For years I’ve been promising to get organized … clean out overstuffed closets, get rid of stuff that I no longer use, need or want. There was so much to do and it was very overwhelming!! It was made worse by the fact that my mother had lived with us for 7 years before she died. She had her own apartment in our home so her clutter was not often on my radar screen. When she departed I paid little attention to most of what was hidden in drawers and behind closet doors. I just wasn’t ready to deal with it.
My kids and brothers came and carted things away … pieces of furniture, linens, art work, some items of clothing. But for the most part there was still a lot of stuff left to clean out. My sweet husband took care of the contents of the file cabinets. It took me a year and a half to get to the rest … the kitchen, her craft room with materials gathered for her collage work and trinkets collected from the time she was an antiques dealer.
By the time I was finished with my mother’s stuff, I was too tired to get to my own closets, the store-room and the huge amount of things we’d been hauling around with us for years. My husband and I are pack rats, possibly bordering on being hoarders. We’re interested in antiques, art, addicted to books and save anything and everything that we think we can reuse.
During two previous moves we had gotten rid of lots of stuff but each time the collecting would begin in earnest once again. Last year, after living in our previous home for 10 years and rambling about its cavernous spaces, we decided we needed to downsize. After all, we were getting older and the place was just too big for us to keep up with. Besides, we both no longer wanted to live in the country. We felt a need to be in the city where all matter of activity was closer at hand.
So this past March, we put the big house on the market, found a wonderful little house built in 1935 in a friendly old neighborhood in the city. It had recently been completely remodeled and we started packing up. But the little house was half the size of the big one we were moving from. One morning at 3 AM it finally dawned on me that we would have to get rid of at least half of what we owned!
At that, my stomach churned like a washing machine tumbling large chunks of concrete and stone. I began having panic attacks and dreamed of hiring a crane to come in and remove every thing we owned, load it into a tremendous dumpster then have it hauled away, never to be missed. I’d simply start over!
Then reality set in and we began giving things away, putting them on Craig’s List and taking more valuable items to a local auction house. For the things we absolutely couldn’t get rid of, at least for now, and didn’t have room for in the new house, we rented a store-room. We’d deal with that stuff later once we settled into our new home.
We moved in June and here we are in November still trying to get the last of the boxes unpacked and still giving things away. I think our son avoids coming over to visit because we’re constantly insisting that he needs and wants whatever it is we’re trying to find a new home for!! I’m sure our daughter feels lucky that she lives 7 hours away so she can’t come whenever we call to tell her we have some fantastic thingy that would look great in her livingroom.
It has been a difficult process. Many of the things we’ve hung on to have memories attached to them. Wanting certain pieces to remain in the family was one of my mother’s greatest wishes when she passed. I understand. There are certain things that my husband and I have collected ourselves during our 45 years of marriage that we don’t now have room for but would certainly enjoy revisiting in our children’s homes.
The belongings of loved ones who have passed on are particularly problematic. We hang on to them so tightly as if to let them go, would render our memories erased clean like a blackboard at the end of a school day. Both of us shed more than a few tears during the process but have stayed with the project, understanding that we can no longer carry the weight of the material things that we mistakenly believe to be the containers of the past. I have discovered that with the letting go of things we don’t have room for, memories of life’s glories are still with me and memories of things I thought I had forgotten flow abundantly.
The memories still need a container as our brains age and in this age of technology our heads are already overflowing with too much information. So it is with this writing and the sharing of stories, I am setting up a container for the riches of my life … past memories, things yet to happen, so that my family and I can look back upon them all without having to carry along all of the goods.
The photo above is of my mother in 2001 with my dog Sam.