The Keeper of the Stuff

Phyllis Lifestyle 34 Comments

How are we doing with our resolutions?

How many of you are already laughing? Me, too! I am trying to get organized and clean out my sewing room as my first large project. I have new shelves, and I am so proud of that. But that meant I had to unload the old cabinet so it could be moved out and make room for the new shelves. What a revelation that proved to be!

I grew up in the generation where you did not discard things that might have another use at some point in time. Therefore, I had bags of little bits of fabric, lace, and really odd things used in sewing. I also found antique garments that I bought that I was sure I would enjoy seeing again and displaying.

In the first few bags were tiny scraps of fabric so small, I could barely think of a use. What was I thinking? Was I going to cover a button? Wow, that was ridiculous! But my grandmothers would be proud. 

I am also, or was also, the proud owner of a gorgeous antique silk ladies’ robe with big lace at the hem and a tie with oversized silk tassels. It must have been for a Hollywood starlet. I remember buying it, but now I can’t remember why. As I unfolded that beauty, it began to shred. With every pull or stretch, it just came to pieces. So, I thought I would just salvage the incredible lace and tassels.

The lace was totally dry rotted and fell apart in my hands. But those tassels would be the crowning glory of this. When I began removing stitches that attached them to the sash, one silk strand at a time fell to the floor. I grabbed it all up and tossed in the trash. Done!

I found three antique wedding dresses that belonged to mystery brides—not sure how those became mine. They were tiny and very narrow. Definitely no one related to me ever wore those.

What I discovered about me was I am the keeper of the stuff. Every family has one. Give it to her, she will love it. Then guilt overcomes you and you can’t throw things away, especially if they might have another use someday. Our family has two—me and my sister. So, you can imagine the fun we have asking ourselves, “What are we going to do with all this?”

So, this year is the year to get organized one room at a time. How about you? Are you the keeper of the stuff in your family?

(Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash)

Comments 34

  1. I loved what you said about being the keeper of things.
    I am the same way and it’s hard for me to part with much just yet.
    Many family photo albums also.
    Someday I will be going through one and all and get organized.

  2. I am a keeper of “treasures” . I view my home as a giant 3-D scrapbook of my life and as I wander through the rooms and view my treasures (I am an avid collector of many things, tea ware, teddy bears, dolls, sheep, bunnies, Halcyon boxes, Mary Gregory glassware, dishes (ESPECIALLY dishes), each item takes me back to a time and place and a special memory. So it is very hard for me to part with these treasures. However, our home is full and God has gifted me with a talent for decorating and I have made things beautiful, but there is NO MORE ROOM at the inn, so to speak. So, when I am out and about and see another “something” I think I have to have, I remind myself, that something else must go. . .that works about half the time, it is so hard as I do love beautiful little and not so little treasures. I too am reorganizing each room and trying to part with some but it is like letting go of past memories that I want to hang on to. I have no family members who would want any of my treasures, decorating today is so different. Anyway, knowing that so many others struggle with similar issues is comforting in this evolving world. Good luck to us all at parring down!

  3. Your observations reminded me of someone…me. Having grown up with depression era grandparents, it was engrained in me to hang on to anything and everything that could be used at some point in time. I too keep those small bits of fabric and use them for appliques. Unfortunately, I keep more bits than I’ll ever live long enough to use. I’ve been watching YouTube contributors Dana K. White and Dawn of The Minimal Mom in hopes of changing my behaviour. So far I’ve only managed to watch them. One of these days I’m sure I’ll get around to following their advice.

  4. I have been trying to clean out the stuff that has accumulated for twenty eight years in my home. As I go through drawers and closets, I am amazed at the amount of little stuff that I have squirreled away. And I like you think why did I buy that. Oh my.

    I hate to give away a gift which is given to me but not my style. Then comes the choice of where to donate because due to COVID the little old rummage shops which were local charities have disappeared. And I would like these treasures to go to someone who would like them, but even the younger people are cleaning out their stuff. It is a constant worry which I often put off for another day, But then that day hangs around to haunt me.

    I am glad to hear that I am not alone with this dilemma. Oh Well, I need to work a few hours on cleaning out again today.

  5. Having been the only child, and the only grandchild on both sides of the family, I inherited quite a bit of furniture, china, linens and lots of “stuff”. Among the furniture pieces I now have in my home, is a black rocker which was my maternal grandmother’s. It is the exact same rocker featured on page 70 of Victoria Magazine’s holiday issue, but mine is the adult version, not the child’s as seen. It was quite a thrill to see the rocker in the magazine as I have fond memories of my grandmother enjoying hers. It was a gift to her from my parents and now sits in my bedroom, mostly enjoyed now by my cat! My grandmother adored cats so I’m sure it would please her.

