Let me get you a chair

I know exactly when I lost control of this house, and I am sure that it was an item of my mother’s that put it over the top.  Things have always been sort of touch and go with this place – it’s a tiny house, only about 1100 square feet, and when the girls were living here things had to be carefully reined in all the time. Five people in a three bedroom, one bathroom house? I had to care how many shirts people had, and an extra box of cereal in the kitchen could be the thing that threw everything off, beginning a cascade of chaos that would rip through the house trashing the place as it went. It was in these tender years that I learned to get a grip on the stash, and I assure you, it is tidy, pruned and restrained as we speak.  (Please note that I did not use words like “small” or “modest” nor did I claim it doesn’t take up much room. The stash is a beast. It takes up the space allotted to it though, and nothing more. Mostly.)

This system has relaxed since the girls left.  No longer have I been fixated on the amount of stuff we have. I kinda figured that if it was just Joe and I, we wouldn’t have to worry so much.  Right? Oh, so, so wrong.  Joe is nothing if not thing of nature, and nature abhors a vacuum.  With every item that left with a child, another moved in to take it’s place, along with the idea that there should be room to have it here.  Files for the business? Sure. We should be able to keep those here. Three kids left.  Thing is, they left some of their stuff – Sam in particular maintains a fully functioning bedroom and a turtle here.  (Franklin the red eared slider. We’re not sure how we ended up with him, but he and Joe are close.) Still, Joe and I had this place mostly in hand, and then my mother died.   (I know – I know, another blog post where I mention the dead mother – I’m sorry.  I swear it’s just a part of this story, not me weeping on again.)

Mum had a lot of stuff. She’d done a ton of culling over the last few years, and we’re super grateful for that. Still, she had a large home, and lots of beautiful things, and we’ve been reluctant to let things we associate with her go elsewhere – problem is that my siblings have tiny homes too, and like mine,  are already fully furnished.  Unfortunately, my sister and I have not let that stop us, and yesterday I moved an unholy amount of stuff into my home from my mothers, and the place hasn’t reacted like a tardis at all.  We have no idea where to go from here, but I can tell you that from where I sit this exact moment, it looks like we live in a furniture store. An untidy furniture store.  A furniture store run by a cranky lady who doesn’t want anyone to touch her stuff, and doesn’t really have any plans to sell anything, she’s just calling it a furniture store so that people get off her back about the three dressers, nine lamps, eight throw pillows and the fantastic number of chairs.

Sitting here typing,  I can see sixteen chairs, seventeen if we count Elliot’s high chair.  I have no idea what my plan is, but it involves owning a lot less over the next little bit.  Some hard decisions will need to be made about our things, I’m still not ready to let go of much of Mum’s – also, her stuff is mostly better than mine.  (I think. Maybe I just think that because she’s my mum.) Today, it’s just overwhelming to have a dresser in the living room, a writing desk in the kitchen and my Great Aunt Naomi’s tray table in the entry. (Maybe the landing at the top of the stairs?) This place needs change. Big change.  The sort of change that is uncomfortable and awkward and asks deep questions like what’s really important to us as a family, what are our priorities… and how many tablecloths you never use do you need to keep in a cupboard forever, and does anyone really use napkin rings?

It’s all a long way around saying that this place is a mess, I have no idea what my next steps are, I am super overwhelmed, and I made my back garden an office today.

Seemed reasonable, there’s only a little extra furniture out there. (Mum had a patio.) That little bit of knitting is something I think is going to be a baby sweater by Saturday, although really, can a woman with seventeen chairs in her living room prioritize a baby sweater?

Don’t answer that.  Of course I can, and I have.

131 thoughts on “Let me get you a chair

  1. Goodness. First, don’t feel you have to apologize for mentioning your mother. Moms (and Mums) are so central to our lives. Of course they leave a void that is felt for a long time (forever?). I can’t imagine anyone here begrudges you your grief or your stories. I think you Mum sounds like a lovely woman!

    Second, blessings to you as you try to deal with being overwhelmed. It’s amazing how much emotion is tied up in physical objects, even those that otherwise seem trivial (like napkin rings). I am lucky to still have both parents, but I can’t imagine the trauma of having to deal with all of their things (and my Mom is pretty good about culling, too, bless her).

    Thanks, as always, for your stories and your voice.

  2. You go ahead and write about your mum.! We’re glad to read it! My mother-in-law had 38 places to sit in her house. In a way I was so fortunate that she lived in a distant state and I had to just get rid of things. I think fondly of her every day and treasure her flower vase.

  3. Talk about your mum anytime you want. We all have them or have lost them. When my mom died,three yrs go, she and my dad had already scaled down, but there were a lot of decisions to be made with my siblings about her stuff. Things that seemed imperative to keep are less so now. I will never let go of her recipe book with all the good recipes on slips of paper stuffed in it. The desk my grandpa made will always be in this family. The messages she left on my voicemail will never be erased. Everything else became less important as time went on. Take your time.

  4. Steph, never apologize for writing about your mum. She’s always going to be part of your life.
    About the “stuff”… oh, I can SO relate. We moved my mum from a full size house into a retirement condo (one bedroom, living room-cum-kitchenette and bath) last year. And she had a lot of stuff.
    Siblings wanted nothing. I stored all of it for a year, because, like you, I couldn’t bear to part with it, even though she’d never need it again and couldn’t remember it anyway, because out of sight and all that. But…. eventually I started resenting how much space it took, and the fact that neither sibling wanted to help deal with it. And that it was taking over my house/life/space. And so I sold/gave 99% away. And you know what? It felt good. Stuff is just stuff. It’s the memories that matter.
    xoxo

  5. Went through a similar situation 4 years ago. Lived with the consequences for too long because we had room and the sons are not out of school into their own apartments yet. My husband is finally ready to let go of some of his mother’s treasures. We upgraded with some of her belongings, other things he finally realized were not needed. Some items we donated over time to other families and organizations. Everything had to be gone through individually though. We still have 2 guest rooms that are storage/hoarding. Slow process. Asvwell as we knew her, we found treasures that we know nothing about and that is sad.

    Best trick I learned from a friend – take a formal picture with that vacuum or lamp or tea set. With a beautiful frame that is all we needed to preserve the memory.

  6. Your problem will be resolved as soon as all three girls are in houses. In the meantime, think of your home as a warehouse of sorts. As soon as our son bought a house, we gave him a list of available furniture, with dimensions, and put it all on a truck. Our house is back to normal. It took thirteen years, but it did happen. With three available recipients, you are much better off. You can gradually put the things you want to keep where you like. I bet all the extras can be piled into one special place. Learn from my mistake, and don’t block access to the water meter.

  7. Two little words can solve your problem: She-Shed. You can store the extra stuff, declutter your house, and make tough decisions later.

