Transitions With Jean Blog

Treasures and Memories

Mar 1, 2024

“I need help getting rid of all this stuff and the sooner the better!” were the first words Yolanda said when I met her at the door of her half-empty house.

She had just moved to a senior apartment, and she needed help clearing out all the things that were left behind. She and her husband, Frank, had lived there for 60 years. It was where they raised their family. Now her husband was gone. She told me she was relieved that she had left the house because it was so much work, but she was sad too.

Yolanda and Frank had accumulated all the treasures that many from their generation collected. There were Precious Moments, depression glass, Hummels, bells, Christmas villages, fishing lures, and yes, even Beanie Babies.

I asked about her kids. She said they had already taken what they wanted, the grandkids did, too. They didn’t take much. She was left with a veritable mountain of items to deal with: things that are dear to her and just junk to the kids. They mocked her for all the stuff she had collected.

When talking about her conversations with the kids, she said they were hurtful. “They don’t understand that I need time to process. Everything has a history. The people in my life are gone; now, I only have the memories. When I look at that depression glass, I think of Mom. The bells were from my sister. I don’t have her, but I have the bells.”

She continued, “My heart hurts when I think of the people who are gone. Frank and I used to spend our weekends going to auctions and antique stores looking for treasures.

She said, “I guess I am a hoarder.”

I smiled. “You are not a hoarder,” I answered, “you are actually pretty normal for your generation.”

This was a generation raised by parents from the Great Depression. It was drummed into their heads that you saved things. The downside is that most of the things they collected were manufactured in bulk to tempt them, thus they aren’t scarce or valuable. Think about those Beanie Babies: they were mass-produced.

I reminded Yolanda that those items served a purpose in her life, and she already got her money’s worth. She and Frank enjoyed the hunt as well as the beauty of the things they collected. Those Precious Moments figurines are very sweet.

The real value is not about how much money she can get for them. The value is what she got from them on her life-journey. She enjoyed shopping for them, sharing time with her husband, and displaying them. The time had come to leave them behind.

I smiled and asked, “Don’t you feel a little relieved that you don’t have to dust them anymore?”, thinking of my own china cabinet and how it needs a good cleaning. “Yes,” she admitted, “it is kind of a relief.” She had a twinkle in her eyes and said, “They haven’t been dusted in a very, very long time.”

Jean Long Manteufel writes a column on the first Sunday of each month about life changes associated with aging.  Send your questions to or call 920-734-3260