Last week I began an overwhelming task: clearing out the house of family members who died. They had lived in the same place for 60 years and it seems as if they never threw anything away. I have listened for years to my friends’ stories of dealing with their aging parents’ belongings but it was not until now, when I am doing the same thing, that I truly understand what an enormous undertaking it is.
Neither we nor our adult children want or need any more furniture or furnishings. In addition, though some items in the house were expensive (china, silverware, some of the furniture) they are no longer in style and so worth very little. The solution becomes a garage sale, estate sale, charitable donation or a combination. Somehow I can’t tolerate the idea of those familiar pieces laid out on tables in the driveway but the thought of a dumpster is even worse.
The most difficult task for me was to sort through the bedroom closets and dresser drawers. I thought of my mother-in-law when I first met her, clicking around the kitchen in one of the many pairs of high heels she owned. With the exception of Donna Reed, I had never seen anyone doing dishes in high heels. And then there were the purses, the sweaters, the gardening clothes—remnants of a whole life. The smaller the items –tubes of lipstick, bottles of nail polish—the harder to throw in the trash bag.
There is a positive side to this sad task. It is a strong incentive to clear out one’s life and keep only those things that “spark joy,” as Marie Kondo says in her popular book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Now when I look at my closet, I imagine my daughter or sons someday wondering why I ever bought those velvet stretch leggings or thought I looked good in brown lipstick. Goodwill, here I come!