    • I was thinking the same- it all doesn’t necessarily have to be dealt with immediately, it just needs to be out of the way until dealing with it is ok. A storage unit of some kind would do the trick

  8. Went through the same thing when my mom died just over two years ago. I tossed stuff I now wish I’d kept, but my house is small, and she had so.much.stuff. It will be fine. Honestly. It will get better. Truly.

  9. The girls can step up and see what they want of your Mum’s, and maybe of yours. If you have something of your Mum’s that you cherish, that could replace something of yours, why not that? The girls can take the excess, or you can get rid of that (less painful).

    I can tell you that keeping things of your parents after they’ve gone is important (I purged almost everything, in my grief, and it is one of my few regrets), and not something to do when you’re rushed or upset (if possible). It’ll all work out in the wash, though…

  10. You have three daughters. Maybe they each want some furniture? Napkin rings and tablecloths? Get boxes. Put each child’s name on the box and give away to each child an item of yours, or your mother’s. Maybe even Ken and Pato want things to remember her by. Gift what you can to those who will love the items, at least eventually.

  11. Relax. You’ve got this one. Especially if you raised three kids and assorted pets in this house. First: Finish that baby sweater. Second: Do NOT knit slipcovers for all 17 chairs in the living room. Third: Start identifying the things that must go (to The Ladies, the resale shops, or the curb). Get them moving, a piece at a time. Use a bullwhip if you must. Fourth: Adopt a kitten. It will get into EVERYTHING, helping you identity more stuff that can go. Fifth: By this point, you’re almost done. Move the highchair to the basement to await the next grandbaby. Lastly: Replenish the stash and breathe deeply of the yarn fumes.

  12. I got claustrophobic reading your post because my house is the same size, but thinking of 5 people living here was overwhelming!!
    You know, you take your time. I am in the purging stage, too, but the stuff I will part with is mine, so that makes it somewhat easier.
    When you are ready, take pictures of everything. Those will help to preserve the item in a picture without taking up room.
    Remember: passing on some of your mother’s things is NOT letting go of her. BUT, you will know when it is time.
    I agree to having the girls choose some things that they can use.
    It is hard now, but it will be okay.
    PS: Talk about your mom all you want. It’s healing for you and it helps us to keep tabs on how you are doing. We care about you!

  13. No worries about mentioning your Mum! We all understand.

    My sympathies to you on the “furniture store.” When my mom passed (27 years ago!) we were lucky that she was tidy. There was a full house of furniture, though – and I had a nice big house that was nearly empty. I “inherited” (by default) most of the big stuff – 2 dressers, a desk, 2 wing-back chairs, 7 foot sofa, and dining room set. I have used it for all these years and lovingly remembered this being in my home growing up, but now that I am growing older (and thinking of my own children having to shovel out my home), I recognize that my children have fully furnished homes of their own, and do not and will not want this furniture. So I, too, am having to think about letting things go to strangers who will hopefully love this furniture as I do, even if it is without the sentimentality.
    Good luck with your decisions!

  14. Yeuh? Well, join the club. This is why I go out to knit and go to the shop and go to retreats. I thought that was the reason you did too? Hmmmm? I just sleep at home!!!

    I have 5 spinning wheels, 2 Great wheels 1 CPW and one that has never been spun on!!!! and one that needs to be fixed.

    And so it goes …

  15. If it seems too hard to handle, there’s always this route:

    https://www.furniturebank.org/

    Do keep the few things that mean the most to you and Joe, then share with your children. Perhaps offer to share with close friends and neighbors who appreciate fine furniture, or with someone who doesn’t have enough and needs a place to sit. And take your time! 😉

  16. Nice office! But, it will get just a tad, just a titch, warm this weekend. So, better be prepared to retreat indoors.

  17. My recommendation is to leave things be. Sooner or later the perfect recipients will turn up, the ones you could imagine your mom giving them to herself. In the meantime, enjoy the all too short Canadian summer and train for the bike event.

  18. I lost my mom around the same time as you – Oct 4 and we’re starting to go through the same thing. My sister is still in the house but doesn’t plan to stay there so I’m trying to clear out my junk to make room for stuff if hers I want to keep. So I sympathize. And knitting is indeed the antidote. Gives you time to stop and ruminate over what your next move will be. And who’s the lucky baby?

  19. I took a lot of unneeded stuff from my mom as well. And she lived 3000 miles away so it was not so easy to get it here. However, every time I use the cloth napkins and the napkin rings, I am very happy and it reminds me of some of the good things about my mom. So just use the napkin rings and then you don’t have to purchase paper napkins any longer!

  20. Oh I understand! On February 12th, my mother’s 93rd birthday, she was diagnosed with dementia, requiring a move to a hospice environment.
    I live in Wisconsin, she in Idaho.
    I had just messed up my right knee and my sister was so angry I would not fly out to help move her belongings.
    So I told her she could have my inheritance: some items both special and collectibles.
    I don’t need more belongings, I need less.
    An ongoing struggle for many of us.

  21. Put the excess in Sam’s room (Franklin won’t mind), and sort it bit by bit. Or don’t, and let time help. I’ve been through this too with my mom’s home. I finally let go of the dining room suite that was just too big, but there are boxes of china and antique glass in the basement, and a lamp in a box that I really want to hang, one of these days. Take your time, and we are always happy to hear about your mum, and your love for her.

    • We actually had a party at our parents’ house, and told people to take what they wanted! My parents loved a good party, and I knew they loved all the friends we invited. We got rid of a little bit that way, but it was nice to have one last hurrah and to know some of the items would be taken in by friends, just as our friends were always taken in by our parents. 🙂
      It’s not an easy process. As others have said, it gets better.

  22. I’m in the same boat! My mom actually died 12 years ago, but my dad wouldn’t let us move anything of hers. And I was in the will to get all the antique glass and furniture!
    So when my dad died last September, I kind of freaked. Right now, though — just in my dining room — I have 2 desks, 2 filing cabinets, 2 dining room tables, 4-5 chairs (can’t see over the pantry cabinet, also in the dining room), a recliner, a side-by-side (one side a glass-front display the other side storage for?) and 2 6-foot display cases.

    Needless to say, there’s no room for working, walking or managing to even move stuff around.

    I have a feeling Craig’s List will become my new best friend.

  23. Had the same thing happen to my house. Closed my Grandmother’s house and brought home boxes of stuff and some special furniture. My Dad got the rest. When he died I got all the stuff he had plus some of HIS stuff. Another uhaul full of stuff that sent the house over the top. Never feel guilty. That stuff is important..I hate when people referbto keeping such things as hoarding…it’s not…it is love.

  24. Take it in small bites. It is amazing how much you can do in a focused 15 minute block. And it also helps to sort by category. Get all of one type of thing together, and it will be easier to let go of say 5 chairs if you can clearly see that you have 10 others that are nicer and match better.

  25. After my mom and my mother-in-law died, I ended up with 7 sofas, 3 dining room tables, multiple mahogany hutches and dressers, three sets of china, etc, etc.
    We made our kids take some stuff and found young people setting up first apartments to take more. But we’re still drowning in stuff.
    I read recently that the average American home has over 300,000 items in it. I’m wondering if a box of blocking pins cdounts as one item or 50.

