We go on vacation and come home with souvenirs. We save clothes in hopes of fitting in them again. We buy stuff because "it was on sale." We all have an attachment to our stuff but have you ever thought about what happens to it when we pass away? I have. In the last five years, I have had to process, for a lack of a better word, the stuff of my mother, my mother-in-law and an uncle. In addition, I have been the one responsible for clearing out three houses in order to sell them- my childhood home where my parents lived, my in-laws and an Uncle's.
Aside from their deaths, going through all of their stuff was a very emotional and stressful event. I touched every item they ever owned. I smell my mom's and uncle's clothes as I bagged them up. I looked at every picture. I held the comforter and the pillow where she slept. I wanted to take it all home with me but that was not possible, rational, nor healthy. It took me days to go through everything as I put it either in a dumpster or took it to a donation center.
After going through this each time for one of my loved ones, it made me question what is going to happen to all of my stuff when I pass away. I don't have any children. Its a rude awakening to know that all of my stuff will eventually end up curb side or at a donation center. A recent book just was published that talks about different ways a culture deals with approaching death, even years head of it. It talks about slowly giving things away, clearing out the Clutter and disposing of unwanted items while one is still in good health.
Going through my loved ones stuff has affected the way I feel about mine. I now look around at the items in my home and have slowly begun to get rid of the stuff I don't use or need anymore. I think twice before bringing home a vacation souvenir. I have put a stop to buying big ticket items like that new couch or bedroom set. I've learned to be happy with having less is more. But this has been my personal journey.
Decluttering ones life is a difficult practice to adopt. However, all of this, just like everything else in this journey of Aging Parents Management, starts with a conversation. Ideally, we'd like our parents to do "spring cleaning" early so that they are in control of where their stuff goes. It can be done yearly a little at a time- one box at a time. Take the first step by asking mom or dad, "lets spend the day together clearing out that closet." These few hours will make a significant impact. Trust me