D. Louise Brown

Louise Brown

So, what would you pack if all you could keep had to fit into a laundry basket?

My husband and I are helping our daughter and her family pack up to move to a new home. Packing raises so many questions: Do I really want to keep this? When was the last time I used it? Will I use this in the new place? Do I have a box to fit it in?

Packing is a tedious, weeding out process that happens item by item. It starts out organized and ends with chucking things into boxes as the movers arrive, with the promise we’ll sort those boxes later. I still have a couple of those boxes in my basement — 24 years later.

This young family is moving to an older home where they’ll live in the shop while the home is remodeled. The home sits on an acre-plus paradise, and the “shop” is any man’s man cave, complete with fridge and stove, bathroom, and insulated exterior. Anyone could live there, and that’s what they plan to do. It’s kind of like roughing it — but not really.

The upside is the kids will remember this “adventure” for years to come. So will their parents — hopefully mostly for good. The downside is most of what they own will go into storage, tucked away in taped-up boxes in the house’s basement. So they’ll have their stuff; they just won’t have access to it. Those remodeling months will be a time of possession assessment, as in, “Do I want that item bad enough to go hunting through a mountain of boxes for it?”

Our wise daughter gave each of her three children a laundry basket and told them: Put the things you want kept out in this basket. These are the only things you’ll have to play with and use for a long time — possibly until past Christmas.

Their choices are as varied as they are.

The middle child and only daughter went for a basket full of tiny things: itty bitty stuffed animals, a little doll playhouse, a set of small horses, a box of Legos, a jewelry making set, and a small art kit assembled from her large collection of art supplies. By far, she has the largest quantity of things in her basket — if she can keep them from falling through the holes.

The oldest son kept his collection simple. He plopped in his cherished soccer ball and cleats, a baseball and mitt, several favorite books, and his snack stash. His basket isn’t even full. But it carries the things that will keep him content.

The youngest son went for books. A story is read to him every night and he isn’t about to let this moving nonsense change that. So a large stack of books, some cars, a Superman cape, a small ball, and his pillow. He’s set. To their credit, all three added scriptures to their baskets.

As I help my granddaughter pack her basket, we talk about what it would be like to be a pioneer and carry your stuff for months in one small wagon for the whole family. Children didn’t have a laundry basket of possessions to take — more likely a homemade doll or a slingshot was all they owned.

The thought makes a basketful seem generous. It also makes me wonder, What would I put in my basket? After some thought, a list emerges: Books — though how can I choose just a few. Writing paper and a pen, plus my laptop. Family photos. Yarn and a hat loom. Scriptures. My weeding fork and gardening hat.

Our basket contents define us: Granddaughter, the animal loving, craft producing artist. Older grandson, the athletic, soccer-playing book reader. Younger grandson, the book reading, snuggling superhero. Me, the bookworm, gardening grandma.

My 85-year-old mom moved years ago from the family home to senior living. Her possession pile diminished drastically as she shoveled it out to her kids. She’s living a spartan existence with her books and family photo albums, and she is enviably content. I once asked her if she ever missed anything she gave away. She reminded me you never see a moving van following a hearse.

Her calm purge, and the children’s laundry basket existence, remind me of the words of a song, “All my possessions start weighing me down.” The truth is, without some priority we run the risk of having the things we own eventually begin to own us.

That’s when it’s time to spend a season living out of a laundry basket.

D. Louise Brown lives in Layton. She writes a biweekly column for the Standard-Examiner.

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