  26. “yesterday I moved an unholy amount of stuff into my home from my mothers, and the place hasn’t reacted like a tardis at all.”
    oh that line made me so happy 🙂 (I wonder if I decorate my house inside like the TARDIS, would it start to behave like one? hmmm…)

    I love hearing everything about your mother and how you feel about her and what you remember about her and how you miss her. Please don’t feel you should stop (or slow down) talking about her. She sounds like such a lovely person… plus I love hearing about how close a mother-daughter relationship can be. In fact if you wrote a book about your mom, both when she was still here and after she is gone, I would absolutely want to read it.

  27. Oh man, I hear you. My grandmother had also thoughtfully scaled back, but she lived in NJ, we lived in Toronto… we had to say goodbye to some lovely, meaningful pieces.

    And as others have said? Feel free to cry all over us, that’s what (online, invisible) friends are for.

  28. I think i knit that same baby sweater, and it drove me bananas that, when knit as written, the diagonals didnt line up in the yoke! You may want to adjust for that. Also i like the idea of the take away chair party. Or how about putting some of the stuff on here for sale and donating the profits to a cause dear to mum’s heart?

  29. Oh Boy! Can I relate. I was an only child and my mother was the “keeper of the family heirlooms” and that was passed on to me. Hang in there – hopefully the girls will eventually want “things” – my daughter did – many years later.

  30. I feel for you. I really do. When my much loved MIL died 12 years ago, my DH sold “most” of her effects but I clung onto her favourite chairs and desk and he clung onto a glass topped table with an embroidery she had worked, her dinner set and canteen of cutlery. The latter are not used but loved in a shrine-like way.

    When my father died two years later, I decided that I would keep things that he had handled and used so I have both his workbenches, his tools, his wheelbarrow and small desk items like a little metal ruler.

    Even those modest keepsakes cause remarkable havoc in our medium sized house but I love them all and would find it hard to let them go. I wonder if keeping the things of people we love protects us in some way from wondering what will happen to our loved and used stuff?

    We need a shed. A large shed.

  31. I feel this. My mom (who is a bona fide hoarder) just moved in with me, and her mom (who also was a hoarder but we can call it being “a child of the depression” to make it sound better) just died and I think I am going to explode along with my house. Baby steps.

  32. What people do around here is fill up the garage, which is why there are so many cars parked in driveways and on the streets. When the garage gets full, they rent storage units, sometimes in multiples. I used to pass things on to my kids, but they don’t want any of my stuff anymore. I regularly donate to Goodwill, Habitat ReStore, a local org that is restoring wetlands (they are coming for the trailer tomorrow), etc. Sometimes when I get rid of something, it leaves a hole. It helps to tell myself that it is someone else’s turn to enjoy this item. Good luck!

  33. Please, mention your Mom any time you think of her. I think of my Mom often, miss her desperately, and I have to talk about her. If people get tired of hearing about her, tough, try living without her.

    Her house had to be sold, so we had to empty it out as soon as we could. We kept a lot of things, but some were let go of that I wish we had back. Mom was much better than I am at keeping things weeded out. I’ve gotten very good about not bringing more stuff in, now I need to get better at moving stuff out. I find once I start, it does get easier and faster to just let stuff go. Good luck, hope you’ll find homes for your overflow.

  34. The struggle is real! Many of us can first – hand relate. Try to not rush yourself. If you think you might regret a decision, wait a while to make it.

  35. My mother is mentally ill, and her only connection to her relatives for the last few years is prolific hate mail, and she booted my dad out of the house after 40+ years of marriage, so when he died not long after that, my siblings and I just had what he had taken with him. Sort of unlucky and lucky at the same time. I wear his signet ring, and his jacket hangs in our entry closet as if he were going to come back for it. We donated his clothes. We tell the kids his many limericks and jokes and stories—not one of which was appropriate for his eulogy in church. 🙂 My husband, on the other hand—his parents are pretty much hoarders. My FIL has discovered Ebay and buys epic amounts of stuff from it. I’m hoping my husband shows some restraint when the time comes and just takes stuff he actually remembers from his childhood, because we could really wind up with an ungodly amount of crap. Wish me luck. 😉

  36. Lots of hugs, that sounds both lovely (surrounded by family things) and overwhelming (surrounded by that many chairs). I didn’t make it home for my Granma’s passing and was lucky to get the small pieces from her apartment that I have now. I have two larger items from my Nana that I shipped down here to NZ that will never ‘fit’ into any one room/house style but are beloved friends from my childhood I can’t imagine not having. Maybe your girls have that about somethings too? Like all the other commenters say: take your time and share as much as you like, as often as you like.

    I do hope you’ll have every small person you know over and see what sort of massive blanket fort you can create with the seventeen chairs and umpteen tablecloths. Epic!
    Maybe give Elliot the napkin rings and some fabric once the fort is built and let him have at the best sort of loose parts play, with things that people who loved him owned but forgot how to use so that he can decide for himself!

  37. I feel you! I clung to everything of my grandma’s when she died and it was many years before I finally let most of it go as I’d really just been storing things but not using them. I once heard an organizer suggest people create a photo album of the sentimental items we’re storing and then let the items go. Made sense to me. Take care!

  38. Hello. I am going through the same thing! We too have a tiny house and are clearing out my mums house. I have days when I can see clearly and part with stuff and tearful days when I just want to keep it all.. Thanks for sharing your story.

  39. 🙂 Today I told my toddler if she insisted I buy her a new stuffy at the store I would have to ask one of her siblings to move out. We are six in 1000 sq ft. The struggle is real <3

  40. We’ve nearly all been there … it’s easy to equate things with feelings, and yes there is stuff you might want to swap for yours, or that brings back memories and is hard to part with. But picture your girls in forty years time … would you want them to hang on to your dining table, chair or dresser and struggle with an overwhelming and overcrowded home? Nope. They’ll want your knitting needles, no doubt! Keep the things that are going to be part of your life going onward, keep the stuff that is genuinely useful, keep the stuff that makes your heart leap. Let the rest go to benefit someone else. If the house burned down tomorrow, your mum would still always be with you, the furniture may spark memories but the memories aren’t in the furniture. And please don’t ever apologise for talking about her, she’s still part of your life.

  41. Of course you want to talk about your mum, and you should. And if you want to weep we’re here to give you a virtual hug until you’re ready to go on again.

    I did the same thing with my mum’s furniture when she died – including creeping inbetween narrow corridors that was the only space left. But that helped sort out priorities. I kept some of her stuff, some of mine and either gave to friends, charity, or sold the rest. And I can honestly say I’ve never regretted getting rid of anything – except mum’s treadle Singer sewing machine (I only sew up sweaters and put on buttons). Best of luck with the deciding and the sorting.

