AT HOME | OPINION: Readers weigh in on 20 years of columns

The kids don't want your stuff, including your old furniture, is one of the lessons that have stuck with readers over the years. (Photo courtesy of Dreamstime)
The kids don't want your stuff, including your old furniture, is one of the lessons that have stuck with readers over the years. (Photo courtesy of Dreamstime)

Thanks to all who sent in congratulatory notes after my column from a few weeks ago announcing my 20th anniversary of writing this weekly missive. I almost let the milestone pass without mention, but then I thought, "Heck, if I don't give a shout out, who will?" Besides, not mentioning would make me feel like a pathetic woman sitting alone in the dark with a sparkler.

So, I not only wrote about my last two decades, but also invited you to tell me your top takeaways and how they did (or didn't) work out. I was heartened to hear from so many longtime readers. My word count prevents me from sharing all the lovely letters, but here are a few choice excerpts:

My husband and I have been renovating our historic, double-shotgun house since we bought it, and you've been right there with us since 2004 when your column arrived in The Times-Picayune. So many weeks in a row I'd exclaim in wonder how you had known just what to write that week to help us! Thank you for being part of our renovation journey. We've had many hilarious ups and downs together.

Molly K. Vigour, New Orleans

Over the past few years, I have found that I always pause when I turn the page of my newspaper and see your column, thinking that I'm not really interested in, for example, decorating a dorm room. But I seem to always read and actually finish your columns. It's true: You have "so many important things to say!" Your columns are also a nice break from all the other terrible news I feel compelled to glance at.

Christine Clayworth, Novato, Calif.

"Actually finish." The ultimate compliment.

The advice that stuck was so simple, but it made a big difference: "When decorating for the holidays, if you put a big Santa on the mantel in place of a vase, put the vase in the box you store the Santa in. When it's time to put the holidays away, simply switch the vase for the Santa." I can't tell you the number of times I've put away my giant Santa collection and said, "Now where did I put the bowl and candlesticks that were here six weeks ago?" I once couldn't find my red place mats for a year and a half.

Doreen Malin, Ross, Calif.

I love the columns with details on how to choose silverware or knives mixed in with columns about overall lifestyle concepts and the humor of real living. I also love getting a real newspaper so I can rip out some columns and save them.

Nancy Oates, Orlando, Fla.

We have much in common, including getting in trouble at school for talking too much. I was kept off the gold honor roll in first grade because I had a C in conduct, but otherwise all A's. It took me until third grade to finally earn an A in conduct, but I did learn self-control without medication. I love your down-to-earth style, practical advice and that you throw in the pitfalls you've faced.

Denise Lacour, New Orleans

My favorite two words in this column: "without medication"

I really liked the column ("Cleaning Closets Can Aid Kids in Africa, Animals in Shelters") about how you shared several different opportunities to donate household goods (sheets, towels, old suitcases) while gaining closet and drawer space. I volunteer at a local elementary school and shared your column today with the teachers to pass on to their students' parents. This is a win-win, no-cost project. Thanks for your columns that make our homes, communities, and, indeed, our world better.

Laurie Akin, Osprey, Fla.

I think of you every time I take my sheets out of the washing machine and slap them around to get the wrinkles out before they go into the dryer. However, the most significant takeaways came from the columns you've written about downsizing, and about saying goodbye to the stuff in our lives. I've attached a photo of one of your most beloved columns. Our only son appears on the surface to be an unsentimental guy, but I know that when the time comes he's likely to be paralyzed when sorting through what remains of his parents' lives. I have a file for "when the time comes" filled with practical documents -- investment account details, the phone number of our estate attorney, etc. But your column lives at the front of the file. The attorney will be there to guide him through the estate process. The investment adviser will help him liquidate the accounts, and you'll be there to hold his hand through the hardest part of all.

Mary Weinberg, San Rafael, Calif.

"I think of you every time I take my sheets out of the washing machine and slap them around ..." Not sure how to take that.

Marni Jameson is the author of seven books including the newly released Rightsize Today to Create Your Best Life Tomorrow, What to Do With Everything You Own to Leave the Legacy You Want, and Downsizing the Family Home. You may reach her at [email protected].

  photo  One reader saved this column from 2013 to include in a file to help her son deal with his parents' belongings when the parents are gone. Photo courtesy of Mary Weinberg.

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