I like boxes. I enjoy categorization. And I have more stuff than storage.
A perfect storage area for me would be a room lined with shelves with breathable, acid free boxes that were so well labeled that no matter what I I am looking for, I can simply go to that storage area and retrieve the particular item or items.
Personal museums are for wealthy and serious collectors, but we all have our treasures.
Most of us need spaces that validate and support our journey through life. I like to have items to remind me of good times, meaningful times, and those people that have moved on from this world.
I have an extra room now my daughter is happily married. I have moved on from the building or nesting stage of my life in which creating home was energizing and central to my life. It seems much more difficult to dedicate time and energy to creative deconstruction.
I am however developing a basic, seemingly simple set of organizational principles and actions so that I can have what I need and want to surround myself with during the rest of my life here on Earth. If I live as long as my mother, that means I have a full one-third of my life still to live.
There are two things here that I need to mention. First, I have many of my mother’s things that are sentimental but not assigned a high monetary or cultural value by society. Second, I live in Southern Arizona where, traditionally, homes tend to have no attics, basements or garages.
My challenge is then, is how to have what I need at hand, and how to have other things neatly and compactly stored for less frequent but easy access.
I see this quandary as similar to the one in which contemporary society finds itself. The process is to determine what is important for humanity as a whole without tossing out babies with bath-water.
Men have written the histories and filled the museums and barrows with tribute to the power that they enforced and guarded for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. It was not that women did not have a material culture. We did. Our energies were directed into home and society more than territories and boundaries.
Stone and metal erode or wear away over time. Women’s efforts give voice to ideas through the generations, through the stories and teachings we share as we go about building and maintaining our lives. Our societal structure is the framework within which we support our tales, lessons, and truths. Our material structure is one in which we store the tools and toys. Women have always had places to store these items. Even in 5,000 year old Skara Brae on the east edge of Orkney in the northern Scottish Islands there are stone storage nooks.
Trunks and hope chests were the basic containers of my grandmother’s and her mother’s generations as in the late 1800s and early 1900s as they loaded up the buckboard with those treasured items and maybe a chair, table or dresser and moved around the US as the territories opened to American and European settlers after the opening of western lands.
This opening was actually the unethical to genocidal removal of indigenous peoples See Trail of Tears and the Oklahoma Land Rush. I am not proud of these actions that supported the travesty of policy. I am proud that my family did not deny the problems and taught me personal history with warts and all.
I try to always remember and mention the brutal context when mentioning that in the late 1800s my maternal family had left the Anabaptist community of the Old Northwest and were part of the land rush and migration through the territories and new states of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Iowa, ultimately returning to Indiana from where there parents had lived since that territory opened.
The miscellany surviving from those times which are now in my possession took a beating during those many moves and require careful attention if they are to survive. The stories also need tending if they are to survive as more than mere names and dates.
In 2017 I managed to retrieve some items that my mother intended me to have, and some which my parents wanted preserved, but which had been neglected and ill-treated as my brother’s mental and physical health and home deteriorated far across the country from where I live.
I have spent the last year and a half dealing with a moving van load of stuff and my already overstuffed house which complicated the paring down process. I tried to inform all my decisions by the preservation needs of items and my preservation abilities.
During that time I have learned a thing or three about stuff and myself. I did not start at zero, either, as I am a Masters level anthropologist, a genealogist, and have a couple of decades under my belt working in research libraries and museums.
All of this combines into valuable information I want to share with you.
I believe that if we as a species survive the climatic changes and the innumerable co-occurring cultural changes in all aspects of our society, we women must preserve our information base so it may be used to help establish more balanced behaviors and societal structures than the dynastic corporate one that has so abused our world and the majority of its inhabitants.
For the last decade I have taught women how to use social media and online platforms to tell their stories and market their businesses while remaining safe and up-to-date with rapidly evolving technologies. I focus on meaning not monetization. I am now bringing this approach to a larger sphere of women by offering expanded access to my methods.
There will be written materials and webinars, but for now, I am sharing basic information through the lens of what I have learned and accomplished this past year through dealing with the physical stuff of my family history.