Saturday, August 09, 2008

Sorting Through Stuff

My brothers and I are sorting through some old family "stuff".

My dad has moved to a smaller place, leaving behind a lot of things that need to be divided up or sold. While this has it tough moments, on another level -- sorting through my parents life has been very therapeutic.

The hardest thing to realize is that after a lifetime, much of the possessions that we acquire are just things. Their monetary value pales to the sentimental value, and in all cases it is just stuff.

I look at my own life. I am not even half the age of my father, and I imagine that someone going through my personal belongings would roll their eyes and say "Huh??? Why did he save this?"

I had imagined that I would want to take a lot of things back with me to Texas. I am the only kid in my family raised in the house my father lived in for the past thirty years, and my bedroom remains much as it did when I left for college 24 years ago.

Dad was widowed only a few years after we moved into this house, and little has been added since my mother passed away. Sure, some replacement furniture and other items...but most of the that we sorted had also belonged to mom.

I had thought I might have a stronger attachment to trinkets and little knickknacks. While there were some major items that we each wanted to take for ourselves (fortunately there were no arguments), it turns out that most things are just things. I realized that if I took stuff home, much of it sit in boxes until my own children had to one day sort through them.

Better to take only a couple of items that will have strong emotional meaning in my heart.

A co-worker told me that a few years ago her father gave her a holiday gift that consisted of a photo of him standing in the empty attic after he had purged his house of boxes of stuff. The caption read "You are welcome". He had made sure that one day when he passed there would not be too much to sort out.

Fortunately, my parents were not pack rats, so there was not much to do, and my siblings and I have the time over the long weekend to enjoy each others company.

But I had an "ah ha" moment with all of this. Collecting all that we acquire day to day is nice, but we must keep it in perspective. The things around us are important to us, not necessarily anyone else. One day my stuff will be sold on ebay.

And this is not a bad thing. It is a reminder to me to cherish and enjoy all that I have in the moment. Believing that stuff has a deeper meaning is misguided. What I hold dear in my heart is not a Waterford Crystal goblet or my dad's bowling trophy, but rather it is the memories of the joy and love that these two people exposed me to from the first days of my life.

I sit here writing this with tears in my eyes because I know in my soul how fortunate I have been to be part of this family. I look at my older brothers (yes, much older!) and appreciate them. No trinket is worth more.

Have A Great Day.



Anonymous said...

Beautifully said! Thanks for sharing your story.

Chris Hyde said...

Well said! I am going to pass this along to some others to read. Thanks for sharing this!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your article. I am currently clearing my parents' house after mum died. They lived in the house for 50+ years. The Great Depression taught them not to throw anything out, and they were disorganized. The hardest things for me to deal with are mum's beautiful clothes - which do not fit me. I am taking photos so I can part with them yet preserve my memory of them.