Keep – Donate – Sell – Repeat

A natural part of moving from one home to another is taking an overall look at all that you have and deciding whether or not it all comes with you. So unless you are a nomad, this is a major undertaking.

What do you do when you have to keep, donate, sell and repeat? Are you the type that can wave off a box of old items as they make their way to Goodwill without so much as a sayonara or a second glance? Or do you hold on, remembering the season in which the item was most useful?

What a crucible moment this can be, amen?


As I go through this process at my own home, the conversation in my wheelhouse goes something like this:

I could do without this _____.

I remember when Jack and Audrey used to (insert random memory about said item here).

Won’t it be great to create more space once it’s not around?

In 20 years, that memory will come to mind and I’ll wonder wear that thing went and I’ll wish I had it.

“Should I sell it on Craigslist? (No, too much work).”

Sheesh, if I keep everything, I will soon be clearing a narrow path through layers of debris just to get to the lavatory and my TV tray.

I’ll never remember this once I’ve donated it.

It’ll be a good tax deduction.


I’m sure with most of us there is an arc of thought that occurs once we endeavor to simplify whether it’s because we want to finally be able to park in the garage or because we are transitioning homes. My siblings have been all different on their arcs; one says no to most things, one considers the future use of the item and then makes an even-handed decision, and one will take absolutely anything that nobody is taking in order to preserve the legacy.

Here are a few little tips I’ve picked up along this Keep – Donate – Sell – Repeat journey:

#1 – Snap away. Take pics of things you think are awesome-sauce but just can’t be saved. My childhood dog, Maggie, was the worst juvenile delinquent in dog obedience school so when I came across her graduation certificate, I hooted loudly with laughter, took a quick photo and tossed it

 While looking through old notebooks in a storage box, I also found this:

(Heck if I remember who “Barrett” is, but look at the intensity and specificity of the scorekeeping for some serious 80’s gamers)

#2) Label label label. No matter how many times I thought I would remember what was in that box, I always lost track of it once the boxes started to multiply. This helped us quickly decide if there were any boxes that needed to be re-visited at a later time.

#3) Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Knowing there was absolutely no reason in God’s green earth to keep something, it was subversive at times but always appropriate to not spend time discussing and deciding the fate of an item with either parent. Case in point: boxes upon boxes of cassette tapes.

#4) Ask and Tell. Clarify the need, respect the decision and move on. This is something I did well SO RARELY!!


My mom moved 11 times when she was a child because her dad was a geo-physicist for Exxon, requiring him to be wherever there was new oil. This took them to major Exxon hubs like upstate New York and Houston but also to a place like Peru.

So I imagine she did some serious purging along the way. She never was much of a saver and takes true delight in a cleared-off countertop. A room looks better to her with fewer pieces of furniture in it. One of the things that was very difficult about her move to Colorado Springs when my dad joined a pediatrics practice in 1968 was the idea of staying put, never being required to move on.

She finally settled in, though, and this home has become her refuge. There were times in the winter when it snowed, that I didn’t see her tire tracks on the driveway at all – even 4 days after a snow! Settled in, cozy, home-bound and in her sweet spot. She has lovely things, many with a beautiful story. She treasures items because of who she thinks of as she uses them. Relational and sentimental.

Dad grew up in a tiny town in Southeast Arkansas as an only child, albeit with tons of cousins, aunts and uncles. Everybody knew a Blankinship in those parts. Owning quality items is important to him perhaps because of the way he was raised; always some uncertainty looming in the future as to whether his alcoholic father would be reliable.

His mother bought dishes one piece at a time, as finances allowed. Cleo was, from the rendering of her I have received, the picture of consistency in life. She taught piano, she saved her pennies, she prayed to Jesus. She was a lovely and necessary compliment to her husband. And so, my dad is sentimental about things he has earned and things that she worked hard to provide but he’s emotionally tied to little else. He is practical and linear about possessions.


And so imagine blending the practical with the relational, combining a linear process with a sentimental one. This has been our plight since September as we tackle one cabinet and closet after another.


If in the mood, my mom can rationalize well about why she doesn’t need this or that any more. And she has done a might work in letting go. But there are moments in this season where letting go of that treasured item just because it was $5 at TJ Maxx and has no family story was just not enough ammunition to convince her that she could part with it.

