Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Great Kitchen Clean Out of 2012

There is a New Age belief that whatever you give out comes back to you, not just emotionally but materially. For example, if you give a lot of money to charity the universe will reward you with lots of money. Not really sure about that but over the years I've given away a lot of things to charity. I also seem to be constantly being given things. Or more accurately perhaps, inheriting things.

When my grandmother passed away in the U.S. I'm not entirely sure my mother gave any of her stuff away. Several months after her death large shipping containers full of my grandmother's things arrived on my mother's doorstep. We had great fun looking through it and picking out what we wanted. My mother kept most of it and lived alone in a three bedroom house in which every piece of furniture, nook and cranny was stuffed with things. It's hard to let go of your mother's things, even if that's all they are: things.

After my mother passed away my sister and I spent a day together in her kitchen dividing up her kitchen things. It was like Christmas. Most of what I took wasn't so much because I wanted or needed it; it was because it reminded me of my mother or grandmother and, therefore, created a link to someone no longer in my life. In addition to that, some of the things I took seemed like a good idea at the time...

With Footprints came gratitude and with gratitude came the realisation that I had more than enough material things in my life. Furthermore, no amount of material objects was going to either bring back my mother or grandmother or strengthen the bonds I already had with each of these wonderful women.

That being the case, Husband and I spent the past two days culling in the kitchen. And I mean culling. We have boxes and boxes of things we don't use, need or love to give away to charity. I think there is more stuff in the boxes than in our kitchen cupboards now. The only things I've kept of my mother's or grandmother's are the ones I actually use. The exception is my grandmother's spoon rest which I used to use but kept breaking. The lines where it's been repaired are glaringly obvious. Nevertheless, I intend to buy a plate stand and proudly display it on my now bare kitchen counter. I just love that spoon rest and every time I look at it I think of happy times in my grandmother's kitchen which was the hub of her house. Oh, and her coffee cup is on the counter too, holding chopsticks. (We eat a lot of Asian cuisine. Not sure what she would think of her cup's current use but I rarely drink coffee and tea doesn't taste good in her coffee cup.)

Husband and I feel tired but liberated. The feeling after de-cluttering is akin to having a weight lifted off your shoulders. Furthermore, I feel great that our unwanted stuff may find homes where it's loved and help a charity at the same time. I just hope that the so-called laws of the universe don't give me lots of new stuff to fill the gaps. I like the gaps.



  1. Oh Rachel - the memories contained in the 'stuff'...but you're quite right; those things don't bring back the people themselves. However, I carry the tiniest of my mother's notebooks in my (you may remember) equally tiny handbag - the rest are in a boot box in the top of the wardrobe - one box that never goes into storage. I also have her comb in the toilet bag that goes with me whenever I travel. I always wear her wedding ring and two Indian bangles set with shell. I don't have kitchen things of hers, but my own kitchen collection is full of things she gave me - including my beloved porridge spoon, which is like hers - hand-carved by an old, old man who lived down in Willunga somewhere and carved them from olive wood. No two are the same, but they all have a wee, grizzled old man's head on the end of the handle. And the other day, finishing the umpteen millionth scarf (or so it felt), I dug the turned wooden needle case that's closed with a silver thimble (Mum's) from the drawstring sewing bag (dear friend of Mum's) and dug out the sewing up needle (also Mum's) from my knitting basket and sewed in the loose ends.

    Your post made me realise how many memories I have invested in these treasured bits and pieces. I'm mopping tears as I type... And yet - each time I move house, all too frequently, I'm reminded, with all those extra boxes, that it is still just stuff...I'm just not ready to hand it on - cos there's lots more that isn't actually being used...
    K x

    1. This was stuff I'd forgotten I had that had lost its hold on me. I'd also forgotten about the spoon rest and coffee cup but, as soon as I dragged them out, I knew I wanted to keep them and display them.

      I like the fact that you can rattle off so many of the things from or of your mum that are so important to you. :)

  2. This is a battle I never got to fight. I was raised by my grandmother and great-grandmother (maternal). When great-grandma died, it was a Wednesday, and I had just started a new job. For that reason, and because I knew I would be all right until I actually got to the house and saw for myself, I just kept on going to work. By the time I got to the house on Saturday, Grandma had sold everything to an estate-sale agent (don't know the actual title), and all I got to remember the woman who raised me was an opal ring; we were the two October babies in the family. Same thing happened when grandma died. She had a long illness and finished her life in a convalescent home, and mother sold everything she could find a buyer for, probably to pay for the home. All I have to put my hands on to crystalize my memory of grandma is an art-deco ashtray she had back in the 50s. It's a vivid reminder from my childhood, but that's it. Some people cut those ties easier than others, and I would hope that I could have done what you've done, but having it all torn away without being consulted puts a whole different perspective on it, and I hope you haven't done something you'll regret later, but at least you got to make the choice...

    1. Strangely enough, I can relate to that. It's pretty much what happened on the other side of the family. Like you, I have one or two things.

    2. Rachel, this is the most beautiful piece of writing I have read on your blog so far. Not just for the emotional nature of the subject, but for the way you have structured each paragraph, gently leading to profound sentiments.
      I especially love the fact that you have repaired the spoonrest (so many times - so many family stories and shared experience in there) and put it on display. It represents so much and is a tangible link to your family's past. By putting it on display it encourages your own children to remember who they are and where they come from.