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I am a mother, a new grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Friday, February 5, 2016


I have lots of posts in my head, and garments to talk about, and in the middle of settling in here in St. Augustine, selling the old rv in storage here and unpacking it too, I have been trying to find the time.

Instead of doing long posts, that's not going to happen, I am just going to catch up with short ones in the meantime.

How's that for a practical plan?

First one is about memories.

Miss Daisy came from a puppy mill somewhere in the backwoods of South Carolina, that's all I know. 

She spent the first two years of her life there until the puppy mill was busted by the police and she was one of the dogs in such bad shape she was slated for euthanasia. The folks who rescued her, S.A.F.E. here in St. Augustine, have a mandate to rescue dogs who are in that position and would otherwise be put down. When her puppy mill was in the news and the ladies here got in their bus and went and collected her and some other puppy mill moms.

As you know a few months later we adopted Daisy from them.

Daisy has since gone on to be very healthy, spunky, and fun. She just isn't that dog anymore.

Then on the way down here we stopped the RV for a few days at a golf course in rural South Carolina.  We had a great time, such beautiful, beautiful country.

Daisy didn't see it the way we did.

She went out for her first walk and sniffed the air and sat down and started to think. For two days she wouldn't eat and wouldn't go outside the RV much. Who knows what the wind told her, or what went on in her head those days.

I wanted to say to her that those days are past and they won't be coming back again her in life again. But you can't explain that to a dog, or some people too I guess.

How do you say it is over?

And what about the memories that are over and you are not sure if you are good with that.

I have been struggling with this a bit in my own life at home, in my house.

In my case the memories are not like Daisy's, they are good ones.

I have one sister who is very pro on the whole decluttering organizing thing. Last summer she went through my sewing room and bagged a bunch of my random stuff and restored order ( I got a lot of it out of the bags after she left I admit that). She also went around my house and showed me how to arrange things so they looked better. It was very helpful.

One thing she said to me that really struck, was that I was a very sentimental person. I was very surprised by this. I don't see myself this way.

I think it was the pairs of everyone's baby shoes on my dresser and the elementary school picture fridge magnets of  children who are now in their 30s that might have given me away.

I am one of those mothers who keeps everything if it came from a kid. 


How can I put it away? 

I try. 

My daughter, with some idea that clear surfaces are a good thing, made me remove my 25 family pictures from the mantle and start a more organized picture wall along my long hallway. This is a good idea, even if it means part of my house is like one of those restaurants where the walls are covered with a million autographed pictures and there are clear plastic sheets over the tablecloths.

I am good with that.

Now when I leave the bathroom the first thing I see is the picture taken of my middle son on the day his sister had her first day at school and I exactly want to see that.

But really how do you do this, handle the memories in the middle of the present?

I know women and books on organizing that say keep just one thing representing everything else.

What does this mean?

Put away the mask my daughter made of a plaster cast of her own face in grade three?


I am not a hoarder. 

You can walk across my rooms without tripping. No one is going to ever find cats under a pile of magazines in my house. I throw away everything from every job when it is over. My shoes are completely turned over every few years.

But how exactly do you put away the evidence of the best years of your life, when you actually have only one life?

Not saying that the present and those grown kids are not exactly just they way you want them now, but sometimes, admit it, you can think to yourself and not tell anyone, you know this is good but really I was in the zone, my zone, when I was doing that.

But do I want to be like the woman in a book I just read, an old woman visited in a room stuffed with mementoes? Do I want to been seen like that?

Of course not.

But where do I put the Lego pirate owned by the boy who will always be a bit of a pirate at heart? Away in a box?

So tell me how you store your own memories?

How do you hold on to what you need to and let go of what you need to?

Daisy and I would sort of like to know.


Anonymous said...

OK, this is making me weepy. Have been dealing with loss and memories and stuff lately and your post is helping me consider it all in a new light, but that is not easy. I have no answers. And Daisy's face at the end of this post says way more than words. Thank you.

Lynn said...