And surprisingly, there have been moments when my dad has been in a similar spot. He has more of a “purge everything” mentality, predictably. However, there have been times when he stops to leaf through old notes from medical school lectures or ancient documents from his mother’s bible that he just can’t make a decision. And those are times when we have insisted that he pack the item up, and enjoy looking through those items when he is in a simpler place in his life.

Here are some interesting spots to look if you’re in a similar zone:

Video about Where Our Things Go

The Story of Our Crap, I Mean “Stuff”

In summary, keep – sell – donate – repeat, but don’t lose sight of the person you’re doing it with and the point of your project…a principle we work on all the time with varying degrees of success.

Happy Purging!




Posted in Front Porch | 3 Comments

Sisters Hearts

So the hunched over crawl space walk is in the past. In fact, a lot more of this “leaving memory lane” is behind us than at my last blogging.


 We have sorted, donated, stopped to laugh, kept going, organized, bagged, hauled, labeled and sometimes stalled to wipe away a tear. It’s all stirred into the same pot. Emotions come in a rich and varied supply in this process of celebrating the past and looking toward the future.



The beauty of the home itself is beginning to emerge. The updates are gleaming. The “fixes” leave parts of the home purring in a new way. The shine and shimmer is starting to be more evident. This is the result of lots of coffee, sweat and tears on the part of many.

One aspect of leaving memory lane has struck me most acutely over the last two weekends. Both sisters have visited and really entered into the “leaving memory lane” process with their sleeves rolled up and their tanks full.

With the entrance of each sister has come her precious heart towards the situation. This has a value beyond any measurable standard. Jeremiah 17:9 tells me (even though I resist its perspective) that “the heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle no one can figure out.” And that is certainly true of mine.

I blaze into Kenyon Court with my mind on the task, my big girl pants pulled up and snapped, and my resolve strong. And yet, when the sisters bounce into town, I feel so blown away by the freshness of their hearts. They have an overflowing load of patience slung over their shoulders and generosity flowing out of their pocketbooks and calendars. They always take 7 more steps to help or file or lug or manage – no matter the triviality.

 Fresh hearts.

How to come about such a thing? This is my steady pursuit. Wrapped within this journey is a lot of fatigue and entitlement is peeking its gnarly head around the corner, as well. I long for a heart that’s unconditional, lovely, supple (eww?) and prepared for any request. But sadly, this is not something I can manufacture.

With each visit, at least once, my sisters have sensed the sarcasm in a statement I have made (how about we keep this vest? It’ll be the 40th one in your collection!), and tenderly but firmly mouthed the words, “GO HOME!” at me. Somehow they could pick up on the fact that something had soured in my heart that could only be helped by some distance, a glass of wine or 4, and a plain and simple….break.

Soured hearts.


 I don’t know if soured is the opposite of fresh but with regard to the heart, I think it fits.  Sourness connotes a foul smell, an expiration date, something past its prime – like much of what’s in my fridge right now.

How did I get here? I’m sort of smart. I have a bible. I talk to Jesus.  I have great “sounding board” friends. But my momma taught me this ain’t the right way to be. So….what…is….the….deal?

Trust me, I have laid in bed at night going over all of the reasons for my sour heart. I am busy in all ways. I work, I cook, I clean, I carpool, I volunteer, I speak, I blog (very infrequently). But so do you. So do my sisters.

In Brennan Manning’s book The Furious Longing of God I see that he’s like me (and maybe you are, too); “The men and women who are truly filled with light are those who have gazed deeply into the darkness of their own imperfect existence…I believe in God with all my heart. And I wonder if God exists…I address Him and I get discouraged. I love and I hate. I feel better about feeling good. I feel guilty if I don’t feel guilty. I’m wide open. I’m locked in. I’m trusting and suspicious. I’m honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I’m a rational animal. But I’m not.”

It’s not enough to quantify my to-do list into a justifiable way of behaving poorly. I refuse to settle into this over-ripe, life-taking pattern.

I rebuke the soured heart.

I say no and turn away from that perspective even though I’ve gotten pretty cozy in this little den of dread.

Oh! That I may I seek to understand my heart in a truer way because of the freshness of my sisters’ hearts. I love them so much. I am in awe of their investment in me and in our family especially from afar.

So I’ll leave with you that promise. I’ll work on submitting my heart to the One who is the Renewer – no matter my hearts’ smell or expiration date.

(note to self on next blog post: explore the comparison of refrigerators and hearts – a situation for which no amount of baking soda can compensate.)


