Time--2017 A to Z Theme

My theme for the 2018 Blogging from A to Z April Challenge is "Cleaning the Clutter"--I might literally be cleaning my closets or figuratively clearing the excess from some other part of my life. I'm sure you can think of other things this could mean for you as well.

Always a work in progress--welcome to my blog...

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Monday, April 9, 2018

History ( #AtoZChallenge )


        To what extent do our possessions reveal our pasts?   Does what we own tell the story of who we are or were?   Or does our life accumulation only deepen the mystery?




History and What Our Possessions Tell About It





        At times I feel like an archaeologist or historian digging down into the strata of the past as I'm rummaging through my accumulation of possessions.   As I continue digging I come to the realization that time does not necessarily correspond in any logical chronology in the way things have settled.

         My previous forays into sorting and organizing have caused a commingling of the older with the newer.  Like things have been placed together in some instances, while at other times, for the sake of expediency perhaps, things might have been boxed together because of size, shape, or some other non-historical criteria. 

        There is usually no great mystery to me concerning my possessions, but to someone else coming upon my trove of material things, perplexed head-scratching might a common reaction.  There is a lot of history confined within the walls of my home, but unraveling the past through my possessions might take a lot more research than anyone might care to put into it.  My history is probably not important unless it somehow affects the one examining my history. And even then would anyone care to invest that time?

        We each have a history that is meaningful to ourselves and not to many others.   Unless we are famous or with some significance to the greater history of humans and the world in which we all live, we and our possessions might be meaningless.  Looking at a city, a neighborhood, we see many microcosms of personal histories.  No one person can study all of those histories, especially when it takes the detective work of piecing together clues by studying the possessions of each individual.

        No one will care about my history like I do.  And no one will understand.  If I get around to it, I will try to categorize and label as much as I can.  That is, if I get around to doing that.  Then, even if it is all neatly sorted and tagged with identifying descriptions, who will care? 

        Do you try to identify things you own so that others will know what it had meant to you?  If you've ever had to sort through an estate, did you ponder the personal historical significance of items?   Have you ever found something in left behind possessions,  in a second-hand store, or elsewhere that had an interesting background that you were able to discover?




     




49 comments:

  1. My mother's family has amassed a huge collection of items from long-since-passed relatives, and knows the history behind each and everything. Mom especially treated all of it with reverence, as though they were class 2 relics (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relic#List_of_relics). The more of them I see, the more I realize it's just stuff, and quite possibly something they would have discarded had they not died first.

    An example: My mother had a set of dishes that were given to her from her spinster aunt, who had in turn gotten them from her spinster aunt. These were now the "Hail Mary" dishes, where you were supposed to say a Hail Mary for Auntie Floss whenever you used them. After Mom died, my brother packed them up and sent them to his house. Nothing else was ever said about them until early this year, when I got a desperate text message from my sister-in-law, saying she found the box of dishes in their basement, and did I want them, or could she sell them at their garage sale. I told her to go ahead and sell them. After a while, they lose their meaning...

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    1. John, it is just stuff, but old stuff often becomes more valuable or more curious or both. Things do lose their meaning if some kind of history isn't established and then perpetuated.

      Lee

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  2. My father and I went through his possessions in December. He has very few as he lived on a boat for 24 years but he wanted me to understand why he saved each item and what it means to him. We had a great time reminiscing about his past.

    The realization that our treasures mean nothing to any other person can be difficult. I am fortunate I have so little for people to go through someday but they will still wonder why I moved to another continent with some of my possessions and discarded others.

    Good luck going through your things. My advice would be to go down memory lane with your things, then decide if your memories are enough and each item can be removed.

    Emily In Ecuador | Hammock Time on Puerto Lopez Beach

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    1. Emily, a major move requires major downsizing. In my mother's final years I spent a lot of time just talking to her and asking her about stuff I found stored in the house. She acted like she didn't care about a lot of it, but still she had kept it all those years.

      Lee

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    2. The difference perspectives provided by first Emily's comments and then your response Lee have caused to me come to a complete halt. I've been going through the process of trying to get my Mum to de-clutter and downsize following the death of my father. Luckily (for me and not for her children) she's found somewhere smaller but still large enough to keep much of her stuff. The things that were important to her were rarely things any of her family felt connected to. It's an emotionally tricky tightrope isn't it? Thanks for this series, it's proving thought-provoking.

