Clearing the Way

“You spend the first half of your life acquiring

and the second half discarding.”

Red pick-up truck loaded with cabinets, chairs, washing machine

Loading the pick-up truck with things too good to discard, I recalled traveling this multifarious path before. Most of my life actually. From Mom setting up our apartment after my parents divorce, to my returning home from college…to storing relics in my barn while building a dream home…to housing family memorabilia upon my father’s death, then brother’s divorce – one and two, and mother’s passing. Soon my life became crammed with mementos of everyone’s past. Things too good to discard. Things once thought they couldn’t be lived without…have become things forgotten about.

Reuse and recycle is anything but new.

Materialistic I am not. Scottish resourcefulness and being raised by parents of the Great Depression indoctrinated me with environmental concepts early on. That includes donating gifts I’ll never use (but also means holding on to some “just-in-case” items that might not get used).

If something comes in, something must go.

While crazed Black Friday shoppers raced toward the acquisition gate, my wish list focused on meaningful experiences — engaging time with dear ones, sensational restaurants, bucket-list travel, living theater, musical concerts of varied genres — non-materialistic things that proffer a pleasing energy without depleting space. Kind of like “green giving.”

Face unused possessions with, “Do I really need this?”

Tidbits of loyalty complicate clearing away. How could I discard my mother’s high school class graduation photo? It feels disrespectful to give it to the Salvation Army (Would they want it anyway?) and Heaven forbid, I could not throw it in the trash. I just couldn’t. Yet, what am I going to do with it, except store it in the basement…like the dusty china and crystal rarely used…or my dad’s wartime souvenirs, drawings, and bosun’s whistle that I’m still secretly hoping some organization would want to display.

Stuff carries personal and planetary responsibilities.

When I pass, will my remaining belongings wait for a stranger to unload...along with numerous other keepsakes and prized possessions of each person in my life? Is that the usual way out…leave heaps of stuff for someone else who holds no attachment? It would be easier emotionally for them to clear out but an unfair and monumental task. Besides, what about the planet?

Like the environmentally-conscious youth culture who rejects using existing quality made, real wood furniture, opting instead for put-it-together junk composed of compressed wood chips and plastic veneers that won’t last — it doesn’t make sense to me (or for our rapidly filling planet).

How we deal with stuff can mirror how we deal with life.

Boxes of hats, shoes, purses, furs, evening wear to get rid of

After decades of carrying boxes from place to place, and shuffling moments from one building to another, I’ve realized I often compartmentalize emotions in challenging times, putting them in boxes until I can appropriately deal with them. Same holds true for family stuff. My mom became a hoarder who couldn’t let go. My brother tossed things from his immediate sight. I’m the organized one…with the boxes.

Saying, “It’s served its purpose,” makes it easier to let go.

When it gets too much, and the clutter of memories swallows up my space, I need to let go. Now, that I have so many of my brother’s belongings I’ve begun clearing more of my mother’s past. The evening gowns, furs, and hats that she could never vacate from her apartment are leaving my home.

Mother Nature naturally knows how to clear the way.

After delivering 17 jam-packed carloads of my mom’s stuff and 15 of my brother’s to charities, and a lot of my dad’s history to the auctioneer, I’ve sworn I would never do this to my benefactors. Making arrangements for one’s personal belongings — no matter how small, is a loving but often forgotten piece of estate planning. Even Mother Nature, when overloaded with piles of leaves or debris, sends in sheets of rain or a gust of wind to clear the wreckage of the past.

Colorful autumn leaves blowing in the forefront of an evergreen forest

Do you consider what comes into your space? Have you cleared out family possessions? Are you in an acquiring or discarding mode? 

9 Replies to “Clearing the Way”

  1. Yes, it’s so true. But, I would choose writing and living on less than being at a job I didn’t like. I also understand that not everyone can make that choice right now. Or might not be ready to. My husband and I were both ready and willing to live a simpler, more sustainable lifestyle. We are both happier and less stressed.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, those stockpiles…I, too, have purchased quantities when on sale and then when opening the cupboard think, “I’ve probably got enough to last a lifetime.” Interesting perspective you have — about “working to pay for things you’ll never use or read.” I’d say that’s one more good reason to stop and think before making a purchase. Thanks for noting the duality of this issue too in that now that you are doing what you love — writing — you don’t have the extra cash to waste on unnecessary purchases.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So much wisdom in this post. We are a nation of consumers and hoarders. Occasionally I’ll come upon a stockpile of something I purchased in the past—fabric, miscellaneous craft supplies, magazines, even my beloved books—and think of all of the time I spent working to pay for things that I never used or read. It’s sobering. I buy so much less now, which allows me to work at what I love, writing, even though I don’t make as much money. It’s nice to step off the hamster wheel of consumerism and actually live. Thanks for a thoughtful post.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think to her it was more sentimental value but to me they had no sentimental value at all. It’s all just stuff and somebody else can use the stuff then it’s good for them.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. There’s something positive in everything as in the pastor being in need and given some of your Mom’s things. It is a formidable task — emotionally and physically, I think when someone passes and we must decide what to do with their belongings, but I would guess if your Mom did not place much value on her items it was easier for you to give them away.


  6. I had to clean out my mother’s apartment what’s 30 some odd years of collected items that she collected and kept in her apartment. Some things were sold and some things were giving away but a majority and what she had was donated. Many of her items we’re taking by her church and her pastor as her pastor had just recently moved into their own place after living for years in the parsonage or directory of the church. So they had really nothing of Their Own but now they do with the help of my moms donation to them. The rest of her items but she’s collected over the years went to Goodwill or Salvation Army and I’m sure someone out there is saying how can anybody give away some of these things as they were “valuable.” I’m not sure how valuable many of her things were as I asked her many times if anything she had was of any value at all and she always told me no maybe only a few dollars worth. The only thing I have really kept are photos and some old documents and bibles but she had that were my grandmother’s.
    I agree we collect way too many things in our lives and the opening saying to your post is very true. People may think how can I give away all my mother’s stuff but there’s nobody else in the family who would want it and I’m not about the store it.

    Liked by 1 person

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