Saturday, May 7, 2011

Thoughts While Spackling, or Why Sentimental "Stuff" Doesn't Make or Break Our Connections

Sentimental clutter is the most insidious form of clutter. We hang on to items because seeing them, touching them, or just knowing they are somewhere where we can access them, makes us feel connected to a specific moment in time or a specific person or feeling. And yet, these items rarely serve any true function in our lives. Instead they trick us into keeping them, because we're afraid that by getting rid of the item, we might lose that feeling or memory.

But today, as I was spackling our walls as part of our linen closet install, I began to muse about memories and moments and came to realize that something as simple as spackling a wall can make you feel connected to someone you miss.

When I was 12 years old, I lost my mom to cancer. Some 20-odd years later I still miss her in a very real, very deep way. Yet at the same time, I know she's often with me and we're able to connect in the oddest of moments. One of those moments came to me today as I was spackling.

You see, my mother LOVED home improvement projects. Aubuchon Hardware store in Essex Jct., VT was just about her favorite place in the world (that was where she requested to be taken after learning her cancer was, in fact, terminal). She truly enjoyed things that most of us do not, like hanging drywall and spackling. So whenever I'm working with tools, I always feel a bond with her. It is as though we're hanging out together in that moment. I spackle a wall, and suddenly she is there with me.

Which brings me to my point. We tend to hang on to what amounts to junk and clutter, because we're afraid of losing that connection, yet that connection will ALWAYS be there, whether the stuff is or not. The moments when I most clearly remember my mom are not when I pick up something that was hers (I actually don't have that many items, aside from photos), but when I do something that she would've enjoyed, or that was her "thing." Sometimes you have to just separate the person from the object and think "does having this TRULY enhance my life?" I think even sentimental objects must be put to the "is this beautiful? is this useful" test, just like the rest of our stuff. If they aren't, then they should go. If they are, they should stay.

And for me, I just need to open up a bucket of spackle and I'm golden! :)


  1. All I can say is beautiful!

  2. thanks for the good (almost) tears, sis (you know that means a lot for me to almost cry)

  3. Shanny-- your almost tears made me well up (b/c you know how I likes to cry... We really need to assess the weeping balance in our family!). Glad you liked the post!


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