Getting Older: Part 2. You Don't Have to Take it with You

On Monday, we talked about lessening your load before you go so that loved ones don't have to deal with as much of your stuff. (Not to mention it just feels better live unencumbered by clutter!) Today, I want to talk to you about avoiding emotional clutter when dealing with the things left behind. Not letting go of the things left behind from loved ones is something I come across regularly. It's ranged from a few random items, to taking up a full cabinet to taking over multiple storage units. However, it is possible to nip emotional clutter in the bud before it enters your home.

  • As you're going through items left behind (whether from death or putting an older loved one into a retirement, assisted living or nursing home) do NOT take anything with you that you will not use and/or do not have a place for. No exceptions. (I know it sounds harsh, but a little tough love is helpful now to save you from tons of emotional clutter in your home and head later.)
  • If you think you'll deal with something "later," remember that "later" almost never comes. It may seem like you're putting off the mental taxation, but in truth the mental stress compounds daily. As hard as it feels now, just rip off the band-aid.
  • If you take items that you are not going to use, you're not honoring the person or their memory. What you are doing is willfully filling up your home with emotional clutter that weighs on your home, heart and head and that your children will have to deal with when you go.  Donate items so they can be used and loved by someone who needs them. Find valuables? Hold a sale. Ebay and consignment are great for selling collectables.
  • Did this person have a collection? Was it for their own enjoyment or to be passed down? If it was for their own enjoyment, then let go of the collection and donate it. Don't think of the time, money and energy that was put into the collection. That was their choice for their story. You don't have to take that on.

Now before you think I'm callous or can only say things like this because I've never been through it, I assure you that is not the case. Recently, my grandmother went into the nursing home. Since this is an extreme downsizing, the family has been going through her things to take what we want. She watched me after school and summers while my parents were at work so I know her home as well as the home I grew up in. Hell, it was my second home until I was old enough to stay by myself. There were a two things in particular in which I had to remove myself from the situation and become my own client:

  • A box of crochet hooks - These are just quintessentially, straight-up her. She crochets everything from doilies to pillow cases to tableclothes and blankets. She taught me how to crochet when I was little, but I haven't done it in years. Could I have found a place in my home for those crochet hooks to live? Absolutely! But since I don't intend on taking up crochet anytime soon, it would be ridiculous for me to take them. If I did, it would be the recurring mental struggle each time I do a purge of things in my home and there's no need to do that to myself.
  • Upright piano - Many years ago, my grandmother's church took up a collection and bought her this piano. I still remember to this day when they delivered it and how happy she was. It has always been common knowledge that the piano would come to me since I'm the only other person besides my grandmother that caught the music gene. (I played flute.) However now that it's time to take it, I don't. Again, do I want it? Of course I do. Even as small as my apartment is, I can find a space where it could live. However, I can't invest in movers or getting it tuned at this time (which it desperately needs before it becomes permanently damaged). Not to mention the fact that...I don't play piano!! My sweet grandmother, as much time and patience as she put into trying to teach me to play it just never stuck. (I still don't understand how I can coordinate my hands for flute and piccolo. Even typing. But when it came to piano, I just went spontaneously stupid and clumsy.) She played with her whole heart, soul and spirit. The piano deserves better than catching dust in my apartment.

Bottom line - I get it. Nobody is immune to the emotional tug of stuff, but we absolutely have the power to step back, look at the situation objectively and not let it take over.

Going through the things left behind from a loved one is truly emotionally and mentally taxing. However, just because it has to be done doesn't mean you have to allow it to burden yourself forever. Letting go of their things never EVER removes them from your heart and memory. Give yourself permission to let go of those things that aren't yours anyway.

To overwhelmed to take on the task alone or need an outside, objective opinion to help? Please contact me.