I have been in spring-cleaning mode all the way through summer.
After my mom died four years ago, our family kept our house like a museum. I don’t mean that things were neatly organized and everything was nicely displayed. I mean that all my mom’s items were left exactly where they were. Grocery lists still hung on the refrigerator. We gave away only a couple of her clothes, but anything that I remembered her wearing or still had a faint scent from her perfume was stuffed in my drawers. To make more room, I even used some of those plastic bags that you stuff and vacuum out the air.
Having two wardrobes in just a couple drawers and a tiny closet was a recipe for clothes spilling out of drawers and constant piles of garments on my bed. Getting ready in the mornings was stressful and seeing the mess when getting ready for bed was exhausting. I had put up with the mess because they were my mom’s clothes and each item was a piece of her.
After reading a blog that talks about living life minimally, it was time to take inventory of what I owned and to give things away. There were two piles: “Goodwill” and “things I just can’t get rid of.” With every piece of cloth I told myself that this would make someone else really happy. Once things were sorted, I went back to the pile of “things I couldn’t get rid of.”
After staring at the pile of clothes, I had come to see that this was just a pile of clothes. These items were not my mom.
It was the memory of her wearing them that I was afraid of losing. Possessing these items did not bring me comfort or happiness, it brought stress and disorganization. For items that I had a hard time getting rid or that did not serve a practical purpose, I took a picture of it then gave it away.
My next task was clearing off the family computer. It had been a couple years since we turned on the big, beige monitor that sat in the corner collecting dust. After starting the computer up, on the desktop was a file titled “Mom.” There were over a dozen word document files inside. Some of the files were our old Christmas lists and a log of some of the uncomfortableness my mom wrote about while she was going through radiation. But then I found one letter that I will cherish forever. In this letter I read my mom talking about death and the acceptance of her condition. After reading it I sat at the computer crying. No amount of clothes or materialistic items can bring me the same amount of comfort than reading words that had been typed from my mom about the subject of death.
When someone we love very much dies, we want to keep everything they own. And as time goes on, we slowly give their items away. I think it’s healthy when we allow ourselves and others to clear things away at our own pace. For me, stumbling upon that letter means so much more now than if I had gone through the files a couple years ago.
We will never forget our loved ones. But how much of these items are holding us back from making room for new memories with family and friends who are still alive today?
What words will you leave behind for your loved ones?