  42. Please do keep talking about your mum if you want to. If it helps you to process things in any way I think we’re all happy to be here and listen.
    Good luck with sorting through all the stuff. I guess if there are any pieces of furniture where you’re sure you love your mum’s more than yours, then go ahead and get rid of yours, otherwise sit with it a while. My mum and her brother are still sorting through paintings that their parents owned and they both passed away about 15 years ago, so these things do take time.
    Can you hire a storage unit to put some of your furniture in? see how you like living with your mum’s furniture, and how well it fits into your home, and then make a decision? would make the place a bit less cramped in the meantime too.
    My thoughts are with you, and I hope you enjoy your beautiful sunny outdoor office…

    • “Yes” on the storage unit! when we had to empty my folks’ house for sale a few years ago, there was some really beautiful cherrywood furniture that my dad had built, literally starting from the tree 🙂 My sister and I donated most of the contents, but I couldn’t let that furniture go to strangers. Each of my boys selected some items that they wanted, as did I, and most of that went to the storage unit. I don’t think either of the boys will want any of the cherrywood(it’s awfully formal for our house) but I may be able to find a few folks who would appreciate it. Meanwhile I’m REALLY happy that storage units rent for cheap!

  43. Do you have stuff that you’re not fond of? Have a yard or tag sale and donate the proceeds to one of your charities in her name. By letting go of your stuff you can better incorporate hers into your home.

    Just a suggestion.

  44. I can totally understand the reluctance to let your mother’s things go. There are a lot of memories associated with them. I bet, though, that after you’ve been living with all that extra furniture for a while and it starts to get on your nerves, you’ll figure out what you can part with. (I’m sure, for instance, that there are some charities that would be happy to take whatever you can’t use off your hands.)

  45. When you talk about your house and your house keeping, I relate so much! The first time was back when you got a new furnace and there were holes all over your house and you had to go get a beer and be away. I have a 750 ft house (plus unfinished basement where laundry and storage is) and I thought I was the only one who cared how many shirts my family has! I know the extra cereal box struggle! We can barely fit all 4 chairs needed around our table, and no more. We can’t have guests for dinner? The children are too small now to worry about that. One thing though…17 chairs!?! I dream of that. My dad has built my table for me, so it didn’t come with chairs. I’ve spent most of my adult life with no chairs or miss matching chairs that don’t fit under the table. Be blessed in your plethora of seats! Have a GIANT party where everyone gets a chair!

  46. Let me suggest the acquisition of one more chair. When I was a baby we called it a sassy seat but apparently I’m the only one who still does and they’re now called a hook on chair. It’s a baby seat that clamps onto the dining table so there’s no legs to break your toes on and you can get rid of the high chair. Plus, you can put it away when the baby isn’t there. Ours was a lifesaver when we lived in a small rowhouse.

  47. I felt like I was sending my mother to the Goodwill and I couldn’t do it. Every year at Christmas I go to the attiic to pull out the Christmas decorations. Christmas was a huge thing for my mother and she decorated every square inch of the house. I have a number of things from my mom not everything mind you but a lot. Our house is at least twice the size of her house and I cannot for the life of me figure out how she got all this stuff out on display. And it makes me smile.

  48. Ah, I remember the Christmas after my grandma died. I arrived home to find the house had been invaded by dining room sets–two in the living room, one in the dining room, one in the study and one in a bedroom. Thirty chairs. I asked Mom if there was a plan. Maybe a tent meeting? Nope. Luckily she worked for the housing authority. Later that afternoon she told me about settling in a family where twelve people were eating dinner on the floor. I said (as neutrally as possible for someone who had to skirt a dining room table to get to bed), “So you know people who don’t have a table to eat at?” She nodded and then smiled. We spent Christmas Eve with a rental truck delivering dining room sets to those without. The family with twelve eating on the floor got Grandma’s dining room set with the five leaves–and they named the baby born that week after my Mother. One of my favorite holiday memories.

  49. You have had an enormous life changing year. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the fact that the changes are on your mind and please please please don’t apologize for it.

  50. Maybe you could spread it around as part of karmic balancing – the easily packaged and shipped things anyway – and then your extended blog fam will share in your mums spirit and you can think of that thing in someone’s home. And if it were in my very tiny home that’s not any bigger than yours you could come and visit it any time you’d like.

  51. What others said about having a party and letting others take items they want or need home with them.

    But also, is there an abused women’s shelter near you? Or a refugee resettlement charity? Do they need help furnishing a home for someone who has absolutely nothing?

    I think your mom (and you) would love to see your stuff used by people who could use all the love the furniture has absorbed through being in your family.

  52. My mom passed in January (dad had passed many years ago). It took me 5 months to let go. I lived in Mom’s house by myself for those 5 months and it was terribly hard but I finally did it. Dad had built a lighted gun cabinet (guns went to my brother). Mom was a collector. So I shipped the gun cabinet to my home across the country along with four boxes of Mom’s collection of glassware. I’m going to have shelves added to the gun cabinet and it will hold Mom’s collection of glass. I will enjoy what they loved in a special spot in my home. I can live with that. I wish you luck in finding a similar solution.

  53. My zinnias are totally grounded. Your’s are beautiful! Mine are still the same size they were when I hardened them off a month ago. Curses!!!

  54. Aaaahhh…my mom died 7 years ago and I’m still in the same place as you with stuff. Although I have a large house. When my mom was in hospice we had to make the decision, suddenly, to move her in with us. Fortunately she had already downsized from a large condo to a small senior residence. But…the weekend she moved her whole household ended up in my garage, and in a storage shed. Now we have a 3 car garage that fits one car. 7 years later.

  55. OMG this sounds like my place! When we moved my grandmother into a seniors home she insisted that i have her dining set, along with some other items that i have been able to gift away, and of course i couldn’t disappoint her (i’m more a mid century modern type then a french colonial type). So i’ve been living with a dining room table for 12 (dismantled admittedly), 8 chairs (i call them my ghost chairs since they’re all covered in white sheets), a sideboard and a full size buffet cabinet in my otherwise fully furnished condo. I gave up earlier this year and got rid of my smaller kitchen table since i wasn’t in love with it and had used it more to put stuff on then to eat at it; i just needed more space for everything! But i’ve tried to make it work – in the end i’ve gained some closet space since the sideboard is holding winter shoes right now and the stash has moved into the buffet cabinet! Who needs china when you can have pretty yarn to look at? LOL

  56. Maybe when you are ready, you could list some things on eBay and have a fundraiser for the Rally. It seems to me like that’s a win all around. You know that the things you’ve taken in that belonged to a person you love will go to homes where they’re going to be useful and needed. A worthy organization in need of funds will be helped. And, it seems to me, your mum was a kind and generous person and would be pleased with making a difference in the lives both of her loved ones and strangers in need.