Posted in Living Room | 3 Comments

The Crawl Space Crawl

This weekend is momentous because we are planning to clear out the crawl space. Some people don’t know what a crawl space is. All I can tell you, since this is my childhood home from the age of 1, is what the Kenyon Court crawl space looks like.

Not many people can stand in the crawl space at Kenyon. The ceiling is about 5 feet high, max. A recipe for back problems, for sure. This is why we send the kids in there the grab items of seasonal importance if at all possible. Here’s what it looks like when you do the crawl space crawl:

The crawl space is in the basement of the house. The air is different in there. Is it the cherished memories and the seasoned history? No. It’s just a bunch of old stuff that hasn’t been ventilated well for too long.

It’s just a big & long space. I would estimate (poorly, I’m sure) that it is about 100 feet long. It is to me a marvelous symbol of walking literally through the years as you do your “hunched over – slipped disc walk” down this longer-than-it-is-wide cave.

It’s literally loaded with the old treasures of many people– even people who aren’t in our family, oddly. It is almost as if, when a life-change happened, we needed to pare down, change it up, simplify.

We did not, however, think we need to throw these items away, nor did we ever think about them again; it’s that strange life crossroad. And when you come to that transition intersection (at the corner of Worn Out Avenue and New Dream Boulevard, perhaps) this is the kind of place where you make decisions.

For instance, you decide you’re not really a skier anymore, so you can store your ski gear. Of course someday you’ll pick it back up again because, of course, ski gear never changes. Those good old straight sticks will be just as fast going down the slopes as the guy with the new parabolic fiberglass jobbers. You get the picture, I’m sure.

We drop things off with hopes for returning to them again. And most of the time, that transition or intersection we found ourselves in, mean a pretty permanent change in our life style and life choices. If we knew it at the time, the full breadth of what this new place would bring, we wouldn’t be able to handle it. The progressive revelation of what change means in our lives make the crawl space a really important place. I safety valve for the possibility that we could return to that old pastime if needed.


And so this place is a disorganized time capsule at best and a hoarders dream at worst.



We’re already gearing up for the many concentrated conversations that will have to happen with my parents about what is “keep” and what is not. May they be conversations peppered more with funny memories of people long past in the timeline of our family than the stark, transactional “what pile does this belong in” transaction.

And of course I wish the same for you, when you find yourself in your time capsule clean out moment.

I’ll let you know how it goes – if I can crawl out of the crawl space intact, that is.

At what intersection do you find yourself these days? What are the street names? (This could get entertaining).


Posted in Storage | 3 Comments

The Story of a Teacup

Perspective is crucial if there is any hope for optimism.

This is the gist of the message I heard former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice implore to my heart as I sat in a conference last week. So, my pal “Condi” (I mean, it seems like we could be friends so let me pretend, will ya?) is a powerful woman with sound credentials, years of civil service racked up and by most accounts, a worthy leader in our time.

She has conversations with world leaders (remind me to tell you the one about her convo with Vladimir Putin sometime); I have conversations with dogs and kids mostly during MY days.

What would she have to say that could drill into my soul a message so important to the journey of leaving memory lane?

First let me tell you the story of a teacup.

During World War II, my great grandmother Maria Madi, chose optimism. She was a physician, a radiologist to be specific. She was also an artist, starting the glass artisan legacy of our family.

For a woman in that era (of any era, to my mind), she was courageous, brilliant and clear-headed – a very “Condi-like” set of traits, I’d say. One day, while in Budapest, contemplating the grim circumstances of an uncertain future, she decided that not only would she work to help hide Jews from impending torture, persecution and perhaps death, she also decided to…

…bury the teacup.

She never left her home, the teacup stayed buried. She was determined to stay put. She didn’t think the war would ever escalate to the level that leaving would ever be warranted. Of course, at some point, she realized how wrong she was but by then it was too late to leave. So there she lived, unable to move out, and probably unsafe where she was.

If you were holding this teacup in your hand right now, you would realize immediately the brittle-thin nature of this bone china cup. It was made this way. Thin, delicate and not fit for burial in the soil. In fact, if you hold it up to the light, you can see light coming through the impossibly thin barrier. I can only imagine how she got to the place of deciding to bury this little, fragile momento. Her thought process must have been one of optimism – not impossibility. She knew that one day this turbulent, chaotic season would settle, and she could come back and dig up the cup and enjoy a cup of tea with it.

