My Thoughts on Stuff

April 8, 2018

My mom died unexpectedly this month. She was only 69 years old just days away from turning 70. My relationship with my mom was complicated. It was something I never shared with others other than my inner tribe because I didn’t want anyone to feel like they needed to chose a side. There were not sides in my opinion. I wanted people to love her according to their experiences rather than my experiences. Many loved her. I loved her. As most of you know love can be complicated and messy.

My mom was an incredible mom while I was growing up. She was a stay at home mom who was president of the PTA, room mom, dance mom and head cheerleader to anything I did. Life happens though and our family have gone through some pretty dramatic life experiences. My mom and I coped with those bad things very differently. I believe my mom was extremely sensitive but she hid it with a difficult and sometimes negative exterior. I am also extremely sensitive and deal with things by turning my emotions off when bad things happen. I tend to retreat from the negativity so not to get hurt even more. Our different coping skills made it difficult to have a good and healthy relationship with one another.

(My mother’s hospital baby bracelet)

I feel like another stumbling block in our relationship was my mom’s attachment to her stuff. If anyone has dealt with someone who hoards you know what it’s like to feel second to the stuff. I don’t really understand how her keeping everything happened. Our house was very well kept and clean growing up. I think there were a lot of factors that played into how things ended up the way the did. I know as a child she had very little. Kids had the basic necessities in both love and things during those times. I also believe when my father and her divorced 25 years ago she felt the freedom to buy whatever she wanted. My sister also died as a young adult. I think my mom thought maybe buying things would make her happy. I think she held onto things because she had suffered so much lost.

(My mom’s quilt and the blue and white dish THAT was mine from 20 years ago ThAt she kept)

I don’t have the answer on how to help someone who hoards. I think it’s complicated, sad and quite frankly probably should be left to mental health professional to address. I’m also not here to bash my mom over how her house ended up. I really believe she lived the best life she knew how. This is simply to share my experience of dealing with someone who held onto everything and the pain it has caused me. I hope it may help someone who is holding onto too much stuff. I think it’s never too late to change a bad habit or behavior.

(The blue and white oil lamps were mine that my mom swiped (: from me when I wanted to get rid of them I’m thankful she kept them.)

Cleaning her house was a wake up call for me and for how I want to live my life going forward. I hope after reading this you’ll think about how you’re living your life too. I don’t think there is a perfect way to live but I do think there is always room to learn and grow and live the best life you can. I know a lot of my friends are starting to lose their parents and I’ve talked to them how it’s normal to start thinking about the burden you’ll leave to your kids.

(The marbles were under layers and layers of stuff in a box that hadn’t been opened in years. They’re now being played with by my 5 year old son.)

If you haven’t made a detailed and current Last Will and Testament please please please do it. I know some people don’t even like to think about dying but we’re all dying and decisions should be addressed. Don’t let others make those hard decisions for you. It’s so hard coping with a loved ones death and even worse when you have the added burden of making decisions that you’re not sure if the person actually wanted or not and worse if family members disagree with one another. Death is hard. I’m so thankful my family was all on the same page when we had to make so many decisions recently.

(See that dish with the blue birds? IT sat on my grandma’s counter for as long as I could remember holding
hardened sugar because it didn’t have a lid.)

Next…honor what you have. If you don’t love it get rid of it. If you own it use it! Use the china, burn the candles, use the pretty soaps, print out the photos and display them. Go through your stuff. If you have multiples get rid of them. You don’t need multiples. The only thing it serves is taking up valuable space. You don’t have to keep a gift someone bought you 20 years ago because you worry their feelings are going to get hurt if you get rid of it. They probably don’t even remember buying it for you. If you don’t want to throw it away than donate it. There are so many good places to donate to. We donated a large amount of my mom’s items to Habitat for Humanity. If you try and donate it and they don’t want it, thow it away!! Organize your papers. It’s 2018 literally almost everything can be found online. Get rid of all that paper. My uncle spent hours upon hours shredding things.

