Grandparents have some special problems when it comes to clutter. The generations that pass through our lives often leave their belongings behind for us to deal with, while loving family members bestow yet more objects in the form of gifts. If you're tired of being owned by the stuff you own, Genevieve Parker Hill has a book full of good advice. Minimalism for Grandparents will help you make wise decisions about what to keep and what to let go.
Part One: The Inspiration
Hill traces her interest in a streamlined lifestyle to a fire that destroyed many of her family's belongings when she was a college student. She became a "joyful minimalist" after realizing that "value doesn't live in things." The author was inspired to write this book by seeing her grandmother fret over the fate of her belongings, many of them rich in family history. Contending that minimalism can mean different things for different people, Hill aims to help readers determine which of their belongings have a value that makes them worth keeping, and which items can and should be discarded. "The purpose of minimalism," Hill writes," is to get us to a point where every single thing we have in our homes is something that brings us ongoing joy or provides usefulness regularly." William Morris said essentially the same thing: "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." But Morris didn't provide a road map for getting there.
Part Two: The Road Map
Apparently when it comes to decluttering, you're either a blazer or a gazer. A blazer acts quickly, paring down belongings to essential items and disposing of the rest without a backward glance. A gazer has to ponder a bit and take trips down memory lane before deciding what to keep and what to discard. Both methods work. Gazing takes a bit longer, but may result in a higher level of satisfaction with the results. For blazers, gazers and hybrids, the steps are basically the same. Some key advice: Take small bites. Have a schedule. Get some help.
Part Three: Legacies
Legacies are what we leave behind. Hill reminds us that objects can be meaningful, but the intangibles we bequeath are much more important. Still, she does have a strategy for dealing with meaningful items without being owned by them: recording, digitizing or miniaturizing them. For example, photos can be scanned and then used to create photo books
or digital scrapbooks for family members. One piece of a collection can be saved, along with a photographic record of the other pieces. Grandparents who choose the minimalist route are giving their descendants another type of legacy. They've saved their survivors the onerous task of going through a lot of stuff. Hill closes her book by talking about living legacies. Now that time-sucking clutter is gone from the house, grandparents can concentrate on what they'd really like to do. Perhaps they will try writing their memoirs or creating family histories
with some of that time.
The Bottom Line
Currently available only as an e-book, Minimalism for Grandparents is inspirational without being sappy and practical without being dry. Although it's not a scholarly book, Hill pulls in bits of philosophy, psychology and sociology. Her personal biases color the book a bit. She's anti-television and at one point says that a person should be able to get by with three pairs of shoes.
I'm with you on the television, Genvieve, but three pairs of shoes? I'm not quite ready for that degree of minimalism.