My mom tells me that her grandmother, Maria, told her there was only one time when she was ever really afraid. The German soldiers were invading her town, her home, her place of hiding Jews. And she was truly afraid. The soldier came close to her, too close, touched her, touched some of her things, turned around and left. Impossible.

I’d submit to you that she had a dazzlingly staunch and steadfast view of the future! And it has translated down through the generations into a story of true optimism.

So I want to conjure up this same optimism – it’s somewhere in my DNA, right?

As our family sorts through the past drawer by drawer, closet to closet and from Goodwill run to Goodwill run, I hope my optimistic statements turn into a reality someday, like Maria’s must have.

One of my mom’s best friends, Connie Seegmiller, said to me the other day simply, “Be excited about the new place your parents are headed, and they will be, too.” Do you think Maria Madi may have needed to hear this a day or two in her storm of life? Maybe.

I know for me it was like rain hitting a newly budding seed. The only way to move from Kenyon Court – to leave memory lane – and find a new and better normal is through optimism. What’s more, I can’t play a helpful role in digging up the teacup out of the soil after “war” unless I help point the way to a better spot, pray for a spirit of hopeful change, and look for it with dogged determination in as many moments as possible.

Now for some perspective. What a privilege it is that my mom has survived this terrible ordeal – and so indeed is the act of convincing her that better is just around the corner. We’ve already felt that certain things were unlikely. For instance, there were crucible moments when we were sure Barbara would not:

 Walk again

 Eat enough to sustain life

 Talk with a “voice” that seemed hers

 Live.

As we help my parents walk this strange road, I know victory is possible.

Namely, it is possible for God to be glorified and for us to honor Richard and Barbara but the path is difficult – not easy,

long – not short,

arduous – not carefree.

Was Maria Madi’s teacup ever half empty? I doubt it.

As a continuing part of her message, my pal Condi, went on to say that it is a privilege to struggle, that victory is possible. That through perspective, things that seem impossible now seem inevitable to her because she never accepted the status quo.
The message from both my great grandmother and Ms. Rice are the same;

Courage, optimism and the perspective to help the two along.

And what a resilient teacup! Here’s a pic of the precious family relic:

“…Weeping may endure for a night. But joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5.

Posted in Kitchen | 4 Comments

Foregone Conclusion

To start things off with a foregone conclusion seems backwards, no? I agree.

So what is our conclusion as this blog begins and why is it foregone? Not sure. It’s just what landed on this screen. My fingers typed it. A biological imperative. Maybe that part’s a reach, I’ll cop to that. Of all the things I do not know, I know for sure that the path to starting this blog started on June 10, 2011. My mom and best friend had a massive stroke. This was traumatic. But so was the decline of that idyllic family portrait I had created in my head. Traumatic.

Now, as we head out of crisis since her and my father’s health have ceased to be alarming to us, their house needs to be emptied, sorted through, and sold.

A foregone conclusion to most. Imminent since the stroke to many.

But not to me. Not to my sisters and brother.

4815 Kenyon Court was ~

  • 4-square in the driveway
  • tennis against the garage door
  • ridiculous snow shoveling dread
  • stockings hung on the moss rock mantle
  • family crafted art glass everywhere
  • warm summers eating on the deck
  • vaulted ceilings, obtuse angles, modern
  • cold winters putting on more warm layers
  • long summer days working for slave wages in the yard
  • playing office for hours with carbon paper message minders
  • sunday night spinach soup surprise
  • a black lab afraid of linoleom
  • two or more (children) cuddled up in the insulated dog house
  • hearts tournaments on Turkey Day
  • big vitamins little throats could barely swallow
  • toilet paper in the trees
  • old, dependable cars
  • long road trips concluding with the warm sense of “home again”

This list makes the foregone conclusion of the house being sold seem laughable. Why? We will never associate the walls of Kenyon Court with a real estate decision. It is, simply put, a house we have loved and memories we have locked deeply into our hearts.

A house and its memories and the two have clasped hands.

Saying good-bye to a home and its’ legacy. Leaving memory lane, in essence. What did it mean to us? In my heart, it’s a foregone conclusion that this blog exists so I can navigate the path toward healing, living and celebrating legacy. Maybe by reading you can vicariously help me sort through it all – one drawer at a time.

Thanks. A little company as I leave memory lane sounds nice.

Posted in Front Porch | 10 Comments