clearing out and letting go

clothes-2150834_1280Even in a small space, there are things to sell, give away, donate or throw away. When Mom came to live with me, she mailed several boxes of clothes, craft supplies, etc. and I found homes for them in the closet or in drawers. I sorted through my things to make space for whatever she sent down. This meant that some of my things were put out for anyone to take while other items were donated to organizations helping: women fleeing domestic violence or homeless people in Baltimore or veterans who need assistance or shelter-bound animals seeking a home. Of course, some items were thrown away, having already given their all. Item A needed space so Item B had to go. 

Given everything else going on with renovations and work and helping Mom adjust to Baltimore, I had not undertaken a more comprehensive clear-out until about a month ago. I made a list of things to examine, ultimately deciding what stays and what goes. This will be a long process because I also am trying to “put like things together” even when the “like things” are in different rooms. I also am trying to combine some of my mother’s belongings and mine – there is no reason to have her [thread/paper clips/envelopes/…] in one drawer and mine in another. No more parallel storage – we are merging our stuff.

What amazes me is that no matter how many times I go through boxes and bins, I always find something to re-home, recycle or toss. It seems to multiply. In some ways, that’s not a bad thing … it ensures that there is always more that I can purge … more that I can let go … more that I can live without.

It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that I will eventually build [that thing] or make [that pattern] or take up [that hobby] or use [that stuff] or wear [those clothes]. The reality is, I probably won’t … and someone else might. I consider it progress that I can let go and pass things on to someone else who actually might build or make or take up or use or wear. After all, I can view it as the loss of potential projects/stuff or I can bask in the glow of self-awareness and contentment … and celebrate more closet space.

Mom has culled on a large scale. When she sold her house in 2004, there was a lot of purging. It all happened so fast that she didn’t really have time to mourn until after she moved and saw what she had lost. She adjusted, though sometimes grudgingly, to her smaller space and accepted that she had bequeathed some of her belongings to local charities or put them out by the side of the road. She moved again to a smaller apartment about 5 years later, so downsized again – this time, she was still in control of claiming her favorite things and getting rid of the excess.

With the last move to Baltimore 21 months ago, she had to let go of even more. Although it was her choice to move, she was forced to make tough decisions about which of her favorite things to keep. This time, she doesn’t really remember pictures or figurines or trinkets from the past. She doesn’t miss the items. Perhaps, just this once, her memory loss isn’t such a bad thing. She released her possessions and her mind released the rest.

This theory would work were it not for the fact that Mom misses the ability to remember the things even more than she misses the specific items. Memory loss is the cause of more tears than I can count. Her frustration in not being able to remember something she had for 20-30-40 years or something she saw everyday is palpable. This is particularly true of the things that she made and gave up. Letting go of her few remaining possessions is almost unthinkable. Yet, as I cleaned out the closets and filled boxes for charity, she found a few items that she could live without. So, as I bask in my contentment and self-awareness, I tip my hat to Mom and am reminded of how important it is to feel that you have something to give.

4 thoughts on “clearing out and letting go

  1. Deborah Whitefield January 18, 2018 / 3:37 pm

    I don’t know if this will help or not but we remind my mother-in-law that she gave certain things to family members, so when she brings an item up, we tell her how much they are using it. Or liking it. Or whatever. For myself, when i purged i took photos of items with my digital camera, which went straight to a “We Used to Own” folder. It’s been a pleasure to know i haven’t really lost the memory, even though i have passed along the item. The thing i go back to “visit” most often is a small blanket my mom gave me to sit upon while i watched my then-boyfriend, now husband, play touch football. It was ugly, frankly, but her effort meant so much to me that i only gave it away a few years ago.


    • alphacatonline January 18, 2018 / 10:00 pm

      What a great idea to take photos! Unfortunately, I was only around for my mom’s first move. I asked whether she wanted me to come for the others (to the smaller apartment and then down here) and she said no, that she and her friends would take care of it. I regret not going up because there were some things – of value to no one but me – that I would have liked and asked her to send. She was just not able to function by that point and I don’t know what happened to the items. I asked her friends but they didn’t know. So, they are lost forever, I think.


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