  57. Please talk about your Mom. We never forget and it is good to share. My Mom passed 12 years ago and with out of state siblings and with them not in a position to keep anything I had to deal with the stuff. I kept a few things and my daughters each took something, but there was still a lot of stuff and Mom lived in a 1 bedroom apartment. Anyway it gave me a different perspective on things. I’ve purged my home (after moving 8 times in 6 years) and only keep things I truly love and that I use frequently. I found that 1 don’t miss all the stuff and truly enjoy what I do have. A burden was lifted off my shoulders when I purged my things. I feel like I’m doing my daughters a favor in not leaving so much stuff for them to deal with. I’ve had frank discussions with them about what they want and how to deal with the remainder when the time comes. Now when they are here they say, be careful with my bowl or don’t scratch my table and we have a good laugh. I think that will give them great memories. I found when my grandmother passed it was harder to deal with her things as I spent a great deal of my childhood in her home. Since my Mom had moved and I didn’t have childhood memories of that place and those things it was easier to get rid of things.

  58. Somehow it will all work out. And you will have enough chairs for all your family to sit. Your mom was special and so are her things.

  59. As an only child of an only child, I am the heir to my mother’s, grandmother’s, and my father’s possessions. They all died over 30 years ago and I still have all their stuff. And my stuff, and my kids’ stuff. Luckily, they had nice stuff so it is just part of my daily life. My kids are in big trouble when I go!

  60. When it came time to move mom into assisted living a few years after the papa died, the sheer magnitude of stuff was overwhelming. Over 3000 sq ft and she and my dad both loved the Victorian period so not one square inch was left unadorned with something. Much of it I had no problem putting in the estate sale. The fact that a lot of money was needed for her care combined with our cabin being a whopping 800 square feet put me into a ruthless purging place. Where it got hard, though, were all the family antiques that spanned multiple generations and each had a story. “Oh, that ornately carved desk over there from the 1800’s? My great grandfather gave them that, he was given it by the original editor of The Detroit Free Press to pay off a gambling debt. Did I mention he was a bootlegger and involved with the Purple Gang? Yeah, such a great story but a real bitch to dust.” And so on. Aside from the practicality of the above mentioned bills and our house size, what really made me pull my shoulders down away from my ears and breathe a little deeper was something my cousin said when I talked of being torn on some of the bigger pieces (that Belter library table would look great in our bedroom if we got rid of the bed). She said just because you rehome the stuff doesn’t mean you lose the story or the memories. Simple enough, but such an “aha!” at a time when the world was a bit topsy turvy.

    In the meantime, enjoy those chairs.

  61. Everyone else has said it better so I’ll add one small codicil – get rid of the napkin rings. Ask me how I know

  62. Awhile back you posted that your dreams had stopped for a bit. I lost my husband suddenly and unexpectedly 21 months ago. I too lost my dreams for 16 months! At that time I realized I hadn’t touched my knitting for 16 months either. Now I am gladly clicking the sticks and realize I am getting ME back. It takes time. When I read your posts regarding your dear sweet mum it makes me smile as I know I am not alone in my grief. Although our situations differ, we are the same, all of us. Never apologize for sharing your feelings. You are helping others to heal too. As for the stuff, well you should see my house. I am trying to de-clutter and realize I am not good at it. sigh

  63. When my parents moved from the house I grew up in to to their much smaller retirement home, a lot of the big furniture went to an auction house. Easy to do it all at once, the auction house had a truck to come pick it up, and better prices than tag sales.

  64. I highly recommend the book Let it Go: Downsizing your way to a Richer, Happier Life by Peter Walsh (available on Amazon.) He has some excellent suggestions on how to part with parent’s belongings, such as deciding on a few truly iconic pieces to keep, and photographing the rest. A photograph album will still provide the memories, but not take up as much space. Especially if you pose Elliot with some of the pieces of furniture!
    Hugs

  65. Fortunately for me, neither my mother nor my in-laws had anywhere like our taste in furniture, or much else for that matter. The one thing I wanted of my mother-in-law’s (that Family Circle cover afghan with the violets) was snarfed up by someone else. When my father-in-law passed away, my husband came home from a trip to help deal with his house with these awful 25th anniversary glasses, which are still here somewhere until I can sneak them out of the house.

    I took no furniture from my mother’s house or later apartment, though I still wonder if I should have kept a narrow chest of drawers that was my grandmother’s, and when I gave away her sewing machine I let the large tin that held accessories go with it – wish I’d kept the tin. I do have a very few kitchen items and china/crystal items that were my mother’s or her mother’s.

    But I get it. Too many friends and relatives have gone the same route as you. If you think her stuff is better than yours, then decide what of yours a piece of hers should replace – and do it. If it isn’t better than yours, find some charity to donate to. Otherwise the clutter will drive you mad and you and Joe will eventually be at each other’s throats. Give the kids the first pick of the discards.

    For more motivation – https://smile.amazon.com/Gentle-Art-Swedish-Death-Cleaning-ebook/dp/B074ZKHG4K/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1530296098&sr=8-2&keywords=swedish+death+cleaning+book

    Hubby is 69, and I’m 66. We’re trying to leave our daughter less to deal with in the eventual event. Also, we’ve now lived in our home longer than either of us lived anywhere else. We’ve been in our house for 34 years. Boy, can you accumulate a lot of stuff in that time, thinking that it isn’t hurting anything by having it there. Eventually, someone will have to deal with it, and better us than our daughter.

  66. My mom has been gone since 2001 and my dad a few years later. I live is a house that was my grandparents and has been in the family since 1909. We took photos of the inside of my parent’s home so that we could remember how it looked when they lived there. It made letting go easier. I now have special pieces that have spanned several generations in my home. My children and my brother’s children all started their homes with furniture from Nana and Papa. Keep what you love and find good homes for the rest.

  67. A few years back when I took over my grandmothers house, I had a loooooooot of stuff. I had my stuff but I also had my grams stuff and at some point we had to make a decision that we needed to get rid of things because it was getting ridiculous. So my husband made a sign for the hallway (IF YOU HAVEN’T USED IT IN A YEAR DO YOU really NEED IT?).
    So every year come spring time we do a haul of clothes, toys and random items that shouldn’t be here but is and we either donate or throw away things(that junk drawer comes to mind lol).It really does help and the house isn’t as cluttered.;

  68. I just turned 74, and celebrated by moving into a condo I thought was slightly larger than the one I’d lived in for 9 years. Nope — they must have included the detached garage and the sunporch in the square footage. I’m still struggling with the remaining stuff in the old place — photos, craft materials, keepsakes, all interspersed with crapola.
    DD moved into her first house a week later, and is less settled in than I am, but all of her stuff is OUT of the previous apartment.
    As I type this, I am sitting at the oak table my dad used when he did oil paintings after he retired. Next to it is my mom’s tall oak filing cabinet. Not far away is the antique bed in which DD, now 35, was conceived. In my living room are two chairs I received when my mom went into a nursing home in 1996 . . . you get the picture. These things are meaningful to me, but DD and DS won’t care about much of it, so I’m at least focused on getting rid of most of the small stuff that they won’t want. If I live as long as my oldest great-auntie, I probably will succeed. (She died at age 98.)
    Stephanie, please keep writing about your lovely Mum. People eventually must leave us, but the love goes on.

