Five Things by Nancy O’Shea


Guest Blogger Nancy O’Shea responded to a writing prompt, “something that included a list of things you should know”, with this memorable letter/essay. Enjoy!


Five Things You Should Know About the Contents of Storage Unit #823 

To Whom It May Concern,

If you are reading this letter, it is because our family has given up. We are exhausted from squabbling over stuff that none of us needs or wants. In an effort to preserve peace, we have decided to walk away and not look back. Enclosed you will find the key to storage unit #823. Our mother’s belongings are in that unit. We have already taken items deemed to have sentimental, or possible monetary, value. As you sort through the leftovers, here are a few tips:

  1. Get glue. Mom never threw out anything that was broken, but she never fixed anything either. You will discover bits and pieces of dishware, costume jewelry, kitchen utensils, and other hard-to-identify items. If you find just one piece of something, don’t assume the other pieces are missing. We assure you that in some box (or boxes) they will show up. Think of it as a treasure hunt.
  2. Disregard labels. A box marked “everyday dishes” could contain incomplete jigsaw puzzles (the missing pieces will be elsewhere. See tip #1.) By the way, if you happen to be looking for everyday dishes, we suggest opening boxes marked “miscellaneous.” There are many of those. Some are sure to contain dishes.
  3. Avoid sentiment. We have all the old grade school worksheets we could ever want. Ditto any of mom’s recipes calling for cream of mushroom soup or Jello. And feel free to go ahead and toss any blurry, faded vacation photos showing trees and highways, or the back of someone’s head
  4. Think eclectic. Mom’s décor was a mix of hand-me-downs, garage sale finds, and remnants of her short stint as an antiques dealer. Now and then, she hit pay dirt (sorry, we’ve already taken the “best” stuff.) What’s left is a hodge-podge of styles, patterns, and colors. But don’t despair. The eclectic look has made a comeback. In fact, it now has a new name – Boho, short for Bohemian. This could be a chance to channel your inner hippie.
  5. Do it now. We made the mistake of waiting too long to tackle the job of going through mom’s stuff. Maybe we were lazy. Maybe we feared unleashing painful memories. Definitely, it was a case of “out of sight, out of mind.” And by now, the total bill for the storage unit far exceeds the value of its contents.    

Despite abandoning #823, we are grateful for all that mom left us. She curated tangible things to document our early lives, and her entire life. Leaving behind the odds and ends is difficult and feels like a betrayal – necessary, but still a betrayal. So please be respectful. When you heave the unit’s door up and over your head and peer inside with a flashlight, you might be tempted to laugh, and that’s OK. But remember, at one time all those things were important enough to hold, fold, wrap, stack, box. And keep.


Nancy J. O’Shea

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