I had a different problem. I inherited all of my parents things, but they gave me no joy. My childhood was not particularly happy or joyous, but still there it all was. So hard to get rid of, but not making me happy either. It took me years to get rid of nearly everything. I was trying not to be that angry person who throws things out because they evoke such bad memories. I finally decided they were just things and not keeping them did not mean I was a horrible, angry person throwing away her parents things out of a sense of retribution.

I think if those things make you happy and give you pause to enjoy the memories happy life well lived, keep them!

celkalee said...

Wow, nothing like dealing with lots of issues at one time, even though they come from the same root problem. I think most of us have a collection of memento's that have strong memories attached, memories we are not ready to give away. I start now and then but cannot go on. Most of mine are related to the passing of a loved one. I will get to it, bit by bit, but it is hard. I wish you luck. You have a good start and Miss Daisy may have been car sick. Who knows?

sdBev said...

We took lots of pics. Converted to digital for archival purposes. To our surprise those computer folks invented both screen savers and picture frames with which to display an ever changing slide show. Works, except still have lots of ... memorabilia.

Anonymous said...

My theory is: Keep all the things that make you happy close to you. They will remind you of happy days when days are not so happy.

jirons42 said...

I made memory boxes for my kids with all those wonderful things collected inside. When they left my house (and I thought they were pretty stable), the boxes went to them. The fun thing is, they now get to share these memories with their kids. When my boys got married, at the bridal shower I made photo albums for their brides-to-be filled with pictures of each son as they were growing up. I do have to confess though that on my dresser is a clay dish made by my now 32 year old grandson when he was in preschool that holds some earrings.

Jacq C said...

Firstly I am sending you and Daisy a massive hug.
I have been thinking about this topic for a while now, there are things I need to sort out in my life, changes I want to make - some positive, others necessary. I've added to the clutter with self-help books and have been feeling so overwhelmed about where to start that I've ground to a halt! I think there's absolutely a benefit from having order and not being overwhelmed with 'stuff' but if something brings you joy, reminds you of who you are and who you have been, prompts memories of such poignant mements as you describe then I think it deserves to be stage centre in your life. X

Mary said...

I don't have memory boxes of my children's things (I still have closets filled with things like a very large wooden Victorian dollhouse I made for my daughter...), however, I did manage to keep large file folders of papers related to each child. The items vary by child with some being artwork or letters, their 1st year calendar with milestones (never kept baby books), some old school papers of significance or a report card or two (they love that, not). But when a son and his wife had a baby, I happened to go through his file. I found my notes from his birth--labor and delivery and others written in his early weeks. He is my third of four children, so it wasn't like this was my first rodeo. I handed the notes to him and he was absolutely captivated. Loved hearing about his birth and early days now juxtaposed against the birth of his first child--a little girl he adores. So I would say, keep your treasures and worry not. Maybe someday our children will be frustrated at clearing the house when we are gone, but when they find items that marked their childhood, it will also remind them of how very much they were loved.

Jan Conwell said...

Ditto above. Keep what makes you happy. It doesn't mean you live with the past in mind, it means you keep your kids close to you in your heart. If you had trouble relating to them as adults, that'd be one thing...but to keep treasures that remind you of their skinned knees and tooth gapped times? Nothing wrong with that at all. And for Daisy...maybe she is happier than you realize. Maybe her sitting and thinking was more about being grateful for her life now.

Mary said...

My older child is only 3, and I am already facing these questions, so I have no answers! But your post was so interesting to read, and reminded me of a pair of socks I kept when my father died. Socks! Why? It was just the irrational state of grief and anger that made me hold on to these socks, and I don't hang on to things for sentimental reasons. I don't have them anymore, and I don't regret getting rid of them. However, laminated footprints of my baby's 2 yr old feet? Keeping those forever! And my husband thinks I don't know that her first pair of shoes are tucked away in the back of his sock drawer. What's with socks and shoes in this family anyway?

Kathie said...

Once again, dear Barbara, you've given me much to ponder. My friends and I have been having these kinds of conversations lately and we each are coping in our own way. It is good to hear how others manage ( or not) to deal with our "stuff" be it physical or emotional. I will share this post with several of my friends.

garnet128 said...