  69. Oh, you make me feel less bizarre and alone in this! When my parents died, after living for 55 years in the same (enormous) apartment, I put 150 boxes in storage. And that was AFTER throwing out a lot of stuff and donating yet more. I know I have to deal with the boxes (mostly books), but I think it’ll be a personal journey, maybe accompanied by a memoir. Desks? My grandfather had a desk almost as big as a dining room table. I’m still not sure I’ve found all the secret drawers.

  70. As someone who buys second hand tablecloths, napkins, and napkin rings, I would like to reassure you that if you do decide to give them away, they will find loving and appreciative homes.

    I have a collection of my great aunt’s hand embroidered tablecloths, but I can’t bear to risk spoiling them. So I buy hand embroidered tablecloths from people I don’t know so I don’t feel guilty spilling soy sauce on them. People are strange.

  71. Would it be out of the question for you and Joe to move into your mother’s house and either sell your present one or give it to your married daughter and her family? Just a thought. Otherwise, rent a storage unit and save things for your mother’s grandchildren or swap them out for some of your own things.

    • Oh, and about those napkin rings? Think about having a silversmith cut them and make them into cuff bracelets for the girls, you, you sister…you get the idea.

  72. We have an 1800 sq. ft. house in the San Francisco Bay Area. We moved here six years ago from a 2500 sq. ft. house with a 2.5 car garage and full basement with all my inherited goods from both my mother and my maternal grandparents. So much stuff was sold/gifted before we moved. And we still had too much stuff. I’m in the midst of going through things to sell at our garage sale later this summer and I’m sick about it….but we really cannot keep all this stuff. I’ve even culled over the years since moving and it’s still out of hand. We won’t discuss my stash, which has a closet of its own.

    I get it. I so get it.

  73. Oh can I so relate. My dad died 5 years ago and we have finally let go of the stuff we really didn’t want to part with but had no room to keep. Because my dad was a car collector – a very electic, unorganized hot rod builder and collector. When he died, he owned 10 cars. I owned two that were stored in his garage. We have a three car garage and my mom is moving into a house with a three car garage. As a collective family (I am an only), we now own 7 cars between us. This is managable. But I would still love to own each and every one of those we sold. But I think my neighbors would be angry with all of the cars parked on my lawn.

  74. I apologize if someone else already recommended this. In case not: Marie Kondo, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” When I started asking myself if it brought me joy, it really, really helped make room for the two new humans I made in the past couple years. And yes, my mountainous stash brings me immense joy.

    • Have you read the companion/follow-up book Spark Joy? It’s more focused on the method than the first book is, which I prefer.

    • SO true! If I don’t love it and it brings anything other than happiness, OUT it goes! Life is too short to hold onto bad feelings when you look at an object

  75. Please don’t apologize for struggling with and writing about the loss of your mother. We all have either been there or are fearing it. I probably would not be reading your posts if you were cavalier or insincere about it. My mantra about grief is “it takes as long as it takes and everyone is different.”

  76. “There’s no right way to grieve” I was told again and again when my dad died. It’s true. Do what feels right today. What feels right tomorrow could be completely different.

    Just remember, you are not dishonoring your mother if some of her beautiful items go to people who never knew her. Considering how generous you are, I suspect she was too. When/if the time feels right to part with items and family members don’t want them, you’re actually quite lucky. You’re giving your mother one more chance to spread joy in the world.

  77. Thomas and Jane Carlyle had literally dozens of chairs in their London townhouse – which was so small that their servant had to sleep in the kitchen. So as long as no one is yet sleeping in your kitchen, you’re fine!
    Napkin rings were invented to save on laundry. Personalize them with the names of the people who eat at your house, and then after each meal tuck their napkin back in the ring for ‘next time’, whenever that may be.

  78. I am smiling, because I can relate. My DH’s grandmother & one of my grandfathers passed away last year, and we are all facing this same situation. (His parents, my parents, and I. DH is the most minimalist of us all, but is feeling the effects, too.) {{hugs}} for all of you, and I don’t have any words of wisdom, but I thank you for sharing your thoughts & reminding me that this is not unusual, and we should be patient with ourselves as we sort all of this out.

    And absolutely you can prioritize a baby sweater. 🙂

  79. You are totally free to ignore this suggestion and I haven’t read all the replies so someone else may have said it already, but would it help to cull the stuff (yours and hers) you don’t have room for if you made it a memorial to your mother? Helping furnish a home for a struggling young mother or a young LGBTQ+ person whose family kicked them out. Something along those lines to make someone’s life easier in her memory? Sell some things and donate the proceeds to the bike rally?

  80. Nothing to say that hasn’t been said already (I too am very much Team Storage Unit, if that’s something you’re able to consider), but just wanted to thank you for your beautiful writing about grief and loss. Good luck with the furniture!

  81. I can fully relate to your post. My mom and dad passed 9 days apart in Jan 2016. One had an apartment and one a very large mobile home. Needless to say my 2 sisters and I had our hands full. At the time we were so full of grief that we didn’t get rid of much..and only to our kids and close friends if they needed that chair or table. Fast forward to now…just yesterday I began being able to part with “some” things and still it’s hard. I moved some items and got very creative in my storage of other items. My livingroom is now comfortable and not a dangerous area to navigate. I’m still at the stage where if it does go to a family member I can’t let go of it. I made quilts for my sisters and me from their cloths to remember both of them, oh how they cried when I gave them to them. The grandchildren also got items made from their clothing.
    And talk about your mom…it helps…

  82. Knowing how close you and your mum were, I’d think it odder if you quit writing about her and how well, or not, you’re dealing with her passing and the things she left. It takes time to sort it all out.

  83. Last night I was at an estate sale and found some lovely pins to add to my jewelry collection and some attachments for an old treadle sewing machine I have. This same lady donated her needlework supplies and books to the local EGA and I enhanced their treasury at that sale also. I’m happy about the finds, and will use them. I may have fonder memories of the prior owner who (whom?) I’ve never met, while using the items than her heirs would have, if they left things sitting in boxes in a basement or attic for years simply because “it belonged to…” And as others pointed out, if something of your mum’s would work better, there’s no reason you can’t swap out something you already have.

    Is it a cosmic hint to both of us that I just got a “touch the world” captcha thing? I’m dealing with stuff left by Mom (passed away 4 years ago) and Dad who passed away a few months ago.

  84. Mother stuff is life stuff. An appropriate topic.

    I like the idea of creating a rough inventory by photographing everything of hers. When it’s a multiple (like chairs), a photo of one. Tag the image with the quantity and approx measurements. Now you have a master list of everything. You can put the bulk into storage, (do you have Pods portable storage units in Toronto?) You can study the photo list without rearranging your house every time you ponder these items, and also easily share it with siblings and daughters who’d be welcome to weigh in on preferences.