    As for what to do with tiny leftover pieces of fabric and lace……think dollhouse decor! They are perfect to make tiny pillows, quilts, mini potholders, curtains and just about anything you could think of in a 1:12″ scale.

  6. Yes, I was a keeper until several years ago when I started giving away things to my son, nieces and nephews and donating to the local library and thrift stores. When we moved this year I could not dispose of all my Victoria magazines that I have since the premier issue. I will not throw in the trash but what am I to do with them? I have learned about so many people and places that I would not have known otherwise. I love them but they are taking up space. In the meantime I’m waiting.

  7. My mother always said everyone in my father’s family was born with “keep-itis”, and that definitely includes me. Truth be told, she was just as bad! Now I am the matriarch, and I have “stuff” in trunks and cedar chests and drawers and boxes — and I have given no small amount of thought to what on earth to do with it all. So many in our family have passed on, many did not procreate, so there is really no one left who will want all this stuff when I am gone. I have gifted a few things like furniture here and there that the recipients appreciated, but they don’t care about fine needlework, etc. The saddest part of an estate sale is seeing old photo albums which no one apparently wanted. I know the time has come to make some decisions about much of this stuff, but the idea of letting it all go, probably to a landfill, is just too painful. Sometimes I think it might be tempting to have a large bonfire.

  8. When my mom died, my husband bought me a cedar chest for those keepsakes. A manageable size. I love beautiful ‘things’, and also keep too many ‘just in case’ things. But I’m working on changing my thinking: Don’t love anything that can’t love you back. If I didn’t already own this, would I buy it? Simplify! Is it treasure or clutter ? Let it go …

  9. Yes I am the keeper of things, all things especially sewing and fabrics but books and magazines also. The worse is my husband is a keeper too. our house is full but when I try to go through things i fall in love with them again.. It is amazing when I get rid of anything. I have two sons and one is a keeper and the other keeps nothing but he knows where he can find things!

  10. We three are all keepers. We have a large garbage full of fabrics from scraps old clothes. We have never used any of the items. We are determined to sort through all of these items. We are trying to be more efficient in keeping things. It is never easy to let go.
    Joan,Marion and Marilyn

  11. I have been executor of three estates and cleaned out and sold three houses. What have I learned?

    I am not a museum. I finally made room for my life and my memories.

  12. Oh goodness! This bring up so many thoughts. So I will try to share just share a couple of things.

    I have family papers going back about 200 or more years! There is a ginger jar from the 1700s that has been in the family all that time. And a second ginger jar my grandmother was given by a friend who was a nun living in China. Maybe in the 1920s? There is a very, very old beer bowl from Norway that came with my great-great grandfather. And an old Navaho rug my grandmother had hanging on her wall. How can I not keep those?

    Then there is the gold bracelet that has belonged to women in my family for about 5 generations. All names engraved on the inside edge, including mine. That will go to my niece with her name added. I had to let go some family furniture, very sad to do so, but no place to keep it. Will my niece and nephew appreciate the family items that I do have and want to pass on to them?

    My step-sister gave me some very old lace from her family so I made her a lace Christmas tree from some of it and decorated it with old bits of jewelry, a string of old pearls my mom had, and some small gold fob chains. The base is a box covered with old book paper and decorated with vintage costume pearls on each corner. Wooden spools wrapped with scraps from a teal wine label make up the feet. I tea died some more of lace she gave me to make it look a bit like reindeer moss and draped that on the box and around the tree trunk. The trunk was created from paper roll cardboard tubes and wrapped in some old paper. So fun to make and she was so pleased with it. It comes apart for storing and she can use the base all year for other displays if she wants.

    Lidy at French Garden House made someone very happy by donating her laces. I’m still using things like that to make new things such as banners made with strips torn from old silk blouses, lace ribbons, saved ribbons, etc., or to decorate a junk journal. There are so many fun uses for those old bits of fabric and buttons too.

    Wishing you all a wonderful year. Love from Anne

  13. My youngest sister is the keeper in our family. She has many keepsakes from both our parents and grandparents. She has them stored in containers and has listed out each item with notes of special stories relating to each object. My mother sewed most of our clothes when we were young. She never discarded scraps no matter how small. After Mother died, my sister-in/law made a quilt out of many of the scraps in Mother’s collection. Using the tiniest scraps, my youngest sister made sweet, small Christmas ornaments for family gifts.

