Being Stuck With My Mother’s Stuff: Pandemic Clean-Up Post 1

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I’m pretty sure I’ve written about my mother’s stuff before – I could effortlessly write a whole book about my mother’s stuff, truth be told. She is one of those annoying women who keeps everything; who places a priceless value on each item she owns (and which she has dubbed, her ‘treasures’), from little notes my sister and I wrote to her as children, to every single card we ever gave her, to her collection of rocks, her collection of doilies, her collection of linen table cloths, her baskets, my Grammy’s sewing scissors (that no longer work), a whole bunch of carved wooden acorns (?), a unique lamp that is pretty but is no longer safe to plug in (vintage 1949), old cassettes I can no longer play but suspect include the voices of now-diseased loved ones.

I could go on and on…

When we discovered that both Mom and our step father had dementia, my sister and I had to rush to get them into a facility where they would be properly taken care of and not a danger to themselves or to one another (I should hasten to add that they are happy there, and well cared for. With the exception of the lockdowns that happen during a flu outbreak or this recent pandemic, we are free to come and go as much as we wish).

There has only been one fly in this ointment: as Mom’s memory slowly declines, she periodically becomes obsessed with ‘what we did with her stuff’. Both grown women with households of our own, my sister and I did not need or want too much of Mom’s stuff, so we only kept a few things that were truly meaningful to us. My most prized item is the wedding ring Dad gave my Mom over 60 years ago. It’s not big or particularly valuable, but I wear it every single day and always feel like Dad is nearby when I glance down at it.

My sister has far more backbone than I and far more strength of character when it comes to refusing to appease our mother’s flights of fancy regarding the incalculable value of her stuff. She keeps Mom and our step-father’s seasonal clothing and – because she lives closest – all of Mom’s paperwork. But she drew the line at doilies, wooden acorns and broken lamps.

As a result, because I am the pushover of the family and because Mom knows this full well, dementia or not, I have kept drawers full of Mom’s useless stuff. Because I promised I would. And because she regularly asks me if I still have ‘that little glass with the fools gold in it’, or ‘the little spoon I received from your Aunt ‘X’’. Her focus changes from one visit to the next so I never know what priceless treasure she might grill me about. I just know she will. I am a terrible liar and Mom knows it. If I tell her I still have the fools gold in question, she knows I am telling her the truth.

Now here is the crux of the matter: here I am, on Day-I-Don’t-Remember of social distancing during the 2020 pandemic, in my home province where we are taking the Covid 19 virus very seriously and – I did not think this could happen to an introvert (!!!) – I am bored silly.

Last night, a dear friend and I decided – via text of course; we haven’t seen one another in weeks – to challenge and motivate one another to ‘get moving’ and make better use of all this free time. She’s going to start by decluttering her room. I said I would start with all my mementoes. We will be checking in frequently to make sure neither of us gets too discouraged.

What I haven’t yet mentioned is that I am a terrible hypocrite, and very much my mother’s daughter. This morning I set up a card table and pulled everything out of my fairly neat – but bursting at the seams – ‘mementos closet’. I found little notes my kids wrote to me as children, every single card they ever gave me, some of my rock collection (you can find more rocks throughout the house though), a good number of baskets, a flashlight my Dad gave me the year he died (that no longer works), a lonely little baby sock that both of my kids wore when it was still a pair, the candles from my 40th birthday cake, a solitary shoe that my Beautiful Chrissy doll wore back in 1971, a whole bunch of miniatures for the dollhouse I started 30 years ago and have yet to complete), a bunch of old audiocassettes I can no longer play but that include the voices of our family.

I’m sure you get the point.

This last paragraph is for my kids: I have tried but I just can’t part with this stuff. The best I can do is try to have all of my ‘treasures’ in one place. When I die, they’ll at least be altogether, and you can throw them out, or symbolically burn them. If you’re feeling particularly kind, you can burn them with me when I am cremated. But while I’m alive, they are precious to me even though they are valueless to just about anyone else.