    You could call in an interior designer for a consultation. To identify from the overload some pieces most likely to work with your home life in the coming 10-20 years. You could even refresh a whole room around a new armchair, stoneware or rug. It’s easier to let go of extra stuff, whether your own or your mother’s, once you get excited about showcasing things that “fit” your life perfectly. No need to actually do the repainting or slipcovering immediately – just have the designer lay out a general plan, which you could then execute when you feel up to it.

    If you like, you could have a local auction house rep identify anything that should receive special care or insurance, or, deserves to go to auction, or affects how you distribute things fairly between kids.

    The possibility of regrets exists, whether you keep or purge an item. Accepting now that there will be “mistakes”, helps.

    I kept everything of my mother’s, in a state of grief and decision paralysis… and it tipped my nice 1100 sq ft house into permanent overload, several year ago. No space to entertain or house guests; harder to do crafts. A big cost. So, keeping it all is not a no-risk proposition, either. Open space is a treasure, just as an object is. There’s no victory in becoming Curator of Museum Mother: all displays, no space to actually live in; just enough to store her stuff. Until the day someone else tosses it out indiscriminately. Or fire/flood makes the decision moot.

    In your shoes, I’d choose some things that are so reminiscent of your mother, and better than their current equivalents in your house, that it will improve your life to have them around. Then distribute the rest. If daughters can’t take the rest, either, it’s fun to seek out someone – anyone- who will really enjoy them. Ebay, Habitat for Humanity, an antiques bulletin board.

    Good luck. Grieving is a back-and-forth process, until the forth gets a firm lead.

  85. Stephanie, you have no idea how much your posts about grieving your mom are helping me to move through this stage of life myself. My mom died suddenly about three weeks before your mom did. I get such comfort from your beautiful honest words. And my dining room is barely navigable with her family heirloom furniture. I am the designated keeper until her grandchildren grow old enough to have their own places. The few items my sister took from New York to Texas were destroyed in the flooding from Hurricane Harvey. Nothing is worth very much in money but the pieces have memories of many generations. I think of my mom every day but with less pain as life goes on.
    Thank you from my heart.

  86. There is a German word- kummerspeck. It means, literally, grief bacon, or grief fat- the idea being that at a certain point in grieving there is an adding of weight. With both my Oma and Opa dying in the same 12 months, everyone in my family has gained a bit of kummerspeck in the form of home goods. There are coffee services that no one will ever use, tablecloths, yes, and more chairs than make any kind of sense. My wife and I made every effort to take one thing out for every one thing in, but we are still rich in places to sit and very low on floor space and breathing room. Like all weight, it will just take time to shift it.

  87. I sympathise with you in the passing of your mother. My mother was a weaver and it took me 10 years before i was ready to release her floor look to a person who takes good care of it. Relax breathe and give yourself time and space.

  88. Living room?? I have not had one since mum died. It’s now a room full of dressers, chairs, tables and even more chairs. It’s been like that for over a year now and I’ve decided it’s all to hard so I just shut the door and think “ I’ll sort that out later!” Actually I’ve grown quite relaxed about it – we never used the room anyway.

  89. We’ve been through situations like this a couple of times. When my husband moved in and when my Mother died. Getting rid of stuff is hard but I can’t fill up my entire house so we had to purge and in the end it felt better. We kept some of the treasures that we loved and let go of some that were a little less loved. My daughter is going thru the same thing on a smaller scale (keep grandma’s dining room set because she loved it or keep her own). It’s hard when it belonged to a beloved family member to choose. She put her’s in the garage and grandma’s in the dining room for now so she doesn’t have to decide today.

  90. I have a rectangular coffee table in my loft and a gate-legged table in the bottom of my wardrobe. Both belonged to my grandparents. I can’t see either fitting in with any decorating scheme I’m likely to have in the future (near or otherwise) but I refuse to let them go (much like a notelet my Grandmother wrote to me in 1989, which is kept in the briefcase I used when I had a Proper Job — pre-children). Fortunately, I have parents who got rid of Stuff when they downsized ten years ago, so much of what they now own has little sentimentality and memories for me. I also have a tablecloth that has cross-stitch embroidery on it, which I bought in Switzerland during my honeymoon with my first husband. 27 years later, the man hasn’t been a part of my life for nearly a quarter of a century, but the tablecloth (and co-ordinating napkins) — which have never been used — have moved house with me several times. The reason? My aunt – who moved to Australia when I was around 6 months old (I’m in the UK) – sent money as a present on the occasion of my first marriage and the tablecloth (and accompanying napkins) was what I bought with that money. I definitely need to have a clear-out though!

  91. Oh, I can relate to this on many levels! We have raised our three boys in a 1200 square foot , 2 bedroom house. They have shared one bedroom all along ( only the youngest at 18 is left at home). We have always been, of necessity, pretty good at not accumulating too much stuff. When my dad unexpectedly became ill and passed away 6 weeks later, I had to clean out his tiny apartment and big van. Mostly tools, record albums, and books. DH took all the tools and gave each boy a boxful of his own, with plenty left over here at the house. Now every time we pull out that big wrench, or staple gun, we say “Thanks, Grandpa!” :-)) I put the albums and the books in the closet we call the Attic, and haven’t looked at them since. I am realizing now (three years later) that I don’t need to keep them to remember him. We have photos, and our family stories (and a few tools). to remember him by. We will be moving my mom from her apartment of 30 years to another smaller apartment near her sisters. My intention is that I am taking my Grandma’s sideboard, and nothing else! We moved into our house 24 years ago with one load in DH’s 1967 International 1-ton dump truck. I’m hoping by the time our boys have to deal with our house, we will be back down to that one load….
    Good luck dealing with the stuff, and please talk about your Mum as much as you want! We love your stories and the love shines through. Thank You!

  92. If you don’t use napkin rings regularly now, you’re not going to start. But maybe your daughters need napkin rings at their homes? Good luck figuring the rest of it out. It’s hard to live with the clutter, but give yourself permission to live with it a little, while you figure it all out.

  93. What everyone else said about talking about your mom… it’s not a thing. It would have been hard indeed to speak about the house and its new things without the why of it all.

    And no, no one really uses napkin rings, much as they might think it’s a lovely idea. I had a set of 12 that were gorgeous. But I also had way too much of everything, and they went out in a purge. I don’t think I’ve ever even thought of them again until you just mentioned them. YMMV, but I imagine that’s one thing you could release.

    That’s always the tricky part: knowing what you really value, and which things will make you think “damn, why on earth did I let that go?!” But I don’t think you can know and do it perfectly, so you just do the best what you can.

    Much love to you in the tricky times!

