Restoring Joy

Decluttering. Death cleaning. Spring cleaning. Organizing. Whatever I choose to call it, I go through this routine periodically. Although there are hoards (pun intended) of books on the subject, I have found the simple formula of organizing the stuff into three piles—stuff to keep, stuff to throw away, stuff to give away or sell—works best for me.

It’s the third pile I want to talk about. For the give-aways, clothing and small household items go to Goodwill; books to the Symphony Book Fair; paint and other remodeling items to The Green Project.

Then there are the things I could sell. They are perhaps of modest value, but they need the right person to appreciate them. Like a fearful pit bull terrier in an animal shelter, these items will be overlooked by most people. But in the company of the right person, they will shine. They will bring joy.

I could make a few bucks if I sold them on eBay or Nextdoor, but basically, I’m lazy. I don’t want the hassle of packing and mailing something. Nor do I want to waste time showing an item to prospective buyers from Nextdoor who might then want to argue me down a few bucks. Also, I remember the time thirty years ago when we sold a used refrigerator in working condition to a guy who claimed it didn’t work when he got home. He was a very big guy. He demanded we return his money. We did!

Nine years ago, I listed a set of 1971 World Book Encyclopedias on Nextdoor, free. The book fair didn’t want them, and I didn’t want to throw them into the trash. It was a few days before someone responded. The man arranged to come on a Sunday, his day off. It was the middle of a terrible thunderstorm, but he drove from Mandeville to New Orleans, twenty-three miles across the Causeway bridge in the storm, to get the books. He was a Russian immigrant, and he wanted the books for his children to read to improve their English. That meant so much more to me than any money I could have earned from a sale. I was hooked.

Since then, I’ve given old cast iron gates from my garden to a man who was excited to use them in his new garden. A sofa-sleeper went to someone from the Louisiana SPCA who saw my free ad on Nextdoor. She recognized me as one of the shelter’s board members and felt comfortable taking a used sofa-sleeper from someone she knew. I felt comfortable giving it to someone wouldn’t mind the dog hair.

A silver-plate chip and dip dish (ca. 1968) was taken by a neighbor for her church’s auction. A local silversmith replated it for free, making it a profitable auction item. Some vintage buttons and belt buckles from my mother’s sewing box are going to a friend who makes costumes. Our local Southern Food and Beverage Museum was happy to receive my small collection of mid-twentieth century menus from famous restaurants.

Most recently I posted on Nextdoor a picture of a small bench with storage under the seat. Free. I received two responses fairly quickly. One person said it reminded her of her mother’s sewing stool from her old Singer sewing machine and that she’d love to have it. It was a match quite possibly made in heaven—literally. The stool I was giving away had been my mother’s sewing bench! I’d kept that little bench for more than two decades since she’d passed away. When the woman came over to pick it up, we talked about our mothers, both long gone from our lives, and how she, as a twelve-year old child, had recovered the seat on her mother’s sewing stool. I was happy to know that the little bench was going to a good home.

One decluttering expert recommends ridding yourself of anything that no longer brings joy. I have learned, however, that in giving an object away to someone who will cherish it, the object brings joy once again to the giver.

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