Recently, I have been cleaning out my mother’s house. If you have been around for a while you will recall I cleaned out our house of 45 years a little over a year ago and shared it here on this site. See it here. That was a pretty overwhelming and emotional job. I always knew it would have to be done one day, but never realized I would be doing it alone. Now, I am doing it again, on what should be a smaller scale.
My mother passed away at the end of April. I was left with the job of going through her things, organizing and, of course, deciding what to do with her things. Logically, it would seem to be a pretty easy job as she lived alone and had “downsized”. That being said, it has been a job, to say the least. It has been tiring in all senses of the words. Mentally, due to trying to figure out the logistics, how and when to move things, what to move and where, how to cover expenses. It is an emotional thing as I go through old newspaper clippings from my mother’s youth, boxes of letters my father wrote to my mother, artwork from when we were children, old keepsakes, photos and memorabilia I had no idea my mother kept. The moving, hauling, driving back and forth and the handling of affairs is physically tiring. In a perfect world I would not be doing these things alone and would be venting to my brother. My sister-in-law, unfortunately, has been the one forced to help, hear my vents and cries, and now I am sharing with you.
I have had a lot of different emotions come and go throughout this entire process. I know they are all natural and I think I am mostly comfortable with them. I am so sad that my mother is not here. As I go through the things she loved so much it makes me see her in a different light. I have kept things that I need or knew she wanted me to have. Other things I keep because I knew they were special to her. Some things I keep because they will make me think of her, make me smile and make me happy. They will make me feel closer to her. Those are all good things and can make me happy and sad at any given moment.
However, there is more to share here and I am having a difficult time with these emotions. Since I can’t talk it over with my brother who would likely “get it” I share here. This is the cleaning out of my conscience along with cleaning out of my mother’s things. I am ashamed to say I also have a lot of resentment and bitterness in this process. I have said many times before that I am not a “stuff” person. The other thing I just can’t stand is waste. It drives me crazy if I see a water bottle with a sip of water left inside. I use up every single bit of a bar of soap in the shower. I would never think of throwing it out before it was completely disintegrated. That would be wasteful. I’m not sure where this comes from but I do not find it necessary to have much more than we need. (Don’t get me wrong, I stock up on toilet paper, paper towel, and the necessities at all times!)
But, my mother was the complete opposite in this area. If she liked a pair of pants, she bought them in every color. She stockpiled food as if it there might be a three month long blizzard keeping her from Kroger. And she was only one person, mind you. With very little appetite. She loved to collect. She couldn’t help it. Somehow, she felt the need to continue collecting and filling her spaces even after downsizing, so much so that in December she decided to begin a Nutcracher collection. Thirty-six nutcrackers later, there is the question of what to do with them. That’s just one example in case you think I’m completely exaggerating and overstating the state of affairs.
She loved her things and they made her happy. I get that. It’s just difficult to figure out what to do with all the stuff now. Honestly, I resent it. It does not mean to me what it meant to her. I do not have the room to store all of it and do not need it. And I cannot help but think she knew she was leaving me with this big job.
Therefore, I have some resentment at all of the stuff. I have some hidden resentment towards my mother. Why did she do this? Why did she leave all of this stuff for me to deal with? I continue to look for answers to this. For someone who had lost most of her eyesight, so couldn’t drive or enjoy television shows, maybe it was a pastime. Something to do. Maybe it was being able to plan on the collecting and gathering as a hobby. Maybe that was something she could control . . . what she purchased and what came into her house. Or, maybe she was just a shopaholic likes the Kardashian women. Whatever the case, the stuff is here and has to be dealt with.
Unfortunately, I am left with a bunch of stuff that doesn’t reflect who may mom was. I am trying to push all of that stuff and the not pretty thoughts and emotions it is causing and think of other things. I think of my mom as the project manager of our home. She was the 5:30 am alarm clock in the summer to get us to the garden. She was the avid reader, gardner and sewer. She was the educator and school board politician. She could truly work a room and loved being with and talking with people. The letters I have received after her death have warmed my heart. They have let me see a funny, entertaining, social being that my mom often hid from us.
I am also trying to take this experience and learn from it. I am thinking of how I want to handle things for those I leave behind and what types of “things” and “non-things” I want to leave with them. For now I am spending time everyday cleaning out folders, boxes, papers, and my own head and heart. Once I get through all of the stuff I want to focus on the “non-things” that made my mother so special.
How do you come clean? How do you handle an overload of stuff? Is this a little too much honesty here?
Looking forward to a great Friday! Have some FUN!