I think I've mentioned in the past that I helped clear out my parents' home when my mom passed away and my dad went into a home. It was absolutely the worst time of my life!! I don't want to go into all the miserable details, but I was carting stuff out of their house every Saturday for two years in my mini van. I would come home with the van loaded front to back, top to bottom with stuff. Then on Sunday I would sort through it ... garbage / goodwill / keep. Over and over and over!
|Photo from today ... completely unrelated to this post!|
After two years it got increasingly difficult to decide what to get rid of, and I kept far too much of the possessions. I know this because my family complains about the crowded rooms now ;) I was just burnt out from everything ... losing my mother to cancer, suddenly losing my father to dementia at the same time, losing the family home that had meant so much to us all and just losing that whole part of my life! So I kind of stopped with the purging and sorting and just left things sit in the garage and in the basement and anywhere I could find room. Every so often I would gather myself up and tackle a small bit of it again.
I found I was loathe to get rid of all of it because I felt like I was getting rid of my parents at the same time. It's like their essence existed within their possessions, and I just couldn't bear to throw things away. Once it's gone, it's really gone! I had to make tough decisions because I would never be able to get anything back once it went out the door. And I wasn't really sure I wanted to lose absolutely everything just yet. It was so bad, that I would even buy things at the thrift store that my parents once had because it reminded me of them! When I look back at that time I can honestly say I wasn't coping well with the loss of my mother. It really shook me. I ended up in the hospital two weeks after her death in unbearable pain thinking I had had a heart attack. Thankfully(?) it was "just" stress, but it was definitely a warning to me. I maybe should have sought out some grief counselling, but I didn't.
So the clutter in my house reigned. I'm not saying my house looks like an episode of "Hoarders", but my family enjoyed labelling me with that distinction every so often. I would get so angry at them, that they finally quit. I would even watch that show every so often to double check that I really wasn't in such dire straights! I did learn a lot about why people hoard, however, and sadly most people hoard for emotional reasons. Oh dear ... I was really emotional!
My last great blitz was when we redid our kitchen in 2014. I did really well sorting out the kitchen stuff. The kitchen had to be completely emptied to paint all the cupboards, and I was very careful about what went back into it. The only things I'm still having trouble deciding on are my mom's spongecake pan and bundt cake pan. I've never made either type of cake in my life, and not even in the five years since Mom's death ... but they still are with me. My kitchen cupboards have remained organized and tidy, however, which makes me happy. I found it easy in the kitchen because when you're using baking & cooking utensils, pots & pans, you quickly notice which things you are using and which you are not. I could be honest with myself and get rid of things that weren't getting used at all. It's harder in other areas. How often do you "use" a figurine? or a book? or a vase? There's nothing to gauge these items for their practicality. Some things were just nice to have, but not useful at all. And these are the things that sit and wait for a final eviction order.
This year I want to make a really good try at getting the last of this stuff sorted out yet again. Each time I tackle it I get a little braver. I know the process is 90% emotionally involved, but seriously, these things will never bring my mother back or stop my father's further progression into dementia. Having so much stuff in my house is making me depressed and annoying my family.
When I went up to our friends' cottage for New Year's they had the same thing to deal with when they took over their parents' cottage. My friend told me "it's just so liberating to let things go and start fresh". I want that liberating feeling so badly! I know she had the same family memories wrapped up in the cottage possessions. They kept only what really mattered ... aka things they would actually use! And the cottage looked lovely without all the junky bits and pieces. She also said, "If you like something so much, just take a picture of it instead and get rid of the item". I tried that today with a few of my kids crafts they did when they were small. I took the photos ... but I couldn't part with all of the crafts! I did throw out three crafts, but the following went back in the box. Not sure if that suggestion will work, but I'll try it again with something else.
|back in box|
|back in box|
|back in box ... this was my "fall decorating" box from the crawlspace|
I used to have very little in my house, and I want that freedom of space again. I even remember when a great aunt died and my mother brought all kinds of things home from Great Aunt Mary's house, and I absolutely hated it! I hated that suddenly there were crowded areas in the home and the things that were crowding it weren't "ours". I hated the smell that suddenly infused my parents' house brought in from the furnishings, and I just didn't like most of the things my mom brought home. They were so old and ugly I thought. Now I find myself asking why I'm doing exactly the same thing to my own house! My family detests it, and I don't like the cramped feeling, so I really need to do something.
My husband and I sometimes sit and discuss things that I need to let go. Usually we're sitting in the living room and he looks around and says "you need to get rid of that chair" and then it progresses to other things "I need to get rid of". It usually turns into an argument ... not good. I'm sure my mother never intended for her possessions to cause me and my family such anxiety. In my mind I can just imagine her saying "Oh Wendy, just let these things go, they don't matter". I also don't want to cause my own kids anxiety over these possessions when I go! I would just hate to put them through this. My mother didn't intend for this to happen. I know she had planned to get rid of a lot of her possessions, but she got past it (age and ability wise) before she got around to it. She did pass along her teacups and her own paintings to us kids before they even moved house. I like those things best because she gave them to me ... I didn't end up with them. I remember our conversations when she passed them along, and that meant more to me than dealing with all these possessions now that she is gone.
So this year will be the "Big & Final Purge" of all this stuff. I may or may not ask my siblings if they want any of these items. It becomes more difficult then because I have to get the things out to them ... and only one lives relatively close. Shipping charges for my brother to BC would add up, and he admitted already to me that he doesn't want to pay for that. But I can't hold onto these things forever for him. He has mentioned a few things that he would like to have, but that's always where it ends and no plans are made to collect them. What would you do in this situation?
I already started with the purging when the Christmas decorations came down. I was thinking it would be really nice and really helpful if the Christmas decorations were just kept upstairs in a cedar chest (from Mom!), rather than in the crawlspace which is really awkward to get into at the back of a basement coat closet. So I've started sorting things to get rid of from the cedar chest. It's not been easy, but I'm getting there. There are a few baby quilts etc. in there that my MIL made for my kids which I have to keep, but a lot of things are not being used at all ... I need a mantra to keep saying to myself in order to keep going. What do you tell yourself when you purge long loved belongings that no longer have a use?
Wish me luck in this venture ... I sure do need it ;)