In October, I offered to host our family’s Thanksgiving celebrations each year from now on. My parents thought it was a nice idea so the tradition has just been passed on. That was really the first part of my gift. A few other gifts I hadn’t expected (but love!) showed up with my parents when they arrived on Thanksgiving. Two were from the earliest Thanksgiving holidays of my life and the other more recent. This is the warm and wonderful part of downsizing and simplifying – you pass along your favorites, your legacies, your essence to those you love.
For any of you thinking about weeding out, decluttering, downsizing-in-place or downsizing for an eventual move, I’d like to offer some inspiration or motivation. I’ve written about what it means to the one who receives items you may no longer need. But chosen carefully and given to the person you think will love the items as you had — this is the warm and wonderful part of downsizing.
The turkey centerpiece – not an elegant little guy compared to the China place settings, gram West’s water goblets and other placeware passed down from both families, this little turkey arrived on our Thanksgiving table at least 10 years ago. You get to an age where you really think it’s ten years, when actually it was twenty, so I’ll just say this was during my adult life, sometime!
He had quite a home on the table, surrounded by a cornucopia one year, fruit another, Fall decorations another. And sometimes he got to sit on a silver plate. So I now have a centerpiece for my Thanksgiving table– who will need fruit, Fall decorations and a cornucopia — or something I dream up as part of my tradition. The kids here at Thanksgiving got a kick out of him, sitting in the middle of the dinner table! So he’s a hit and will live a long, long life.
An older gift from my childhood and also from my mother’s childhood is the book The Pilgrim Party. Published in 1932, the book is in terrific shape (including the shipping tape binding we added one year). My mother wrote her in name in it when she received it as a child. Seeing her signature is part of what’s precious.
The creamed onions mom brought for dinner are also from my childhood. These were served in special delicate bowls, only on Thanksgiving. And I believe the recipe started with my great grandmother.
So the book and the creamed onions quickly bring back older memories. A favorite book in college was Marcel Proust’s, Remember of Things Past. In the first volume, the aroma of the French pastry, the madeleine, brings back a flood of memories for the main character.
The pilgrims book and the creamed onions are my madeleines for Thanksgiving.
I go way back to my grandmother hosting large Thanksgiving dinners, including my great grandmother and great aunt. I was around the ages of 5-9. Everyone sat and read this book to me. We three West children were the only grandchildren at that time. And even at that, my younger brothers would have been quite young — plus I was the only girl. So yes, I might have been getting lots of attention! The creamed onions: well, you knew which holiday it was when you saw them on the dining room table!
So this year, as you put away your Thanksgiving pieces and open up your Christmas or other holiday decoration boxes, ask yourself a few questions if you’re trying to simplify:
What do I use every year; which are my favorites? Keep.
Which items have stories — and which have stories I’d like passed along the family; Keep or give away with the story. Take a photo if you want to keep the memory, or photo with a story of what happened when you gave the item to someone — their reaction, what they said, how you felt.
Which items do I keep “just because” someone gave them to me (do you love them? Can someone else use them if you don’t? Yes. ) Give away.
What is the essence of this holiday to you? Those are the items you want to keep — or pass along, if you’re passing along the traditions and hosting of the holiday.