      A-Zing this year at:
      FictionCanBeFun
      Normally found at:
      DebsDespatches

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    3. That should of course read : "Luckily (for HER"

      Sigh ...

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  3. My brother has an animal sticker book that our dad put together. He was never much into doing this type of thing except for this. He never explained except we think it meant something because it was all on North american animals and he came across many of these when he worked in the bush for years as a lumberman. I never thought of it but you raise something that I think I will do, namely, write down what items are important to me. My first film book, my 3 stuffed animals I have and now a 4th(my mom's favourite). When I go to an antique store or a flea market and I see war medals, it makes me sad because there is a story about each one and that is now lost to that family who decided to get rid of it.

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    1. Birgit, when I go to a second hand store I often think about the things and their previous owners. I also like to go into the house of someone who has lived there a long time and look at the things they've accumulated. Sometimes it's like browsing a museum.

      Lee

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  4. When Mom dies after Dad, we went through papers and photos. I regret now that these were not given enough importance and value.

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    1. Susan, I know what you're saying. Some of the stuff we found in my mother's possession is stuff we can never ask her about now.

      Lee

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  5. Hi Lee - 'things' mean what they mean to us at the time ... later in life perhaps they mean something else - I haven't got much - but having not got kids ... I'm giving what I can to god-children or to the needy ... so it goes - cheers Hilary

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    1. Hilary, as you indicate, things mean as much as we think they mean. I enjoy reviving the memories looking through old stuff. I can picture myself later doing this as well.

      Lee

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  6. Been through a few estates and there have been some things that make you think why they ever had them. But everything has a history to someone. Tagging is a neat idea.

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    1. Pat, figuring what draws each of us to certain interests probably could be found though a lot of investigation, but in some cases I don't know if we ourselves even understand why we like certain things.

      Lee

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  7. I'm pretty sure that whoever gets stuck dealing with my stuff will haul it all to the thrift shop. I know my precious possessions mean nothing to others.

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    1. JoJo, if you care about it maybe you should write up an inventory with information about each item if you remember anything. But then it could be it's not worth the effort and just enjoy the stuff while you're still around.

      Lee

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  8. I recently came across a sale of some of my grandmother's letters. They were written in 1903 to 1906. She wrote them to a young man who later disappeared from her life. Apparently, someone found an attic full of his old letters (just the ones written to him) and sold them to a bookstore who is selling them to Universities. I was able to get copies from the university that bought my grandmother's letters. A descendant of the man and I cannot figure out why anyone would be interested in all of his letters. I think it is because a collection of this size, of even a "regular" person with no claim to fame, will give a view of the times. I just got the copies of my grandmother's letters the week before A to Z. They are waiting for me.
    http://findingeliza.com/

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    1. Kirstin, I'd love to come upon a stash like that. My mother had some letter exchanges that my sibs and I read through when we were going through here stuff. It was interesting.

      Lee

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    2. Oh My... something I often dream about. I treasure the few letters I have of my uncle who wrote home from WWII and I've blogged on them. I kept all my letters my husband and I exchanged while he was overseas. Hopefully one day my grandchildren will be thrilled to come across them... hopefully. Kirstin I look forward to reading those letters along with you.

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  9. We just downsized from an 8 room house to a small condo on the beach. Worth it just to get to the beach, but it wasn't easy. So much collected and too much to give away, and or sell. It was easier and harder than I thought it would be. But the number of items I had forgotten that I had, and the amount of junk I couldn't believe I still held. It may have been easier for me because I've done it so many times. I've moved across country so much that you learn to downsize, plus I was thrown out of several homes when a young adult, and then you only get to take what's on your back. Not getting tangled up with 'stuff' is the best bet!

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    1. Yolanda, we have twenty years worth of accumulation in our house, but before that I had moved several times so I didn't have as much as I have now. I mainly need to organize and condense.

      Lee

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  10. Looking at things that way reminds us that history from archeology may not exactly be as we think- just as we have had to learn the hard way that most ancient writers were usually writing because of personal grudges.

