One of my neighbors told me that her mother passed away over twenty years ago. My friend was in her early twenties at the time. Her dad never cleaned out her mother’s side of the closet. Over twenty years later, he was still living with his late wife’s clothes and belongings where she’d left them.
My heart goes out to him.
I know a woman in her late sixties who was widowed a few months ago. I don’t know her very well, but I know the grief was fresh for her. She warmed up to me a bit only when I told her I was a widow, too.
She told me her neighbors were replacing the decrepit fence around their backyard. Turns out, her late husband had put up boards on part of the old fence that faced their house, because they hated the old boards so much. It was a terrible fence, so I couldn’t blame them for covering up the eyesore. She was told that the fencing company would be happy to remove the boards her late husband had put up and get rid of them for her. She said that she would remove them and keep them, because that’s what he would have wanted.
It was not my place to tell her that he doesn’t care one bit what she did with the wood now. She’ll figure out eventually that she has little use for the hoarded crap he left behind in their backyard.
My heart goes out to her.
I’ve been cleaning out my house. This year has been about purging and decluttering. My kids and I have removed at least one carload of things, donations, or giveaways every week. There is still so much stuff—more than two decades in the same house will do that. Some of the things are objects that he hoarded (who needs so many old, heavy antique military backpacks or old pots and pans for the camping trips we never took or old cardboard boxes for electronics we don’t even own anymore?).
There are quite a few things that the kids and I have found useful and helpful, such as his tools (seriously, girls can use power tools, too) and a few other things. But there are some things that we don’t want or need.
My house is not a shrine to my late husband. He is no longer here. I know some people who say they have a sense or feeling of their departed loved ones. Not here. After he died, he moved on. I’m absolutely sure he doesn’t care about the material things he left behind.
Most of our memories are not good ones. Why would I keep things that only make me sad or trigger panic attacks?
If you’re in that situation, my heart goes out to you, too.
For me, the entire “it’s what he would’ve wanted” doesn’t mean anything to me anymore now that the fog of grief has lifted, and I’m reclaiming my life.
I’m making a box of his treasured things that my kids don’t want. They don’t have meaning to us because we don’t know the stories behind the items. I’ll give this box to his parents and siblings. I know losing him has been hard on them and that they’d like to have some of his things to remember him by. It has taken me a while to do that for them. I don’t think they understand that it hasn’t been hard for me to let go of these things. It’s been hard for me to go through them and process my emotions.
It’s okay to remove the things you can’t look at or have no use for. It’s perfectly acceptable to repaint your walls whatever colors you want. Clean out his (or her) closet. Rearrange the filing cabinet to your own system. Get a new set of bath towels. Get rid of old wood that someone else might have a use for.
Donate the purged items and give yourself space to breathe in your own home. Do it on your time, when you’re ready. Live your life on your terms. You deserve it.