Friday, April 29, 2011

Stuff love

I've recently been surrounded by complaints, laments, praises, frustrations and the like regarding aging and ailing parents.  I'm a baby boomer and I've shared about the loss of my mother-in-law last month.  My parents are both alive and well, but aging and all that comes with aging.  And, a co-worker is sitting vigil for her mother this week.  There is no getting around it, this is tough stuff.  Our parents are children of the depression era.  I don't know if this is true for any of my readers out there, but I find these folks like their stuff.  I mean a lot of stuff.  And, they like their stuff.  And, they DON'T like you messing around with their stuff.  So, let me tell you a couple stories.

I'll begin with my parents and let me tell you, I love them.  I LOVE my parents, but I HATE their stuff.  Recently I posted about the strangely inflated price of silver.  Well, since I grew up with my parents I knew my dad had collected coins.  Lots of coins.  I usually don't talk to my dad about his stuff, because it's HIS stuff and he likes his stuff and he knows I DON'T.  Anyway, I called him and said, "Hey dad, silver is selling for an unusually high price these days and DH and I are selling some of our silver on eBay and getting some really good money for it.  Do you still have the coins you collected when we were kids?"  No answer.  He didn't want to talk about it.  He told me he didn't know and really wasn't interested in checking.  Hmmm.?.  To make a long story short (and I really have to do this because this is kind of a long story and I really am not a strong writer.  I like using fewer words than more, etc. etc.)  After three days of calling him in the morning and evening of each day and bringing the conversation back around to his coins EVERY SINGLE TIME, oh yeah, and I even had my DH speak to him at least once, but I think it may have been twice.  *sigh*

I really am like a dog beautiful princess with a bone.

He consented to look in his safe.  Finally.  Now, this was no easy task.  Evidently he had not opened this safe in over 20 years.  So, there was a lot of crap stuff piled in front of the safe.  I am grateful for his willingness, albeit nagged out of him by yours truly, to go through some of his stuff while he is still alive and able to do it.  He has agreed to let us sell the collection.  I am so happy.  I'm hoping he can make enough money to afford to have new carpet put in the first floor of their house.  I know my mom would really LOVE that.  We will see and fingers crossed.

Now, you have to TRUST me.  This is the Readers Digest condensed version.  Seriously, this was a TOUGH process.

Now, let me tell you about my mother-in-law.  This was a woman who knew how to let go of stuff.  She was organized and prepared and showed so much love for her children by paring down her stuff.  My mother-in-law, sweetly and lovingly was preparing for her death.  When her children went to her apartment they found a to-do list on her dresser with what needed to be done after she passed.  There were a few items crossed off.  I think she may have lived a little longer than she expected and was able to start working on the list.  I think this is precious.  Now, I have to give some credit for her culling process to Mother Nature.  She had recently gone through hurricane Wilma.  It made her previous apartment unlivable and she had to move.  I believe some major separation of mother-in-law and stuff happened at that time.

To make a long (and still very sad) story short, my DH and his sisters were able to empty their mom's apartment in two days.  Two Days.  This was such a blessing.  It is a very hard thing to go through a loved one's possessions and not become emotional over and over again.  It is very hard to toss, donate, sell possessions that seem to have been dear to your loved one.  I think the less there is to do, in this regard, the better.  The truth is, in fact, one man's treasure is another man's trash (yes, I know you usually hear it visa versa, but in this instance the reverse is truer).

As to my co-worker, she is overwhelmed with the thought of dealing with the stuff.  And, it is scaring her to death.  I know I don't want to do this to my child.  I never want my stuff to get in the way of my relationships.  But, this is just me.


  1. smiles. i can appreciate this and can not imagine when the time comes to go through my parents house...the basement in particular...i am a shedder...i get anx and just start shedding stuff i dont need...if it has not been used in 6 months its fair game...except my books but i am starting to shed some of those as well...

  2. I have one of each. My mom can let go of things so easily. My dad not so much. My mom LOVES her house and she says that the house is for us (her children) when they die. This house is a huge house that needs maintenance and I would prefer the money! Ha! And I tell her. "Instead, sell it and leave me the money."

    I'm really kidding here because I don't "need" anything. I don't need her leaving me anything. I'm fine. But I keep telling her that she should sell the house and travel and do fun things with that money.

    But see, this is what I want to do. My mom loves her house and I think that the pretext to keep it is that she wants us to think that the house is for us (the kids). For my mom, her house is a symbol of status. They both worked hard for that house and it would be humiliating for her to sell it because... WHAT ARE THE NEIGHBORS GOING TO THINK! She would be perceived as "poor."
    I gave up on telling her to sell her big house. This is her thing and is her happiness. She can go ahead and keep her house and spend a bunch of money maintaining those empty rooms and unused bathrooms.

    I have to take care of my family and it was too draining for me keep trying to change her. Like my husband says "it would be easier for you to change, than for her." So, I changed myself.

    I still get irritated when I hear how much money they are spending on the upkeep of that house. And then she tells me that she can't go on a vacation because they are low in cash. But I no longer say anything.

  3. It is so much more peaceful to accept them where they are, isn't it. I didn't share the whole story, but my dad found STACKS of $100 bills in the safe. I don't know what stacks of $100 bills are in his world, but in mine, stacks = lots of money. *sigh* Whachagonnado?

  4. It was the saddest thing in the world, clearing out my mom and dad's house. My mom was diagnosed with Alzheimers in September 2009 and she and my dad moved to assisted living (he was a stand up guy and wanted to go with her.) Then he passed away in December 2009. A heartbreaking time. Their home was left behind so abruptly that September that it was bizarre to go in there and it stayed exactly the way they left it for a year. My sisters and I finally got most of it cleared out last summer. My parents were hoarders, too - and children of the depression. They also stockpiled supplies from the warehouse store. I always knew there would be tissues and paper towels in the storage room.

    So some of the stuff is with me now. Sigh. I got all sentimental and couldn't part with it. I even have a clock that doesn't work that my dad won as an award. :)

    Note - my mom is still in assisted living and doing very well on her meds - she is very childlike and loving now.

  5. I agree with you 100%.

  6. Stacks! I love the sound of "stacks of $100 bills." It must be a great feeling to know that your parents are taken care of! I want that for my parents. But in my case, my parents put all of their money into that house and then they don't have any stacks.


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