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Stuff, the Process

If you ever go to the Nordic Heritage Museum in Ballard, you'll find that a good portion of the main floor is devoted to helping you understand the Scandinavian immigrant's experience, from leaving Europe to arriving in the US and finding a new livelihood.

I was struck by the size of the small trunk that could be carried on those trans-oceanic voyages. Packing one's valuables for both everyday living and for the sake of remembering one's heritage was probably challenging in many cases, resulting in a lot of cherished things left behind.

On my Mom's side of the family, it was the great-grandparents that emigrated to the U.S. My Grandpa and Grandma, then, grew up as Americans, as part of the generation that experienced the Great Depression during a pivotal part of their lives. I think this deeply affected their relationships with material goods, in a way that has continued to impact subsequent generations.

It isn't just a simple hoarding tendency. Instead, I think my grandparents just didn't really know how to manage the whole process of inputs, care for possessions, and letting go. This was visible in the number of broken implements and tools that accumulated in my grandpa's barn.

My Mom, in contrast, has had much less space to work with, and so she's done a better job of figuring out the whole life-long project of stuff management. When I was a kid, the scheme was fairly simple because she was generally overwhelmed by life: if we didn't want something anymore, we added it to a big pile in the basement. Periodically, the basement pile would be dealt with: things that could be donated were donated, other things were sorted and gradually moved along.

I think about these things a lot during the holiday season. I want to be a conscientious gift-giver and not add to other peoples' stuff-management chores.

Last year, scrottie and I shipped out a whole bunch of packages very shortly before Christmas, only a couple of weeks after I'd moved to Berkeley. It was a real scramble to pull together enough boxes and packing material for the project, and I remember receiving packages and then turning right back around and repacking the boxes to send things out. I also found that there's also one thing that's worse than dealing with a whole bunch of packaging, and that's reaching a stage where one has to go out and actually PAY MONEY for packing material.

This year, thankfully, we managed to stockpile enough supplies (but not too much!) to make the whole box-packing stage more straightforward and less overwhelming. I had also accumulated just about the right amount of tissue paper, and it was satisfying to send it back out into the world again. I'm a big proponent of reusable gift-wrap.

I still wound up paying money for some small boxes, at one stage, because I just don't have the time to make my own. Ah well.



( 4 remarks — Remark )
Dec. 13th, 2016 03:07 am (UTC)
My take on the broken implements in the barn, having a pile of those myself and having inherited a pile of them from my grandfather, is that you spend Real Money on an implement, grow to love it, and when it breaks you remember how much it cost and how nicely it worked and resolve to fix it as soon as you have time, and then put it in the barn for when that time comes... and then ten years pass because you have no time. N's favorite shovel broke the other day and I fixed it Right Then and it went straight back into usage, whereas I have had her favorite pitchfork sitting in the Mad Scientist Hut for three years waiting for a new handle, which I can't replace in five minutes. Several of the tools I inherited from my granddad have what's clearly the wrong handle hastily grafted on.
Dec. 13th, 2016 06:34 pm (UTC)
I've had a sort of foresight hobby-stall happen here, where there are things that I would totally pick up, except that they require me to have a bunch of single use tools. I sent that lockpicking book I liked so much home with khallis, because he has a shop and the wherewithal to make these things, whereas I'd be buying a bunch of hand files and doing it the hard way because I neither have nor want a shop, and then the hand files would sit around cluttering up my place until eventually I realized that I was going to use them maybe once every three years and gave them to khallis. (Mayhem would also like free tools, but if I give them to him then they're still in my house. If I give them to khallis then I can still borrow them back if I ever need them but they Go Away the rest of the time, haha. Better living through externalizing your hardware needs.)
Dec. 14th, 2016 02:19 am (UTC)
I will make the case for a dremel-style rotary grinder as being astonishingly good for making lockpicks and a whole variety of other things, and only taking up a small amount of space if it's in a case.
Dec. 13th, 2016 06:29 pm (UTC)
I have had an increasing tendency to give experiences rather than things... less clutter, and you're making great memories together.
( 4 remarks — Remark )

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