Postconsumer team member Jocelyn Saurini is on a quest to help her mother learn to let go of “stuff.” You can read her journey from the beginning here. In this entry, Jocelyn’s mom learns that purging your stuff can also mean a great day of bringing up fond memories.
Honestly, I feel as though I shamed my mother into at least beginning to go through the boxes stashed in what I call the “hoarding room.” While my mother’s home is cluttered, there really isn’t a spot that looks like she’s a hoarder … except for my father’s old study. Literally, that room looks as though it could have been taken directly from an episode of any of the cable TV shows that makes us all feel better about ourselves because “at least we’re not those people who hoard.” It was when I pointed this out to my mother (and the fact that the room is a fire hazard), that she finally began going through the boxes in there.
We haven’t made what I would call “extensive” progress in clearing things out of that room, but we are making progress. One of the hold ups is that so many items in that room hold memories for my mother. That’s both a good thing and a bad thing.
On the good end, whenever she picks up an item that reminds her of something, she gets inspired to make a phone call or send an email remembering the time or event that she’s been inspired to think about. At sixty-eight years old, that’s actually quite a beautiful process. Family vacations, personality traits of people, holidays, books she’d read a long time ago, all of these are wonderful memories of a lifetime that she gets to revisit as she cleans out the “hoarding room.”
But then there’s the bad end. That’s the end where, once the item has reminded her of a memory or special moment, she doesn’t want to get rid of it. Then the struggle begins. She fears that if she gets rid of the object, she’ll lose the memory as well. My “child logic” of pointing out that many of the items in this room have been in this room for a decade without being looked at does not win her over. The response is something like, “Well, maybe in another decade I’ll want to be reminded of these special moments.”
And then I sigh. Because that is what adult children do.
We’re trying to tackle the “stuff and memories” issue by creating a photo album and a scrapbook. In some cases, it’s easing her worry about giving up “things” that “mean” things to her. On the other hand, a photo isn’t the same to her as an old shirt or an old dish. The photo wasn’t “there for the event” like the item was.
It’s slow going to say the least. But when I visited her this weekend, she gave away a ton of old photos to family members. And that’s not only a win in that she cleared items out, but also in that it was a great sharing moment for all of us.
I believe that, optimistically, it will be the end of the year before that room is cleared out. I’ll take a picture next time that I’m home to document the progress! Wish me luck!
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Photo via Flickr Creative Commons: Wonderlane