The yellow plate
One of the more thought-provoking classes the extension service did in the past had a title like “Who Gets Grandma’s Yellow Plate.” Of course, it has to do with inheritances, making life simpler for the family after a loved one passes on. grandmas are used in the scenario because they often have much clutter and many possessions, and all of it has to be divided up, donated to charity, thrown out, distributed throughout the family, or disposed of in some manner. A common end to possessions of a lifetime is when the family calls the auctioneer and everything the family doesn’t want goes on the auction block. With the advent of online auctions, it’s difficult to be aware of the memories, though it must be easier on everyone and everything involved.
Those who frequent auctions may not pay any attention to the stories that can be told when they see the offerings. Those of us who rarely attend may observe through different eyes. At a recent auction for a 98-year-old county resident, it was sad and striking to notice she had several sets of brand new, still in the package, sheets, towels and even nylons (not panty hose). Undoubtedly, she had been the recipient of these items over the years and had saved them for “good.” It seemed tragic that she never found a time that was special enough to use them and continued to make do with virtual rags for towels and sheets. It would have made more sense if she didn’t want to buy new, or perhaps couldn’t afford to do so. But these were gifts. She had them. Likely someone who lived through the Great Depression when the motto was “Make it do or do without,” might live sparingly, but to not use what was at hand seems, in itself, wasteful.
This common occurrence of attending an estate auction revealed that we might want to take a look at our own lives and possessions at whatever age we are now. Do you pare down what you don’t use or just move it around to a different storage place when you do your deep cleaning? Around the farm and ranch where it is especially busy in the spring, that extra cleaning and de-cluttering may happen in the fall. Thus “spring cleaning” becomes “fall cleaning.”
The round tablecloths that no longer fit our oval table are being donated. I’ll use the others more often. I will be more diligent in culling unused articles and plan to de-clutter the closets. My husband would laugh to think I even know what the word “de-clutter” means. He says I’m a pack rat; I say I’m an archivist. And, according the late author Charles Schultz of “Peanuts” fame, the difference is simple. Packrats and archivists both keep everything, but have one main difference — the archivist can find what she is looking for.
Peggy is part of a six-generation farm and ranch family in Fall River County, South Dakota. She and her archives can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org. ❖