I’m not trying to be morbid, but I recently wondered where my precious old garden gnomes landed when I was gone.
This is the premise of a blog I started a few years ago, after saving a handful of valuable hand painted garden figurines from a landfill in the north of England and moving them to my Mississippi garden. For some reason, small antiques, worn out but obviously much appreciated, were not appreciated by those who had inherited their garden.
But what will happen to them, as well as to Grandma’s concrete chicken and all my bottle trees, when I go to the Big Pile of Compost?
Before anyone jumps to any conclusions, I am healthy and fit, and have no plans to move. I am getting older, more introspective and inspired by COVID to consider my destiny and that of a life of accumulated goods.
Keep in mind that for many years I endured the helpless frustration of trying to help clueless people having to get rid of the whining book shelves, overloaded tool sheds, and highly personalized garden beds left by. loved ones who have passed away. And the truth is, other than a few heirlooms or precious tools or precious plants, no one really wants them.
With that in mind, knowing that one day my grown children will have to decide what to do with my well worn books and seriously cluttered plants and collectible garden art. Some of them are precious, but so suited to my taste that it would take a miracle to find new homes for them.
So, realizing that very few people will actually care about my fantasies, and not wanting to impose a selfish “it won’t be MY problem after I’m gone” approach on anyone, I discipline myself to be less clingy, starting to declutter. I’d rather do it myself, cherishing memories as I go, than burden others with the chore.
And it turned out to be a process of mental and emotional liberation.
The buzzword for this lean approach of organizing and giving away personal effects before someone else has to, is a Swedish concept called dÃ¶stÃ¤dning (dos-STAD-ning), which has the translation macabre “cleansing of death”.
It’s not a sad race to get rid of things; it’s about finding a way to enhance the pleasures of living a freer life.
In my case, it was quite easy to get rid of the broken tools and other unwanted items in my tool shed, and to purge out the obsolete or no longer useful books. But it’s more than just a long-term cleanup; it turned into a deliberate plan to improve the quality of my life by reducing and organizing whatever is left and is still needed or actively appreciated.
I’ve joked with friends in the garden for a long time (and alerted my family about it) that they should just come and take whatever they want and put the rest in a dumpster. I even have a list of what and where the most valuable or rare collectible plants are, and how to dig and move them successfully. Truly.
But last year, I asked my friend landscape architect Rick Griffin, who inspired and guided many of my famous garden design features, to help me start decluttering my own famous cottage garden. After streamlining and simplifying the flower beds to better showcase my favorites, we enlarged the flagstone and crushed slate areas for more room for people and less planting, mulching and weeding.
And it looks better. And I feel better. Learning to say no to new plants that I can easily admire elsewhere, and letting go of the accumulated stuff, has been therapeutic. Improvement of life.
Anyone want to deal with always happy third-hand gnomes?