Clearing Out A Lifetime of Things

I recently returned from having spent a week emptying my mother’s house. It was the house I lived in from 10 years old, until I spread my wings and left the nest in my 20’s. The memories in that house are a mix of good and bad, happy and sad.

Where I grew up.

Where I grew up.

The job at hand was pushed into overdrive because neither of my brothers, nor I, live within 3000 miles of the house. And we wanted to get the house emptied and on the market for the spring/ summer real estate season. We began the process the week before Mom’s funeral, back in mid February. More recently, my younger brother has been able to take 3 weeks to be at the house. I was able to be with him for one week. It’s been a triage job: what are we keeping, what can be sold, what will be donated, and what is trash.

Back in February, going through things, I’d occasionally hit a land mine and would break down into a puddle of tears. But, this last week that I was there, it was pretty easy to go through the house. There were a few things that I held enough sentimental attachment to, that they are in boxes, on their way to my home: the wind chime that was in the dining room, a vase with fish on it that I bought in Japan and gave to Mom, a mug that was given to Mom by the all-girls college she went to, on the occasion of the birth of her daughter (me), and a few other items. But I was able to let go of a lot. There is very little that mom had specifically told me would be mine upon her death.

As my younger brother and I went through things, what was once a family room just inside the side door, became our staging area. The sofa that was ravaged by the family cats, was in the garage. Sitting chairs are gone- shipped off to our brother. Bags and bags and even more bags have been taken to the local Salvation Army, with more to go. Boxes of family photo albums to be stored in our family’s summer cottage, for all of us to enjoy forever, await transport. Items that had stories attached to them, ascribing great value, I learned were not actually valuable; and were donated. A few things were sold. But the bulk of what was in that house for almost 40 years, has been donated to a few different thrift stores, a food bank, and more.

Where we once hung out, now is a staging area.

Where we once hung out, now is a staging area.

Mom had been a professional musician for her entire adult life. During that time, she accumulated a large library of music and books about composers. With the help of some of her musician friends, Mom’s music and books will find their way into the hands of young musicians, where they will be well used. Even in death, the music will live on. I found some spare parts for Mom’s violins and viola: bridges, chin rests, shoulder rests, strings. These have been donated to a man who repairs instruments, to be used when he has a client who can’t afford a new part for their instrument.  Mom would be pleased.

I am finding that the joy of someone receiving free music, or a free shoulder rest for their violin, receiving free food, or finding that treasure in the thrift store, has no limit to its value. Sure, someone could have taken every single item out of that house and could have found a way to put a price tag on it. But I am finding a much better energy exchange in donating much of it. Many people will be happy.

With one week left until my younger brother has to leave Mom’s house, he is doing amazingly well moving along, getting the house empty. Just last night I received the text, “Attic empty.” Mattresses are gone. Ping pong table is gone. Much of the basement is empty. The band saw sold. Wheel chair ramp is going today. Items to be auctioned are gone. Hazardous waste gone. Snow blower gone. I am more than proud of, and very impressed with my brother. He is getting it done.

For me, it’s weird. Because I do not live anywhere near the house, I most likely will not ever see it again. When I left it, just days ago, the picture in my mind of the distinct lack of furniture, things in disarray, empty rooms, partially emptied rooms, and boxes and bags filled with stuff, will be the last image I’ll have of the house I grew up in.

I am realizing that the difference between a house and a home is the life that is there. Without my parents, their cats, and visitors, the house it just that. A house. Soon to be ready for another family to make it their home. The end of one family’s story there, and soon, the beginning of another’s.

Dad and Mom

Dad and Mom during better days.

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About mariner2mother

I'm a mother of a very spirited 14 year old son, and a former merchant ship's deck officer. To feed my creative side I take photos and make a very occasional batch of soap. I am also Reiki attuned and am a student of Energy Healing, having used several healing modalities to work on myself and my family.
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8 Responses to Clearing Out A Lifetime of Things

  1. Thanks for sharing. This is the task that my siblings and I are dreading. I know we’ll have similar emotions too. And yes, home is where the family is; a house is a house.

  2. I found that once the initial grief has been able to move through a bit, it helps. And being very clear about how much “stuff” you want to add to your own home, is important. For me, it’s ok to sit with an object and take a minute to enjoy a memory- and then put it into a bag to be donated.

    It’s good to have a list of resources on hand to be able to handle everything: an estate auctioneer, consignment and thrift stores, charities that your parents support that might take items donated, how to get rid of hazardous waste (try to get them to get this sort of stuff out now, if their town has free collection days- this was very expensive), shredding services, recycling, companies that ship furniture (if that might be needed). Our local grocery store gave us paper bags for free (25 at a time was what we asked for). U-Haul is an excellent source for boxes- and they buy back unused boxes.

    One big thing we learned (after the fact), is that when you first go through the house to decide what each of you siblings want, have ONLY the siblings (the inheritors in the will) go through the house first. Only after you have done that, involve spouses and then children, etc. I am glad our process is almost done.

  3. emjayandthem says:

    I’ve been thinking of you and wondered how this was going to go down; bless you and your brother for all you’re doing — I know that going through every single item is daunting and emotionally draining but it’s also encouraging that you’ve found ways to be positive about it all — donating the musical items == this line says it all “Even in death, the music will live on.” and I love that!

    Peace be with you,
    MJ

    • Thank you MJ. I appreciate your thoughts.

      I have to say that all the work I’ve done on myself the past 2 or so years has made this process much more smooth and peaceful than it could have been. A friend told me that now that Mom is in spirit, she is able to help us out in ways that she could not, when she was here in life. I really believe that our loved ones on the other side are helping to guide us during this process, and are helping to make this process go as smoothly as possible.

      • emjayandthem says:

        I’m glad for that .. and who knew, when you started down your own path of healing 2 years ago … that you were prepping for these very moments? A-maz-ing!

        MJ

        • Considering everything that’s gone on during the past 2 years: Dad getting really sick, Mom having a physical and then mental health crises, and then each of them dying- I see divine timing involved here. Thanks for your support.

  4. This is a very poignant, beautiful piece Mariner. What a difficult task, that you and your brothers have handled so well. You are so right, it is a house now… no longer a home, but the memories and history will always live on.

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