We all work so hard for what we have so once you buy it, keep it polished, working or looking nice. Don’t let it collect dust and cobwebs. A big takeaway is all that stuff you worked so hard for…well it’s really hard to get rid of. We were also lucky that no one in our family fought over anything but we quickly learned how little money people were willing to pay to buy the items we were selling. It’s a big wake up call how little possessions matter.

I do think things hold memories but I don’t think everything you own does. You don’t have to hold onto everything because it holds a memory. Getting rid of something doesn’t throw away the memory. I did however bring home a suitcase of my mom’s things home with me. Each item provoked a strong and happy memory for me. But think about it. Her place was a large place for only 1 person and everything worth keeping to me fit into 1 suitcase.

(My grandma’s coffee cup)

I love my home. I’m very much an introvert. My home is my safe haven. I also love interior design and am drawn to beautiful objects. I think life should be about joy and enjoying the beauty that life brings. So I don’t think you should have to live like a minimalist but I do think we could all learn to be more thoughtful about what we bring into our home and ruthless about what we edit out.

(Photos I ended up keeping out of the 10 boxes she had where more than 9 of those boxes were duplicates)

Think about how you feel when your house is messy or dirty. It weighs you down and you are always thinking about it. That’s no way to live. You also know how you feel when your house is clean or when you visit a place that is beautifully organized and clean. Life can be hard enough as it is, we shouldn’t make our home another burden to ourselves. Start today. I’ll be honest my house is a constant work in progress but the more time I spend being thoughtful about my decisions the easier the house runs. It takes very little time to put things away or clean my house now, but keep in mind that didn’t happen over night.

So please I hope you get honest with yourself and your home. Take the time to make the place you live the place that makes you the most happy and the less stressed. Trust that getting rid of what you’re holding onto will bring more happiness to your life. Go out and make more experiences. Don’t let your stuff stand in the way of relationships with people you love. You have 1 life to live so make it the best one you can! Sending lots of love to everyone today! xoxo

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5 Comments
    1. I’m sorry for your loss, thanks for sharing.

    1. So well written, Laurie! This topic is so hard for me. I LOVE beautiful things, too. I’m finding the older I get, the more weighed down I feel, and feel like my house gets weighed down looking, too. I do, however, cherish the thought that one day I’ll have grandkids, and I can get out the cute Easter plates, or that sweet little sweater that their parent wore when they were little…Looking forward to summer and the opportunity to go through more boxes and bins and haul out just the “stuff!”
      Hugs to you and all of yours! Sending prayers your way, too!

    1. Such a great perspective, Laurie. I’m sorry about your mom and sorry about the difficulty of the relationship. I can relate to it completely. I was on the opposite side from you as far as the things left behind as I was not allowed access to any of her belongings from my mom’s fiance and later his family. Not even photos. The precious few things I have from my family mean so much to me.

    1. This is beautifully written and really hits home for me. I too am dealing with a difficult mom who was a stickler for a clean and orderly house when I was a child, but who has become a relentless and broken-hearted hoarder. I’ve long since given up trying to help her or trying to prevent it. You are right that it’s a mental affliction best left to professional. She has not died yet but she is very sick and in a few weeks my brother and I will be traveling to clean out one of her two hoarded homes. Thank you for the beautiful photos and graceful words as you are showing the grace and small things that can be pulled from such wreckage. It’s a lot of emotional work (moreso than the physical aspects of it) and I’m so glad to see your journey is one of lightness and love.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your story with me. I hesitated writing the post but have received so many messages where many people are dealing with the same thing. I can’t get over how stuff is getting in the way of people’s relationships, it makes me very sad. I wish I would have talked about all this sooner. I wish you lots of luck with your mom and the house. Be prepared because you’re right it’s going to be alot! Please feel free to message me if you need to talk! I know now it helps so much!

      Laurie

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