Close up Hands Tea x

Sit a bit and hear some observational stories I’ve been steeping.

You can’t take it with you.

St. James Infirmary Blues is an American folksong with multiple versions done over the years. Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Janice Joplin, The Standells, Arlo Guthrie and others have performed and recorded the song with varying lyrics. My favorite version is done by Hugh Laurie. His has the lyrics, “When I die, bury me in straight laced shoes, a box backed suit and a Stetson hat. Put a 20 dollar gold piece on my watch chain; so the boys’ll know I died standin’ pat.” By my total, that makes five items to leave the world with. That sounds about right. It’s the sort of arrangement that doesn’t leave much fuss or muss for those left behind.Hoarding

I have a friend who says, “If I die, there is one room in my house you have to promise me you won’t let people see. I’d be mortified!” Wow. While her version is not nearly as lyrical, it is definitely impressive. And not the part about being dead AND mortified… but only ONE room?!  It is my sincere hope that, by the time I’m called for an appointment with my maker, I am down to one junk drawer to contend with.  I say this, because over the years I’ve had my fair share of going through thousands of items in storage units that could easily have come from the bizarre imagination of Salvador Dali.  Boxes and boxes of never-ending quirky possessions left behind for me to decide where next to put them.  Let me give you a short list:

  • Hundreds of pen caps with no mates and pens with caps, but no ink.
  • Multiple boxes and bags filled with mystery keys of all sizes and no identification.
  • Outrageous numbers of outdated magazines with pages dog-eared or torn out, perhaps to be viewed later (along with another viewing of Wella Balsam Hairspray and Leggs Pantyhose ads).
  • Loads of cookbooks of good intentions: 1,001 Ways with Aspic / Diet! Diet! Diet! / French Pastries and Magic with Butter /Egg Souffles to Make Your Neighbors Envious
  • Stacks of religious pamphlets of all sects and decades of receipts for the IRS. [Death and taxes, all covered in one corner, right there.]
  • Medical documentation for predeceased pets from the Nixon era.
  • Questionable video cassettes that might not have an audience. Not a PG one, at any rate.

I’ll stop at seven, because that’s my lucky number and to list any more examples will just hurt my head. And heart.  You see, this past weekend, I was up to my elbows in dust mites, magazines from the 1970’s and discs to computers and their programs no longer maintained and it made me realize that maybe we all need to make a mental checklist of what it is we’re leaving behind when all is said and done.  Granted, you can’t take it with you – but, more importantly: Do you really want to leave it all behind?!

Much is being said about Marie Kondo and her book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It’s a slender book that will change how you view the things piling up in the closets and corners of your life. The ultimate goal is not to simply organize your life, but to pare it down considerably.  One of the questions that resonated most deeply with me about ‘stuff’ was, “Does it bring you joy?” It’s a pretty deep conversation to have with yourself when you do your Spring Cleaning. But, deeper still, to ask yourself the purpose of your ‘stuff’ and when the people you love no longer have you.

Ours is a society of instant gratification where we can glance at an item on a website and in seconds, order it to be delivered to us ASAP.  I think we’ve also developed an unnatural attachment to things that don’t deserve our lifetime of devotion. Please know, I am not sitting in a glass house chucking rocks either. I look around at a lifetime of books I’ve collected, magnets and mugs I’ve lugged from travels all around the world and closet spilling over with pants of a waist size I’ll never see again.  Does it bring me joy is not the first question I need to ask.  Instead, I have to break it down a bit. What exactly about these items make them so precious that I’m having difficulty parting with them?  What makes me think that anyone who loves me will treasure the dinks and chips in the mug from that TV show I loved 20 years ago, when I won’t even use it as a planter for succulents on my balcony? What makes me think that when I’m ready for the long dirt nap, that I’ll be taking anything other than the shoes and suit I’ll be tucked away in? Oh, and gravediggers be warned – I won’t let them put a 20 dollar gold piece on my watch chain. I may, however, take a few pen caps with no mates. Just to keep it interesting.

xo – t.

I’m always collecting emotions for future reference.” – Harlan Howard

It is perhaps a more fortunate destiny to have a taste for collecting shells than to be born a millionaire.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Home is where the hoard is.” – Unknown


Hugh Laurie – St. James Infirmary