I say if it is not illegal or endangering yourself or others then do what makes YOU happy.

With that said, I am unhappy with a lot of stuff around me. I feel like my mind is cluttered and clogged. I like my surfaces to be simple and easy to clean. Hubby's motto is 'less is better'. That doesn't mean that I don't want the memories. I have grown children and all that goes with that. And I have parents that passed away that I was responsible for all their belongings. Yikes...so much stuff.

Luckily I learned from one of those organizing shows on TV about taking pictures of what you have no use for other than the spectacular memories. All those memories are now on a photo album on the computer, easily accessed. Also backed up on a external hard drive kept in a fireproof safe, and a thumb drive. There will be no loss of memories...ever.

Family photos are on the walls...not on surfaces anymore.

Children's things went to them (after I took my memory photos).

My parents things were gone through by every member of the family, including grandchildren. Memory photo's again. Interesting that at that time 3 grandchildren were about to get married and start lives. A lot of things went to them as my parents had very nice things. We even had to flip a coin over some. Then there was a garage sale and lastly, donation to a charity.

If you are still not sure of something, pack it away with the date and contents on it and revisit it a year later. This actually really works for me. I have a box of my parents stuff that I have been revisiting for 5 years. Every year I am ready to let go of a little more.

Oh sorry, this turned into a book! Just some ideas here but more importantly, just do what feels right for you. But I think you already know that it might me hard.

SilverMom said...

My husband and I used to joke that we planned to die in our home, be carried out feet first, and our son could deal with The Stuff. THEN, I became the designated offspring to deal with my (not-quite-hoarders-but-almost) parents' home of 60-some years. Hoo, boy.

I told my husband that I refused to put anyone else through that experience. So, once a week, DH and I choose a drawer/shelf/nook to purge (little bites, you know) and it feels great. But, I will say that anything that still gives me joy, is kept. E.g., two shelves of DS's favorite bedtime storybooks. (And yes, several(!) pieces of my and Mom's stash - 50 year old fabric, anyone? - qualify as joy-giving.)

Anonymous said...

Oh dear poor Daisy, I hope she was thinking about how good life is now, but I'm suspecting she was afraid of something. Our little rescue has certain triggers that we have learned to avoid but don't understand why they are so fraught.

On the stuff front, I belong to the tiny bites of periodic editing group. A few boxes of stuff go to the charity shop every few weeks. Currently toy trucks from my youth are being considered; I photoed them and sent all the sibs a picture to see who wants what, the rest will be donated.

Kids' art work, however, will be here forever.


Marianne said...

I keep a lot of stuff from my kids' childhood too. If it makes me happy and I have room for it, I keep it. Why not? We built our house with several designated spots for treasures, and try to keep most of the ones we like to look at, in those spots. There are a few boxes with treasured things too. I did toss some things from my past recently, things that inspired bad memories, and that was very good for me to do. We can write and rewrite our life stories and the things we love from our past allow us to write happy life stories.

Daisy will gradually rewrite her life story too, I think. We adopted 2 very fearful dogs 4 years ago and we find that their behaviour is still improving even now as they steadily become more trusting. Maybe 2 years with you is not quite enough time to overcome her previous hardships. Poor little girl; I'm glad she is with you now.

Elle said...

Even for humans, olfactory triggers can be so strong. That South Carolina air may have carried some sad memories for that amazing nose.

a little sewing said...

I think miss Daisy said, "sorry but I am staying inside folks because I do not particularly care for South Carolina, thank you very much".
I have not kept as many physical reminders of raising my daughter, but the feelings are there. Did you ever read The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion? The way she describes her grief reminds me of how I feel sometimes about raising my daughter; as if I am graciously going along with this pretense that her marriage and new husband are her "real life". Duh! I am her mom and if I say she has to come home now and let me pack her lunch again, well she will do it!
Ha ha ha. Good thing I can laugh about myself. It's all good though. It once sounded cliche to me, but now I understand that in old age, memories are precious.

Anonymous said...

Clearly,the lego pirate toy is destined to become an ornament for your Christmas tree.