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Posts tagged ‘declutter’

The Difficult Job of Inheriting the House

Delegating what to do with what the dead leave behind is a common ritual for the living. And when it’s your own loved one? In each slip of a paper and garment is a memory. Or a smell. A joy followed by a grief.

For some, the task is too painful. They assign the job to a friend, or even hire out the work. Others madly toss stuff in boxes that get put into storage. They put their grief behind lock and key.

And then there’s me. I worked on the process off and on for eight years. I loved my parents’ belongings jogging my memory and filling in the parts that time blurred. But it was also a very difficult job. I bawled my head off. There are things I just could not throw away. That suited me. Their things made the house feel lived in. Like they were there.20180428_200413

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That Stuff May Be Useful Someday

I helped my 10-year-old friend clean and organize her room. As she lobbied to keep a shoe that was about to fall apart, I saw shades of myself in her. And a characteristic of my mother.

Her name, which I’m withholding, means moonlight. So I’ll call her Moonlight. An artist, Moonlight saw value in things that might be useful someday.

That shoe? Its unique straps could be saved. I don’t know what for, but I looked at them through her eyes. Maybe, I thought, they’d get a second life in a piece of art.

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The teeth my mother made in dental school.

My mother used to stow things away for someday. I must admit, I inherited the trait to a degree. The practice makes cleaning out a loved one’s stuff after their death, well, interesting. I still don’t know why Mom put a handful of her long, straight, gray hair in a grocery bag.

I found the bag of hair tucked in a drawer of the coffee table. I kept the hair.

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Inheritance: Holding onto Stuff

I am not a hoarder. I am attached to stuff, but I am not a hoarder.

Now before you say “the lady doth protest too much,” I must explain. Before I asked whether I was a hoarder, I asked whether my parents were hoarders. I inherited all their stuff. A lot of stuff.

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Unearthed: A box of my “clips,” examples of my writing, that dated to 1985.

Charged with cleaning out their home, I didn’t know where to start. I found folders of utility receipts stuffed between a living room chair and table. I discarded a broken microwave that had been standing on end in the floor for years. The bedrooms where my brother and I slept as children had long been the abode of cats. They ruined the carpets and scarred the furniture.

Did you know there are levels of hoarding? I went to a mini-seminar in November 2014. It was conducted by Dr. David Dia, a hoarding specialist with some national prominence. A Memphian, he’s appeared on TLC’s Hoarding: Buried Alive.

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The Healing Properties of Being a Child Again

I dreamed I was a child again, playing with my toys. I feel like a child a lot when I grieve. I even cry out for my “mommy” and “daddy” like a girl who has tripped and bruised her knee.

But in my dream my parents were alive, and I was playing with the toys they’d given me. I woke up with a delightful sense of well-being. I felt loved. I felt taken care of.

I realized of all the things I sifted through at my parents’ home, the toys in my old bedroom always made me smile. I cried over a lot of their possessions, but the toys took me back to joy.

Benji

My brother, Rich, and me in my room as children. I posed with my new toy, Benji.

Joy is an important ingredient in grief. We cannot properly face the ocean of sorrow that death plunges us into without the life preserver of joy. But how do we find joy at a time like that?

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