I could keep writing about this but I think I should go and call my Mom to apologise now…

Source of photo

Patti Moore Wilson/© wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com

Author: Patti Moore Wilson, wednesdayschild2

I write what I feel. And I rarely know exactly what I feel until I write. I have lived long enough to have known many joys and many sorrows. I have made many mistakes; I have forgiven myself for a few… I have learned that there are lessons in every step of this journey, if we only take the time to pay attention… I hope you will feel free to pick and choose the stories that resonate for you…

14 thoughts on “Being Stuck With My Mother’s Stuff: Pandemic Clean-Up Post 1”

  1. That reminds me of when my mother left the house we grew up in, still full of everything from mouse-eaten candybars to all my stuff as a young person to family heirloms and photos and her platinum and diamond wedding rings, and moved to a senior place up the road. She left it all unlocked, and said she had called 1800gotjunk to take everything in a month or so, so I moved in and looted the place over the course of the month. My house now is still full of things I can’t throw out, can’t recycle, don’t want to get rid of, and have no real use for except to preserve a world. No idea who will get it or want it when I pass–

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    1. Oh it’s a real conundrum, isn’t it? 😕 I am determined to part with SOME of my stuff, and this pandemic is certainly a good time to do it. Our entire country, except for essential services, is basically shut down. This is likely the best opportunity I am ever going to have. I am treating every scrap of paper I put in recycling as a ‘win’. But oh, I have barely made a dent in that recycle bin…😐 I absolutely feel for you…💕💕💕

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      1. I can relate and hope you figure out the best thing for your situation. To me, it’s a sort of time capsule of a world that isn’t there now and I want to preserve it since that was a big part of my life and the world I knew. I have no children or near relatives that are interested to give things to, so that limits the scope. Good luck finding the best solution for you.

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  2. Dear Patti – first and foremost congratulations for continuing with your love of writing. You do it so well. Secondly – I went through this. I had much coaching through the Alzheimer’s Society, a geriatric psychological resource nurse specialist, a geriatrician with the Royal Ottawa hospital and mum’s Dr. I learned to meet mum where she was at any given moment. When she asked where things were, and asked me to promise to hold them dear, I could honestly reply in the affirmative. Because they were etched in my heart, and our memories would explore and converge together with memories and anecdotes that would often include conversations with my father who had passed many years earlier. I have learned to rid myself of much of this “stuff” including my own (albeit slowly and progressively) because I cannot imagine placing the burden on my adult child that I had to bear while my mother truly keened and mourned the removal of each item from under her roof. So look at the items, hold them, then place them in a box and move them out. And make sure you enjoy each memory and know you can truthfully say “yes, I have it/them” because they are in your heart and memory.

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    1. Oh, Colleen, what a lovely – and loving – reply… 💕 At one point, it actually occurred to me to photograph each ‘treasure’ she wanted but couldn’t bring with her (before the sale of her house, of course) and my brother-in-law put all the photos onto one of those digital photo frames. Once she had those pictures, she was actually ready to let me ‘find a loving home’ for the pieces in question (which I did). Mom LOVES it, and looks at it often (her dementia, thank God, is advancing very slowly). But some of her items were in the category of ‘too precious to give away’ and those are the ones I have dutifully held onto. Thank you – from the bottom of my heart. Yes, I know your suggestion will work for me. I feel it in my heart…💕💕💕

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  3. This sounds so much like my father when we moved him to a seniors’ assisted living residence. He would ask where this or that was, but we live in a condo, and we couldn’t keep everything from his 3 bedroom house. He came to realize that we had to part with many of his possessions, and frequently told us that it was a good thing he wasn’t present while we were deciding what to keep, because he would have wanted to keep it all!

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  4. Thanks for sharing!!… well, all that is a part of my world at the moment and helps me deal with life and holds memories of the past which I can visit from time to time… when I grow too old to dream, those memories will live in my heart and the kids can do whatever they wish with the rest… 🙂

    Until we meet again..
    May flowers always line your path
    and sunshine light your way,
    May songbirds serenade your
    every step along the way,
    May a rainbow run beside you
    in a sky that’s always blue,
    And may happiness fill your heart
    each day your whole life through.
    (Irish Saying)

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  5. Yep…right there with y’all. I have been painfully going through “stuff”. AND I have plenty of my own that I don’t want to burden my two boys with. This new generation is into “minimum” and simply don’t want it. I had to donate a couple carloads full. Mom and Dad are gone now but still their stuff remains. On a whim, I tried Ebay and Craigslist. What a jolt of fun to make a sale. And to know it is going to someone who is going to enjoy it instead of sitting in a box in the attic. Of course the boys are very willing to take money, so it is a win win. When I take the pictures for Ebay I also save it in a file. I look back at those pictures and the memories do flood in. Sorry Mom, I just can’t keep everything!!!

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    1. Oh, good for you!!! It’s been nearly a year since I wrote this post and I am back at that closet again. With any luck, I will be able to part with a wee bit more. The things I still have of my own aren’t really worth anything to anyone but me, but more of them are now neatly in a scrapbook (or 2… or 3…!). Over the past year, I have indeed found home for a few more of my Mom’s treasures as well. It’s definitely a work in progress! Bravo to you!

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