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The Great Purge of 2019

Published November 14th, 2019 in Eat for Health, Editorial, HN4U Blog, Traditional Cookery

by Tammera J. Karr, PhD  

It all began with my normal fall clearing out, note I didn’t say cleaning, that would imply the dust and cobwebs are also gone.  Every year we go through our clothes and household items and bag up what we no longer like, need or ware for a local charity. The bag of clothes gets smaller every year as we have fewer family members gifting us with Christmas sweaters that no one will wear. hahaha, Next came, a request for book donation at a conference I am involved with, this meant selecting over 50 books from my office reference library that are no longer needed. Truth be told, they may not have ever been needed, but they are books and sometimes the hardest item for me to turn loose off.

The real tipping point came when I moved 2 terabytes of collected, and I’ll admit hoarded data, documents, images, pdfs, and twenty plus years of client files and presentations – to a larger five terabyte external drive. Well as all things go, not always as planned, the majority of this information is now gone — Puff just like that. I wish cleaning the closet out was as easy. Hahaha

Now, this should have put me into a tailspin of panic – how will I ever recover the lost information? Instead, I felt a lightening of my shoulders as the weight of more stuff was lifted both physically and mentally. I thought about why. My memory leads me back to a few days prior when a dear friend and mentor shared a story about her grandmother. Whenever my friend went to her grandmother’s as a child or young woman, tea was served, and each family member had their own special cup and saucer. Recently this lady who is now a grandmother herself asked her son if he wanted the special teacup. The son, asked if any other family member had an interest, the answer was no. “Mom, this cup holds memories for you, but I never knew my great grandmother, I have no memories, stories or connection to her other than you. So while I appreciate the sentiment, this cup and saucer really don’t mean anything to me, and I would never use them.”

My friend went on to tell a second story of loving to play the piano, and how her husband got tired of moving her childhood piano from home to home, he instead got her a top of the line electric piano that could be plaid with headphones, and a fraction of the weight or worry about damage. This allows her to play whenever she feels the call of music with no worries over disturbing others in her home. Her joy in playing and the flow of the music is not diminished, only the weight of a physical item.

As I thought about these life lessons shared by my mentor, I realized the weight and burden of our lives accumulated possessions doesn’t have to be a heavy burden for us or our family, who eventually have the job of sorting and disposing of our stuff. My husband and I know this all too well after four family members died, and we were tasked with sorting and clearing away their life’s collections. As we looked at photos and other items we too said the same words of my friends’ son – “we don’t know any of these people or the sentiment of this or that…it isn’t something we will use or want.”

We are not the only ones to face turning loose of valued possessions, countless objects, including books, furniture, clothes, and more were left by pioneers traveling the Oregon and Immigrant trails west. Life went on, the load was lightened, and the goals of reaching a new location and a future achieved.

The second thought came when I purged all the chicken carcasses, giblets, and vegetables from my freezer for making our winters supply of soup stock. Did you really think there would be no mention of food? Not all purging is a bad thing or a loss. In this case, my hoarding of scraps so to speak is transformed into countless meals filled with nutrients and the gift of thrift honoring past generations who never wasted food that could be made into something else.

Currently, in America, we are drowning in garbage – trash that has no redeeming value to our future. Most of it contains off cast plastics and waisted food. I could have easily tossed the summers leftovers into the trash like so many do. These scraps still have value in the form of broth and provide nutrients for our body far more efficiently then that found in a can or bag from the market. So out came the kettle, and a huge pot of broth is simmering and ready to go into glass jars. These same jars are perpetually in use, reducing our household trash also. The purging of my freezer isn’t about being “scotch” with our food budget or saving the environment; it is about retaining traditional values, honoring the farmers, and merchants that provide our food and my husbands’ labors to provide the income to buy it. Living life by example for our family or individuals passing through our life adds a value that lasts far longer than the food or jars that have been in use for decades.

There will always be more books, information, and stuff that enter our life, but hopefully, we retain the lessons on keeping only that which has value to the future.

To Fall Cleaning and Homemade Soup.



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