Saturday, July 14, 2012

Thoughts on "Stuff"—An Interview With Tonya

I have written before about stuff. Other friends out there in Bloggerville also write about stuff and what to do with it. My friend Sharon is presently trying to declutter her life by 1000 items by year's end. Stuff is just one of those eternal challenges. This is how one friend handled "stuff" recently. 


My friend Tonya and I are the same age. I've known her since beginning flute classes in the summer of 1966, although we didn't connect and become friends until last year (in that weird, wonderful way people who ignored each other through high school find themselves reconnecting in later life). She now lives in the greater Philadelphia area, planning on relocating back here sometime in the next 18 months.

Tonya is currently downsizing from a house to an apartment, and is looking further down the road at her eventual move to Delaware. When she  messaged me she was coming here this weekend to drop off  a load of items, we made plans for coffee. We also had this discussion via Facebook:

Tonya: Last load...meaning load of stuff I don't want to move know...old kids things...outdoor xmas decorations that I won't need or use in the apartment. Things like that.

April: Don't you know that moving is a chance to get RID of stuff? I don't meant sentimental stuff, but I do mean STUFF.

Tonya: I have thoroughly enjoyed getting rid of all the STUFF in my life. This has been a very cleansing and rewarding experience. I have chosen very carefully the "stuff" that will go with me. Everyone should cleanse their life every once in a while! Hey, that sounds like a blog post!

That topic did sound like a blog post. So when Tonya and I met for coffee today, I interviewed her about STUFF.

Question (Q): Tonya, as we drove over here, you said you had a rule about stuff. What is Tonya's Rule about stuff?

Answer (A): That's easy. If you haven't looked at it, thought about it, or used it for a year, then it is time to get rid of it. Unless you are talking about mementoes of your children.

 Q: What was the most difficult item for you to get rid of?

A: My dining room furniture. I love cooking a big meal for friends and family. We shared them at that table and it reminded me of the meals, the holidays, the laughter, of telling what we were grateful for at Thanksgiving. It was about sharing. I know you can have that experience at that any kind of table, and I will, but this one represents all those years.

Q: What was the easiest thing for you to get rid of?

A: Almost everything else.

Q: What surprised you the most about getting rid of your stuff?

A: How easy it was. Clothing, shoes, dishes, stuff in the attic, like this wicker basket I had for a project that I never got around to doing. You know, just "stuff." All the gardening stuff. I carefully went through my Christmas ornaments, because there are a lot of my children's toys in there. But all the generic Christmas stuff, I got rid of. I think you need to recycle your ordinary Christmas stuff every few years.

Q: What did you do with the stuff you got rid of?

A: I held a big yard sale. Everything that wasn't sold was boxed up and set on the curb afterwards. 20 to 25 minutes later, everything was gone. I also sold my bedroom suite—which is too big for my new place—on Craig's list. I ended up selling it to my surgeon's secretary, although we didn't know that at the time we started emailing about it!

Q: What are five things you would never get rid of?

A: My kids' first baseball and softball uniforms, my son's giant bag of Legos, Gabby's red "spy bag," family photos, and my grandmother's letters.

Q: Tell me about your grandmother's letters.

A: These were letters she had written me over the years, at different times of my life. I knew I had them, but I had sort of forgotten about them. As I started packing to move, they showed up in various places—some put away in a box, some mixed in with family photos, some in the closet. There's about 20 of them. They meant a lot to me when I got them, they mean even more now that she is gone.

Q: What are five things you got rid of this time that made you wonder why you kept them so long?

A: Oh my gosh. Tablecloths. I had stacks of them and I never used them! Electric appliances, like a crock pot. I never use the crock pot. Oh wait, I brought that with me when I brought stuff over here. Books. I know, you love books and you are probably cringing. But they are heavy to move, unpack, then never read. You know, you buy something like 1000 Secrets of the Kitchen, thinking you are going to read it. And you never do. I actually have one like that. I always want to read it, but I never get around to it. So I keep moving it, thinking this time I'll read it and learn all kinds of tips and cool things I can do in my kitchen. Secrets of the kitchen that would change my life. (Laughs.) Then I forget about it. In fact, it's on my counter now—because I haven't gotten rid of it yet. Five things, huh? Ratty old toys, like really worn out, beat up dolls with no hair. Clothes that I kept thinking I'm really going to wear that, I really like that, but I continued to move it to the back of the closet. I finally had to admit to myself that I was never going to wear some of those clothes. Is that five yet?

Q: No.

A: Well, okay. (Silence.) There are things I used to do and then set aside because I got too busy. Can I add another item to the list of things I would never get rid of?

Q: Sure.

A: My flute. And my yoga mat. I want to keep those and keep them out to remind me of things I want to get back to. I mean, really get back to.

Tonya's boyfriend, who we will call TS ("Tonya's Sweetie") was present for most of this interview. Although it wasn't planned, I posed my next question to him.

Q: So how do you feel about Tonya's stuff coming to your space? What's your reaction now that you've heard her answers? Do you see any problems in absorbing her stuff into your house?

TS: Well, I'll definitely have to rearrange some things. This will probably cause me to purge some stuff out of my life. You know, boxes I haven't opened since moving in (5 years ago or so). But there's room for her.

Q: Tonya, is there anything else you want to say about stuff?

A: You know, considering I am 56 and have had a whole lifetime to collect things, there is not really that much stuff. I mean, I have my personal things—like my clothes, my shoes...

TS: Her shoes. That's a "we're going to have to build on, man" situation.

A: You know how I am about my shoes! But really, there's not that much. This whole experience has just been rewarding and easy and needed. Everybody should just do it!

Q: Thank you, Tonya! This has been great!

This is Tonya, with "TS." I don't know if that is his stuff or her stuff in the background.


Sharon said...

Sounds like I have to do some more purging! This was just the post to get me motivated again! (Although I have another 3 years before the last child goes to college!)

Anonymous said...

That's David's stuff in the background. This turned out nice April!! Thank you!!

Anonymous said...

I love this interview and its got me pondering what I would hang on to...

see you there! said...

Oh my the stuff. I'm convinced it multiplies in the back of the closets and cupboards. Interesting interview. Maybe I need to move.


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