The Cedar Chest

I haven’t quite embraced the minimalist lifestyle to the level my husband wishes.  While I preach minimizing to my clients, and I enjoy a tidy home with little to fuss over or dust, I do have a few secret stashes I’ve yet to deal with.

In the cedar chest my mother gave me long ago, that once belonged to her………..wait a minute…who has a cedar chest anymore?  I know what you’re thinking; if she didn’t have the cedar chest, she wouldn’t have it full of stuff!  Ok, guilty.  But, hear me out….because there really isn’t much in there.

As I was saying….in the cedar chest, packed carefully away, is a poncho with a matching beret my loving Aunt Jo knitted for me when I was about 4 or 5.  I remember wearing it often, but there isn’t a single picture in the hundreds of family photos of me wearing it.  I love the idea of it…..a 1970’s look, handmade with lots of love by my Aunt who loved me and all my siblings and cousins a lot.  But why do I still have it?  If I were to have a granddaughter, I doubt that I would ever be permitted by either of my sons to put her in that awful green multi-colored patchwork ball of yarn.  Who wears ponchos anymore?  But it’s just so cute, and so vintage, so retro!  And Aunt Jo made it!  How can I just get rid of it!

I also have in this treasure trove cedar chest, a hand crocheted afghan, made by my grandmother.  It is the very traditional granny square color block afghan made by the dozens by every woman in the 1960’s and 70’s.  It looks exactly like the one on Amy Farrah Fowler’s couch in the old episodes of Big Bang Theory.   Now, Amy Farrah Fowler isn’t exactly a trailblazer in all things modern, quite the opposite, actually.  But, there has been a resurgence lately of vintage, and “hipsters” (those in their 20’s, I guess), are supposedly loving the vintage look, and flocking to flea markets to find treasures like my afghan to place lovingly over their couch to create that vintage feel.  I tried to put that afghan over the back of my couch.  It made my living room look like my grandma’s living room.  Not the look I was going for.   When a 20 year old throws it on her couch, it’s a cool vintage look.  When someone older throws it on her couch, it looks like a grandma’s house.  I find the same thing holds true about gray hair.  All the rave about the cool look of gray hair is only when a 20 year old dyes her hair gray…what a cool, retro look!  My gray hair?  Screams Grandma!

That reminds me, time to book an appointment with Jules.

Back to the cedar chest.  In there I have my first teddy bear; he’s a raggedy little brown bear with bright eyes.  Quite pathetic looking though, with matted hair and a loose neck.  Also wrapped up is my first little prayer book, a dress I wore at 6 months for a formal picture, and my first little pair of shoes.  The shoes were a gift from my Aunt Lee, who lived in Florida.  My mom saved the letter my aunt sent along with the shoes.  What do I do with all of this stuff?   I considered a shadow box.  But truly, it doesn’t fit the feel of my house.  Maybe if I had one of those Victorian style girls’ rooms, but I don’t.

One of the projects I’m working on is digitizing my mother’s photos.  Decades of prints that tells the story of my life.  I’m not likely to get any use from the objects I saved, so I decided to take a picture of each item, and put it as part of the digital photo album I am creating.   This way, I can refer lovingly to my little teddy bear without sneezing, and recall warm memories of my grandma and aunt when I look at the picture instead of at the actual awful colors needled with love.

Material things require care, and should be used and enjoyed.  When a thing has served its purpose or no longer fits in your home, it’s time to pass it on.  Some things are worth keeping, for sentimental value or family historical purposes, and I encourage that as long as it is meaningful and has a place in your home.   If you struggle with tossing it, take a picture of it, then find a vintage consignment shop, or just donate it to a thrift shop for a good cause, and be done with it!

It’s freeing to be freed up from material things, and I won’t burden my two sons with the task after I’m gone to decide what to do with stuff that clearly serves no purpose in their lives.   As a matter of fact, I’m doing the same thing to them that my mother did to me, except their little baby treasures are in plastic bins in the closet.  That will be my next rainy day project, and my final secret stash of stuff.   If only I can get them to sit still long enough to go through the box with me!


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