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Posts tagged ‘Cleaning out parents house’

Finding Treasure In Inherited Books

I bet you inherited books. Maybe a Bible. Or a series of recipe books. Or maybe like me, you inherited enough books to fill a small library, too many to ever read during your busy life.

What are you to do with them all? I suggest you examine them closely before deciding to haul them to a donation center or library because inside their pages lay buried, priceless treasure.

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Among the books my parents left me was a set of science encyclopedias.

And just like treasure, we must “dig” to collect it.

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The Only Key We Need

Death strips us all possessions. So it isn’t surprising that, yes, my parents left behind all their keys – a mass of keys that I combed through on the anniversary of Dad’s passing last week.

Door keys. Car keys. Keys to the post office box I still rent. Keys to who knows what. They didn’t take a one with them. They left them to me to sort through and dispose of.parentkeys.jpg

I remember as a child sitting in the back seat of my parents Chevy, playing with a set of their keys. That’s before we had smart phones and television reception to entertain children in cars.

“What’s this one to?” I asked, dangling one key between my thumb and index finger. My mother craned her head to the left, between the seats.

“I don’t know,” she said. My father didn’t know, either.

I thought for sure they’d already approached senility. How could one not know what a key unlocks? I didn’t know then that you can amass so many possessions and so many keys that you lose track of what goes to what. Earlier this summer, my husband and I got out our keys.

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Putting a Price on Ourselves

Value. We put a price on everything. On houses. Cars. Jewels. Stocks. Milk. Eggs. Our morning hit of java. We also put a price on people. On relationships. And on ourselves.

We treat everything according to how much we value it. Or how we value him or her. We will protect our person from all sorts of harms. And things we may lock in a vault. Whatever it is we value, we spend time admiring it.ToniDoor

Do you treasure yourself? We know more about ourselves than anyone knows. We know about all the dents. All the angry words in traffic. All the vengeful thoughts. All the curse words under our breath. All the ways we might have helped someone – but didn’t. Can we value ourselves despite those ugly truths?

I was thinking about value the other day while cleaning my mother’s wind chimes. As a child, I loved to hear them tinkle from the wind that drifted into the open windows. A sound memory.

One of the last things I removed from my parents’ home last month before selling it was the wind chimes. The five metal tubes hung below a pagoda that dangled from a delicate chain. I don’t suppose the chime would sell for more than a dollar at a yard sale, but it’s valuable to me. Despite the tarnish and the thick covering of dust. Valuable.

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When We Wonder, “What’s Next?”

I feel like a cook tasked with making a stew of two dozen ingredients from a recipe I’ve never seen, and I’m a bit overwhelmed and not sure where to start.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed with a new task? Do you ever wonder where to start? Which direction to go? Where to put your energy first?

“What’s next?” may be a question we ask repeatedly during our grief journey. We probably ask it after the funeral. We may ask it later, after our grief has changed us,  but we’re still recreating ourselves. Or we may ask it after we’re finished sorting through the belongings of our loved one.

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Where to next? Don’t we wish our pathway was laid out as clearly as this trail?

After selling my parents’ home three weeks ago and saying my goodbyes, I was enthused by the idea of paring down belongings at my own home and devoting more time to writing projects. But I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. I’m bogged down. So much to do. So little me.

I should feel excited. I want to be excited. Instead, I am trying to peel carrots, sear chunks of beef, unwrap bouillon cubes and answer a ringing phone. I’m trying to make something deliciously wonderful out of a lot of moving parts. Where do I start?

I’m going to unpack four suggestions here. What might yours be?

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Details Important After Death

All this time, I thought I’d given the funeral home the wrong lipstick color.

I never was much of one to wear makeup, though I’d grown up seeing my mother paste it on before the rare occasions she’d leave the house. So I didn’t pay attention to her lip shade.MomTrainCase1.jpg

Itty bitty nonessential details gain new importance after a death. If you are like me, any morsel of new information is precious. My parents can’t tell me things anymore, but I long to know the things I’ve forgotten and to learn the things I didn’t know.

It’s been 8½ years since I dug in my mother’s train case – boxy luggage that sat on a lady’s lap and contained the makeup she may use on a train. I selected a lipstick. It looked too orange. Too bright. Surely this wasn’t her color.

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Finding Love in a Card

I sensed a need to be in touch with my parents, and so I got out the greeting cards. I possibly have one of the largest collections known to man.

I collected them from throughout the house. Over the past eight years, I discovered them inside dresser drawers, on top of the coffee table and used as markers in books. One by one, I put them in a shoe box on the dining room table.

I stacked them so high, the lid hovered high over the box.ToniCharlesIsland (2)

I’ve loved going through my parents’ belongings, though it’s been a difficult task emotionally. Now its down to the wire. Few things remain, such as the greeting cards. Read more

3 Tips to Clean Out a Loved One’s Closet

I stood frozen in the doorway of my parents’ walk-in closet again, my eyes darting from Mom’s red party dress to Dad’s sports jackets. Cleaning out a loved one’s closet is perhaps one of the most daunting tasks for the one left behind. I put it off for eight years.ToniProfilePic

I’ve heard this job described many times. It’s never easy, and it’s always filled with memories. And emotion. Clothes become a part of people. They hint of character, style, personality. They harbor the memories of events – a suit for church, a dress for celebrations, a uniform for war.

My dad died 11 years ago. My mother died eight years ago. I had cleaned out all of the bedroom closets except for this one. What is obvious to the mind isn’t so obvious to the heart – for me, cleaning out the last clothes closet was like a declaration that my parents aren’t coming back.

But after all these years of inching toward cleaning out the house, I was running out of places to turn. So I landed in the doorway of their closet this weekend for the umpteenth time.

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