Between Rocks and Hard Choices

Rock Collection

What should I do with all the pretty rocks my children and I collected over the years? It doesn’t make much sense to pay to move them all, so I have compromised and separated out a few. The rest will go out in the back yard to be discovered by someone else’s children.

The physical part of packing up my house doesn’t bother me much, although hauling boxes of books up from the basement is no picnic. No, the really hard part is making decisions about which things to keep.

Some things were easy enough to part with. I already wrote about the golf clubs and the cross-country skis that I disposed of. Prior to that, I had spent weeks digitizing photographic slides, and now all those slide reels can go in the garage sale. Also, I downloaded my CDs to iTunes, and the originals have gone to recycling and thrift stores to be enjoyed by other people.

I’ve re-homed my entire book collection, too. It’s gone. All gone. I used to be quite proud of my library, but it had become a burden. I’ve tried to spread the wealth, so some went to thrift stores, some to the college library, some to the municipal library, and some to friends. The remaining few that I discover around the house are going in the garage sale. After that, I’m done with lugging books around forever. That feels surprisingly liberating.

In my home office I had files related to courses I formerly taught. I thought that maybe, just maybe, the college might call me to teach one of them occasionally, but that didn’t happen. So, those things had to go. All the binders are going in the garage sale, and the hundreds of pages of notes are in the blue box for recycling. Writing that in one sentence makes it sound easy, but eighteen years of class preparations don’t leave without a struggle.

Yesterday I put all the feedback from students into the blue box, too. I was reluctant to part with all the lovely compliments and occasional insults until I remembered that I had a colleague who never even opened the envelopes that the feedback came in. He was right. Some feedback–even complimentary feedback–needs to be put in its place.

I just took a look at the cupboard where I keep plastic containers, light bulbs, and batteries, and decided not to do anything about them today. I did rearrange everything so that I could see what was at the backs of the shelves, but then I put it all back again. Yes, I know; failure to make a decision is a decision in itself. I may just take them all and when I get to the new house find out which ones I still need.

My children have given me some guidance in this, but they have their own clutter to sort. They did ask for some of the books, but gave me no idea what to do with the storage shelving units. Should I use them to display things in the garage sale or take them apart and move them to the new location? I don’t even know where I would put them, but maybe they will be useful.

Before I do anything with the shelves, though, I have to decide what to do with all the things in the garage and basement  that are currently on those shelves: gear for house painting, miscellaneous tools, children’s drawings, tarpaulins, gardening equipment, plant pots, electrical cords, remote controls for electronics, an artificial Christmas tree, the doll I had as a child, all her clothes, picture frames, candles, extra dishes and drinking glasses, more Christmas decorations, articles and diaries I have written, drawings my husband made, and so on.

As I pick up each thing, I try to separate the emotional attachment from the practicality of the move, but as time goes by that is getting harder. So, I put things back in their boxes and back on their shelves. Like Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind, I’ll think about that tomorrow. Or, better yet, I’ll have a moving company just pack it all up and move it for me.

Yes. Good decision.


  1. I can completely relate to this, not from moving, but from when we closed our store after 21 years. I have a friend in the home dec and painting business who starts all of her clients off with de-cluttering. She told me to touch each thing and separate it into three categories or boxes. “Love it, want it”, “Wouldn’t miss it if it were gone”, and “can’t decide”. With the “can’t decide” box ask yourself if you didn’t have it, and it was in a garage sale, would you buy it? I found this so helpful and my house no longer feels like it’s closing in around me with “stuff”.

  2. How lucky are your friends who’ve been given your gifts of books and other treasures. It’s a very kind, connected way to declutter and lighten up.
    In the last three months, I’ve helped three different sets of friends move. Each of them struggled with what to keep and what to share or toss. None of these had a specific solution, and maybe that’s why they needed help from friends.
    After these experiences, I’ve been motivated to keep after my own clearing practice. I cleared one fourth of my closet of clothes I haven’t worn in a decade. (Or longer!)
    I also remembered a Voluntary Simplicity meeting I once attended on stuff. The main thing I learned is that the easiest way to get rid of things is to have a partner that you trust enough to choose what they will clear. From all accounts, it’s a relationship challenge !

    1. I love the phrase “voluntary simplicity.” I don’t have a life partner, but I do have some good friends who have offered to help with this. I should take them up on their offers.

      It’s a good idea to maintain a steady practise of decluttering regularly. I thought I was doing that, until it came time to downsize and move!

  3. Thanks! The movement around Voluntary Simplicity was boosted by the author Duane Elgin with a book by the same name. It’s one which has sparked a lot of awareness about our own choices and values around what we consider to be important – material or not. I’ve heard similar ideas in Feng Shui and Mindfulness about simplifying such that we’re managing our time, money, and space in a way that reflects what we consider important. To my chagrin, I’ve thought I was doing this all the time, and in looking more closely, have noticed that my “all the time” includes a lot of clutter of various types.

    Some time ago, I came across this little poem about Things which I hope you enjoy:

    I also like this quote by Kahlil Gibran in The Prophet: “Therefore give now, that the season of giving may be yours and not your inheritors’”


  4. I took a bucket of Lake Erie rocks to each house I lived in, picked carefully along walks with my parents and children. We always chose to have a rock garden and the little rocks or glass pieces were put in glass jars. 🙂

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