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    1. CW, looking back in time is often speculative. With the written word we have more to help us understand what is going on--most of the time.

      Lee

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  11. I inherited many family heirlooms and a few years ago began blogging on them so the family will know its history and feel very guilty if they do not keep them. Even many bloggers in our facebook group took up my challenge and also blogged on their heirlooms. It was interesting to read weekly on what others had acquired through the years and what it meant to them.
    https://everyonehasafamilystorytotell.wordpress.com/category/friday-night-family-heirlooms/

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    1. Jeanne, I seen blogs written on that topic and enjoy reading them and seeing the photos. I've thought of doing some more of that on my blogs.

      Lee

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  12. Having helped clear my mother-in-law's space after she passed, I have considered your questions. When and where did she receive the items she treasured in her home? And having recently received some "hand me downs" from a friend clearing her space to go to assisted living, I ponder what my nieces will wonder when they someday clear my house. Maybe it's meant ultimately to be part of a reflection for the survivors on that person's life.

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    1. Sue, for some things we have to make up our own stories. I'm leaving some stories like this on my blogs and hopefully I can continue doing so for many years to come.

      Lee

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  13. When my mom died and we had to go through my folks' house, I discovered a box of tea pots I never knew she had. In fact, I never even knew she liked them. It was such a surprise because tea pots are a fascination of mine (I have many) and yet she never said a word to me about it. I was able, from talking to my aunt, to discover which one was her favorite. It was a blue moonstone pot her favorite brother brought back for her from the WWII.

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    1. Calens, maybe you have been fascinated by tea pots because that stash was there calling you.

      Lee

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    2. Could very well be. I totally believe that can happen...

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  14. Wonderful "H" words Lee.
    My posessions tell much about me. Especially my travelling days with keepsakes I have saved from various places I have visited.

    Yvonne.

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    1. Yvonne, we have a lot of souvenirs from travels.

      Lee

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  15. I ahvent been through many estates though, but the times I have i was wondered why do i even have so many things

    Tongue Twister for I

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    1. DeeDee, having and not having is likely an inner struggle that most of us consider. I think the more we have, the more attached we are to our possessions.

      Lee

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  16. Like nashvillecats2 my possessions say much about me and my history - but probably worthless to anyone else ...

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    1. Susan S., the meaning is something we carry with us when we go unless we've somehow left a record behind.

      Lee

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  17. I don't imagine my possessions will matter much to anyone else, but (as mentioned above) they will be remnants of what mattered to me.
    I often liken Estate Sales to visual memoirs with tangible takeaways.

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    1. Diedre, there are many detective stories in estates. I doubt whether many people take the time to figure those stories out.

      Lee

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  18. Interesting... I just tossed 30 years of journals... I opened one up randomly and realized that the same stuff was still going on! Found that rather disheartening, and didn't want to share that with future generations. Into recycling it all went. I feel much ligher!

    beth
    https://bethlapinsatozblog.wordpress.com/

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    1. Beth, I wish I had 30 years of journals. There were some interesting changes during that period.

      Lee

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  19. My girls are going to have "fun" going through my things one day

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    1. Jo-Anne, I hope I'm there when my girls go through my stuff.

      Lee

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  20. Lee,

    Sometimes when we go to antique stores that have bought estate belongings I wonder about the people and how cool it would be to own some of the old stuff I see. I think in our next place, I'd like to pick out some of these items I've seen to furnish our new home to make someone's past history a part of my history.

    ~Curious as a Cathy
    A2Z iPad Art Sketch 'Heart Hands'

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    1. Cathy, those kinds of stores are fun to wander through. I don't think I've ever bought anything in a store like that. My wife just likes to have new stuff.

      Lee

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  21. I'm at least the fourth owner of a 1910 French-English dictionary my father let me have. The previous owners signed their names in the front, though I've never attempted to Google them.

    I always wonder what kinds of stories antiques and old items would tell if they could talk.

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    1. Carrie-Anne, you should research the previous owners. You might find an interesting story.

      Lee

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  22. They would probably say I was behind the times with real books.

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    1. Mike, hopefully real books will never be behind the times. I love books.

      Lee

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  23. That's why it's best not to die. The living can't be trusted!

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