  14. I don’t think I ever “met a beautiful fabric I didn’t like”. I LOVE textiles so I totally identify with what you are saying.
    When sorting clothes to donate, I end up putting some in the pile in my sewing room because I just KNOW there has to be a way to reuse them (especially the beautiful fabrics like linen and silk)!
    I also have a box of squares cut from scraps which were left over from sewing projects, some over fifty years old!
    So, it is time again to do a “sort and purge”, for me, too.

  15. Not only am I a “keeper of stuff” but I also am a “just in case” person. “Keeper of stuff’, in my mind, refers to collections of precious items whether they be inherited, gifted, or acquired. These items are generally antiques, vintage or unique. “Just in case” refers to useful items that I just might need at some point in time. My adult sons roll their eyes at these purchases, but the day does come when a need arises and I can produce the solution to the problem. I produce it with great flourish, wink and tell them “See, just in case!”
    Both of these attributes do lead to my sons’ concerns as to what they will do with all of this stuff that I’ve collected over the past 50 years. My work is cut out for me to stop accumulating and start finding new homes for at least my less cherished items. Wish me success! Sue Ellen

  16. In my case my parents were the keepers of the stuff and now that they are both passed on, I was tasked with getting rid of 52 years worth of living. It’s been quite a journey, but what I have tried to do is, if there was anything that I could pass on and give it a 2nd life I did. I had 2 estate sales and have been dropping off 2 boxes of misc items at a thrift shop every Monday, plus calling the Vietnam Vets! It’s been a long road but I am nearing the end of cleaning up and cleaning out! Thru it tho, finding certain things brought back memories of a home with much love, so many holiday times and just good times!

  17. Yep, I’m the Keeper too! I have some old wedding dresses that I gladly took, I have no idea what was in my head but I’ll try to repurpose these beautiful works and I will do my best to honor the brides that wore them! My plan is to make as many quilts as I can this year and use as much of my fabric stash as I can. I’ll keep that positive thought and wish you a fun time in your sewing room, it’s the room that keeps the Keepers of Stuff happy.

    1. I too love beautiful things, especially beautiful wedding dress fabric. A great way to repurpose a wedding gown is to make handkerchiefs out of it. There is so much beautiful lace and lining underneath, not to mention the gown itself, that could be cut out before tossing. The handkerchiefs could be someone’s “something old” and “something blue” if a blue monogram is added. Needless to say, we are a rare breed!

    2. Hello Mary,

      How exciting to have some wedding dresses that you can make over.
      I have a few ideas… it depends on the size and the delightful embellisments that are on the dresses. 1. remake into a blouse, 2. a vest… maybe a long vest ? 3. A Christening/ dedication gown? 3. a lovely welcome to this world blanket? Or…for someone that is in a care facility a beautiful lap quilt. 4. or someone that is in the hospital for ??? it would be a delight to see and touch something beautiful while they are in pain.
      My mom used to go to the thrift shops and buy me wedding dresses or bridesmaid dresses, to play dress up in. The rayon in the dresses lasted about a year. It was fun! This was before the time of Princess dresses on the rack.

      Best regards,


      p.s. Even if we don’t get to see all of our ideas and plans put into actual quilts, garments, etc… just seeing the fabric , touching it and knowing the possiblities that await are worth keeping them handy.

    3. There is a group who uses donated wedding dresses to make burial clothes for infants. I don’t remember the name of the organization, but I am sure a phone call to a hospital with an intensive care nursery would be able to help.

  18. Your message certainly speaks to me–I am the “keeper” and have difficulty discarding anything. The guilt does follow when I am thinking of giving items to Goodwill or the hospital thrift shop. Sometimes I rise above it knowing that someone just might see it as a treasure. However, I keep much more than what I give away! Robin

  19. I’m definitely the keeper of the stuff. {It’s how I became an antique dealer, I think!} This year, like you, I’m trying to hone down my collections. I’ve come to think of it like this, rather than think “getting rid of things”, I know that’s silly.

    I have bundled up lots of things in bags and boxes, and donated to a local thrift shop. When I was donating, I noticed a young mom grabbing one of my bags of laces and exclaiming how it was just perfect for a craft with her young girls. So that has encouraged me to keep passing things on! Good luck to all of us…it’s a good thing to reorganize and allow others the joy of using things we have kept forever. : ) Lidy

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