  94. sorry to hear you’ve lost control of the house and have no idea how to move forward.
    There’s the William Morris test: does the item function, is it beautiful.
    There’s the room purpose test: list the actions you do in the room and evaluate items based on whether they serve that purpose.
    There’s the coin toss test. I often find out what I really think about the choice when I flip a coin and want to fight the coin’s answer.
    There’s the optometrist test. I made this up when my dad asked my cousin to choose a piece of his pottery, and she couldn’t. It’s patterned after the test where you look at the eye chart and the optometrist asks which is better, lens A or B. You get a set of similar objects. Take two and decide which is better, A or B. Then you take A and C (or B and C if you don’t like A) and ask which is better. Continue comparing just two items at a time and eliminating one at a time, and eventually one wins and all the others go.
    There are professional organizers. You could buy a two hour consultation.
    There’s Jeff Campbell’s excellent book Clutter Control: putting your home on a diet, with chapters on uncluttering rules and the psychology of clutter. Very cheap used copies are available on abebooks.com.
    I agree with others who suggested a storage unit. Maybe with a deadline of a year.
    And I agree with the suggestion to break up the work of decluttering into small amounts of time.
    Finally, there’s the quote from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night: “Be that thou know’st thou art.”
    Good luck as you do big change and ask deep questions.

    • oh, and there’s the David J. Anderson test where instead of framing a course of action as a question of priorities, you commit to deliver a good or service on a set date, and schedule tasks to meet that date.
      For example, you commit to delivering a family meal in a comfortable, functional, pleasant dining room at Christmas, so you plan to start doing x on such and such a date, and y on this date, and z on another date.
      Helps to focus and keep to the right task at the right time.
      As for getting clarity on what to schedule and when, the Anderson test works when there is a customer waiting for the item/event/service who knows the answer to the Spice Girls question: “Tell me what you want, what you really, really want.”
      For you, maybe ask those who know you, “what do you think I’d choose under normal circumstances to have happen with the house in the next week and next month,” and “what would you like to see happen for me with the house by next week and next month.” Then see how you feel about the answers.
      Thanks for throwing the topic out there, I like thinking about these things.

  95. Be kind to yourself. You aren’t even a out and it’s tough. I have lost both parents and my husband. It takes time to get over such a loss. It takes time To wrap your head around that you will only see the people who loved you the most in your life, in your memories. I have a lifetime of possessions from everyone. It takes time, be kind to yourself, be patient. You, and only you, will know when the time comes to let these items go. My best wishes and prayers to you and your family.

  96. Oh how I understand the feeling of having lost control of the stuff. My parents are both still living, for which I am grateful every day, but both in bad health. Five years ago they downsized their home from an extremely large one to one a third of the size. My mom cried about some of her things as she was being forced to part with them and I took them… the vases that she got from her favorite aunt as engagement and wedding gifts have found a place in my guest room, even though I originally did not want them. They are lovely in there, by the way. But there is so much other “stuff” that needs to stop living in the small basement of my small Baltimore row house. The stuff in the storage unit needs to go too. But it’s really hard to get rid of those things. I am trying to teach myself that pictures of some of those things will be much more effective than keeping the clutter. The tough part is that now that I have decided to get rid of it…I actually have to do something about it. The decisions and the physical moving of it will all be hard.

  97. Houses sort of shrink and expand. This house of mine which was big enough for me, my husband and three kids, now is too small for me and one adult son. I did recently find a ten-year-old sweater project, two sleeves done, and no memory of where it went from there. Unraveled the sleeves and made a shawl, didn’t wash the yarn after unraveling, so the result is sort of nobbly, but it’s okay. At least I got this project finished (except for weaving in the ends).

  98. Steph, just keep on writing about your Mum. I love hearing about her. Back in late 2005 my dad died. Then my mom moved from a 3 bedroom, 2-1/2 car garage and full basement to a 2 bedroom condo. I think they moved everything from the farm into the house–Daddy moved small bits of barbed wire and a ton of boards to town. They had asked us 3 girls to make a list of things we would want. Some went then, some when Mother moved. I took things she would want in the condo so I could have time to figure out where they would go in my 1100 square foot house. 3 months after the condo, she was in a 1 bedroom independent living apartment. More stuff. When she died, the rest of things got divided. That was 5 years ago and I’m still teary about her at times.

    We managed to raise 2 teenage girls in this 1100 sq. ft. home. However, being kids of depression kids (keep everything in case we need it), we have way too much stuff. Am convincing hubby that things need to leave now rather than the kids all saying “WTF did they keep that for?! I’ve tossed things I carried around since I was in college when I realized the space they took and the fact that the girls didn’t want them. I still have a dresser that was hand made for my grandparents in the 1920s. It’s a very slow process.

  99. 17 chairs in your living room reminds me of when I lived in my grandads old house with all his old furniture, and all of my dads things as he had recently passed too. Then I moved 300 miles away and gave it all away….

  100. I *want* to hear about your mom. Our connections are what make our humanity.

    My father-in-law passed between Christmas and New Year’s and all four of his children wanted the gorgeous hand-hewn oak table he’d made himself. Except, not a one of us had a dining room or kitchen long enough to fit that big solid plank of a top in–he’d made it long enough for a crowd, and high enough for him (6’6″) and his boys (6’6″ and 6’8″) to have one their size. I always felt like a little kid who needed a phonebook to sit on at that table. I quietly swung my legs just to see if I really still could, there.

    But he’d made it. And fifty years later it was still gorgeous and rock-solid.

    Finally one of the grandkids mentioned that he was moving across the country to close to where Dad had lived and he and his family were buying their first house. Turns out it has a big dining room. He totally scored that table, to everyone’s relief and delight–we didn’t have to give it away and we didn’t have to pay monstrous moving fees to keep it in the family. And nobody was going to be stuck with wall-to-wall table that didn’t fit.

    Things will settle out in their own time. It’s okay that it can take awhile.

    (Then there’s the hideous green couch that was the first thing my mother-in-law saw when coming to our then-brand-new house, and she exclaimed, You still have that ugly old thing? Get rid of it! *I* did!)

  101. May I suggest Swedish Death Cleaning? Your children will love you for it, as you would love your mum had she also embraced it. Those Swedes are a practical bunch.

  102. First things first: A baby sweater? In white? 🙂 Is this a stealth announcement?

    Second, I’m in the same boat as you but for a different reason. My house filled up (also basement) when my mom moved into assisted living (against her wishes but necessary) and insisted that we keep Everything…because it’s hers and she might need it someday…So it’s in my house and in my basement. When you find a good solution, please share it.

  103. Your posts are beautiful and deep, and about situations we all face, so no apologies necessary. It is good to think about these things. Thank you for writing.

    Regarding “stuff”, I like the approach of Peter Walsh, who encourages us to process the emotions and meaning that attach themselves to physical objects. I have a huge area to tackle, one I’ve been avoiding for a long time because of the emotions it evokes, but I’m slowly gathering strength to do it. Best wishes to you too, as you walk through all these events around the loss of your beloved mum.

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