Finally Finished: Tales of Cleaning Out

Photo by Jozsef Hocza on Unsplash

My last post about clearing out the stuff my packrat husband left behind was a tear-soaked missive. Okay, hold on, that’s the first time I’ve called my husband a packrat. (Well, in my writing, that is.)

Grieving and cleaning make strange bedfellows, in my view, though I expect that anyone who’s lost a family member can tell similar yarns of joy and woe.

I’m obviously wrong about these two actions forming an odd pairing. They go together like wine and cheese: one is rarely found without the other. However, I wasn’t ready for the effect all this cleaning would have on my grief process. Honestly, I was totally unprepared for all the stages of grief and how nonlinear the process would be.

People depart this life and leave behind the stuff of a life well- or poorly-lived. The quality of the junk makes the case for how successfully one may have navigated his or her years.

Stretched between two cleaning projects

My mother recently moved to a senior living facility. She struggled to decide what decorative items to leave behind. She took too much with her, we all believe, but a few more weeks in the new place should illuminate that fact. Unpacked boxes in her one and only closet will tell that tale.

Left behind in her house, which will be sold, is so much stuff. The attic contained boxes moved there in 1978 — never to be opened again. Sigh. The boxes disintegrated in my hands. All that’s left up there is literal trash — and it’ll be swept out soon enough.

A burning question which no one can answer — who puts two bicycles in an attic? Why not sell them and move on? My youngest sibling moved out in 1980, for heaven’s sake!

An objective view of possessions (just things!)

Such questions foster a new way of thinking about my things. I have a couple of collections I truly enjoy. But I must be ready for the one day — far off or possibly sooner than I expect — when I will be required to sift and whittle, or completely abandon some cherished belongings to a new collector.

My husband didn’t possess that point of view. I’m not sure what he thought about all the stuff. Well, I know he closed the door of that room at the end of the hall. The detritus is gone, but I chose to keep an old desk for my writing space and some stereo equipment for enjoying my favorite music.

New life for that space

It’s an enormous room that I plan to use for writing, reading, crafting, and general entertainment. One day maybe a grandchild will crawl on the floor or play with a Little Tikes kitchen set. A gal can dream!

I spent hours up there yesterday — working on a puzzle while watching the NCAA tournament. I brought an unfinished bottle of wine with me so I didn’t have to go back downstairs!

What I can say with complete certainty — the room over the garage is finally finished. I hope this new room begins a productive chapter in my writing life. Me and my room — both with new leases on life.

Now, if we can just get Mom’s house emptied and sold. Soon!

This post originally appeared on Medium.com

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