Sorting and Packing Up

My parents and my husband’s parents were born in the 1930s. They grew up with little and money was tight. You only bought something if you really needed it and had the means to acquire it, which might have included trading goods or services.

If your clothes got holes, you sewed them up. If something broke, you had to try to fix it yourself or maybe a neighbour could help. Throwing something away because it has a hole or doesn’t work wasn’t something they did, at least from my perspective.

As they grew up, that mentality stayed with them to some extent. If something broke or was no longer needed, you kept it because you might need it again or you might be able to give it to someone else who needs it and can fix it. Even though you may have purchased something new to replace it, getting rid of something just didn’t seem like an option.

I’m like that to some extent, but that’s another story.

My father and my mother-in-law have passed away. My mom has gotten rid of most of my dad’s stuff in the house. My brother has many years of my dad keeping stuff to go through and get rid of. My dad was a farmer and entrepreneur. My dad didn’t get rid of much. If something broke and he was not able to fix it, he kept it anyway as he could use parts off of the item to fix something else, sell the parts or manufacture something, or just because something from in might come in handy. You just never know.

My father-in-law recently moved into a much smaller place. It was up to his children, which includes my husband and myself, to go through everything that remained at his condo and decide who is keeping what, what items can be sold and where, what can be donated and to where, and what is garbage. It has taken weeks, or months, to go through everything. Years and years of stuff and memories.

Some of the decisions were easier than others. There were some beautiful teacups and saucers. A note was tucked in between two of the saucers. They came over from Russia in 1928, I think is what the note said. Not only were the teacup and saucer set beautiful and delicate, and tiny to fit my small hands, it had a history. I’m sure my mother-in-law could tell a detailed story about them and which family member they belonged to.

Even though I didn’t need the teacup and saucer set, I wanted to keep it. I’m not a tea drinker. Would I ever use them? Do I even dare to use them? Yes, I would. I would sit and have a cup of tea and think of my mother-in-law and her family. 

I didn’t keep the teacups and saucer set. I don’t need them. They went in the ‘to donate’ box. Hopefully someone else will appreciate them. 

We collect a lot of stuff over the years. Every time we move, we get rid of some stuff. But the longer we live in a place, the more we acquire. Well, I can’t speak for you but that is what is happening in my home.

After spending a few days helping my husband’s family go through their dad’s and the remaining things of their mom’s, I realize that I have way too much stuff that I need to let go of. I do not want my family to have to go through what my husband’s family just went through, or what my brother still has yet to finish doing. 

When my husband and I first arrived at my father-in-law’s the other week to help sort, pack and empty it out the condo, it felt like such a big task, almost overwhelming. Where does one start? How do you know what to do with each item? What do you do with the items that have sentimental value? All of the memories to go through and quickly process.

As the hours went on, more and more things were being moved out. The place was getting closer to being empty. The day we left, there were a few more smaller loads to take out and the movers were scheduled to move out the rest of the furniture and the 2000 pound safe. I am sure the story of the safe will be part of a conversation at future family gatherings.

The responsibility of cleaning out the place largely fell on one particular person. The night before we left, she came to me and said she wanted to cry. She asked me if it was okay to cry. I said, “ABSOLUTLEY it’s okay to cry!” She needed to let out all of the stress of the past few months. This has been a very stressful time for her. Not only did she have the stress of getting everything out of the place but everyone was constantly asking her what to do. That evening, with only a few things left to do, the place will be sold and no longer her responsibility. Her tears were tears of relief and perhaps tears of joy to finally have that burden lifted.

“Let us throw off everything that hinders…” (Hebrews 12:1b NIV). Is all of the stuff that we hold on to a hinderance, an obstacle, holding us back from…the list is long. You fill in the blank. Why do so many of us continue to hold on to STUFF? When we let go of the things that are a hinder, will we have tears of relief and joy?

There are many people who do not have the problem getting rid of stuff they no longer need. I applaud them! Please gentle with those who do, at least at first.

Are you holding on to material things that you no longer need because your parents or grandparents ingrained that mindset in you to keep everything? Do you think that maybe it is time to change that way of thinking as to not burden those who have to empty your place once you leave? I hope this will encourage you, as it has encouraged me, to slowly start going through the material stuff and letting go of things no longer needed. Removing material things that I no longer need will be a beautiful thing. 

2 thoughts on “Sorting and Packing Up

  1. You are motivating me to go declutter right now!
    I too fear the task of getting rid of parents “treasures”. My mom speaks of cleaning out and I encourage her every word! I still know there will be so much left behind.

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