possess or preserve something precious is a trait even Neanderthals demonstrated, buried with their artifacts. It was only when the elite began gathering treasures that the value of stuff started to be ingrained into all levels of society.
By1884, Lt-General Augustus Pitt Rivers had collected 22,000 cultural artifacts whose donation to the University of Oxford https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pitt_Rivers_Museum started an era of museum acquisition and private collections of "curiosities." In the U.S., George Gustav Heye accumulated a one million piece collection of Native American artifacts, opening the Museum of the American Indian in 1916 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Gustav_Heye . Even Sigmund Freud collected Middle Eastern and Etruscan art, considering it "an addiction, rivaled only by nicotine," see http://www.antiquetrader.com/articles/feature-stories/the_collecting_conundrum/.
While it seems I have placed myself in lofty company, all I am trying to say is collecting is universal and profoundly human, providing connection to our memories, and desires. Sometimes, though these physical/emotional links to stuff become a psychic and physical clutter; few of us would be eligible, or even invited to open our own museum. The stuff simply continues to occupy more space in our lives, add our current capacity to purchase in-store or online, and almost limitless amounts of stuff accumulate.
So, I try to keep in mind those packed estate sales, considering the stuff burden my children might face, and I happily prune out the deadwood of my possessions. Some things my kids would like now, some later, but the rest... if I don't see a need for it, well, it goes back out into the world to benefit someone else. It still seems like I have more than I need, but I'll keep weeding things and eventually, I hope to leave a tidier, curated legacy of just cool "heirloom" stuff.