Forgive my absence for the last three months but life has a way of throwing a wrench into the best laid plans. In November, my mother passed away following a short illness. She was one month shy of her 89th birthday and, thankfully, able to live independently in her home until the end. After dealing with all the immediate funeral arrangements, then came the herculean task of cleaning out her home of 56 years. My sister, nieces, and husband helped me greatly but as the legal representative, orchestrating all the physical, mental, financial, and other tasks fell to me. In the process I learned several life lessons. Let this post serve as a cautionary tale to you to streamline your life.
Lesson #1: Stuff
Our immediate task was to clear out the house of all the stuff. My sister started tackling books. One niece took on towels and linens. One niece was tasked with clothing. And I started in on the paperwork. As we worked for many hours, bagging up donations, choosing items each personally wanted to keep, and discarding worn out items, I felt we were drowning in stuff. I had three paper shredders going and felt I was making no headway. I eventually bagged up all the paperwork and took it home to sort through and shred at my leisure. All the time I kept thinking, “Why is this so hard? When you move, you box up everything and clear out your house. Why do I feel I’m not making any progress?” The difference lies in that when you move, you know what all the stuff in the drawers, closets, and cabinets is and you just throw it in a box. We had to examine each and every item to determine its value and disposition before acting upon it. So my advice to you, dear readers, take time every year to go through your closets, cabinets, drawers and files. Weed out the unnecessary stuff. Donate things that can be used by others. I’m happy to say that the SPCA benefitted from towels and office supplies; blankets and coats went to the homeless; eyeglasses to the Lions’ Club; food to the Food Bank; books to the local public library; clothes to the CHKD Thrift Store; and the Salvation Army got an entire truckload of furniture, kitchen items, and home décor.
Lesson #2: Share Your Treasures
I’m not talking about money; I’m referring to those intangible treasures of family history. While cleaning out the attic, we found my grandfather’s WWI army helmet. It was painted in the most unusual camouflage pattern I had ever seen…irregular shaped trapezoids colored in blue, green, white, red, orange, yellow, and black. My niece, the art major, was thrilled with this treasure! Too bad, my mom didn’t share it when she was alive and could have shared the stories that went with it. So my advice to my younger readers is talk to your elders – parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends. Get them to tell you their stories. You’ll discover a treasure beyond imagination. My advice to my elder readers is talk to the youngsters. Ignore the eye-rolling and sighs. Believe me, they are listening. And if you have a particular object that someone truly admires, pass it on now, along with its history.
Lesson #3: Patience
I’m a “get it done now” kind of gal. When I take on a project, I work on it tirelessly until it’s done. However, the process of preparing my mother’s house for sale required many lessons in patience on my part. I hired a contractor to take care of painting the interior. Sure, I could have painted it but I’m no spring chicken and it takes me longer to recover from DIY projects these days. I stayed away from the house most days so I wouldn’t get in the painter’s way. I took on the cleaning tasks and there were days when my husband and I showed up to take care of a task and found that the painters were working in the area we needed to work, so we just turned around and went back home. I made detailed “to do” lists and just never seemed to be able to cross anything off the list! Many, many times my husband had to reel me in and remind me to be patient. Everything would get done in due time. In the scheme of things, it only took us 4 weeks to clear the house out and only 3 weeks to get it ready for sale. So my advice to you is take a deep breath, step back, relax, and be patient.
The major work is done. There are only a few minor details to take care of. So readers learn from my experience; be patient, share your history, and go clean out your closets! Now!