A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of about 50 or so retirees about organizing and downsizing. We spent about two hours together, and they asked some really good questions!
It’s easy to tell someone else what they should do with their things. It’s easy to take a step back and figure out a solution when you have the advantage of objectivity. It’s a totally different situation, however, when you’re faced with going through the possessions of someone who’s passed and/or going through all of the things in your home, where you built your life together.
As with all the other parts of this messy grief journey, there is no right or wrong time to decide to go through things. I actually went through his clothes rather quickly after he passed, motivated by the fact that if I did it, then I could have the entire closet and no longer have to carry off-season clothes to storage. And it wasn’t horribly difficult since by that time his clothes had lost his scent, and I knew I wasn’t getting rid of all of them. I’m a big believer in finding ways to honor memories, so my favorites of his ties are now a quilted medallion on my bed, and the majority of his shirts are becoming blankets for my son and me.
Surprisingly (and yes, you can laugh because I did after the fact), it was cleaning out the underwear drawer that brought tears. That and tossing his toothbrush. See? Grief is weird.
I have no problem downsizing my own possessions. I’ve realized stuff is stuff and have come to the realization that if it doesn’t bring me joy or it doesn’t serve a purpose, then I don’t need it. Going through his things, however, is a totally different story, and while I’ve done the majority of it, there’s still some left.
It’s now been three and a half years since his death, my life is totally different, and I’m making decisions about my future. That means the time has come to go through his garage. My son and I went through it once, just to see what was there and to figure out some things, but now I’m faced with really making the decisions of what to keep and what to sell. Going through his tools and gear seems like an invasion of his space, and even now, it’s difficult. It’s not a weepy-heart-wrenching kind of difficulty but instead more of the feeling of an absolute ending type of difficulty. He loved that garage. It was his workshop. His space. He had big plans for that space. Oh, and not long before he died he also knocked over the container that held all the screws and nails, etc. and never picked them up. So, yeah, I’m just a little ticked that even now I’m having to clean that up!
Through the years, he and I spent the majority of our vacation time working on our home, so I know how to use the majority of the tools. The question is, how many screw drivers of various sizes do I need? And will I ever need a table saw? And what of all those various and sundry screws, nails, picture hangars?
Part of me knows it needs to be done and I think I’m ready to tackle it, but it sure feels like an invasion not only of this things, but the shutting down of his dreams. It’s not fair. Sometimes I wonder if the feeling of “He should be here” will ever completely fade. At least now, instead of being crippled by that thought, I find myself determined to do what needs to be done. I even went out and bought a couple of tools for myself!