It began six months after my mother passed away.
When she died, Mum was in her 92nd year. She had lived in our large family home for 50 years. Cupboards, cabinets, shelves and wardrobes all overflowed with a lifetime of family memories.
It was difficult to face up the fact that we, Mum’s family, had to start unpacking her home room by room. There were endless cards, letters, school reports, newspaper clippings and kids’ drawings. There were photos to be copied and shared. Plants had to be re-housed. Trinkets and ornaments and pictures had to be assessed.
We decided to make three piles in each room: things to keep and share; things to donate and things to dispose of.
It took weeks to sift through, assess and make a decision about it all, and lay things out in their piles.
We all have different ways of making life work for others. As a family we met every Sunday for a month to go through it all. We ensured that each of us got something that was special and meaningful for us, including mum’s grandchildren.
What I observed is that emotions often got in the way of what we were trying to achieve. There were some disagreements and even some tears. Some of us ended keeping things that we just didn’t need.
However something else I learnt, was to make sure that the family enjoyed the time together. We did this by talking about trinkets and keep-sakes and family heirlooms that triggered memories for us. We took great delight in the fact that many useful items were being gifted to charity. Mum would have loved that. With what was left we had the luxury of setting a celebratory bonfire with fireworks, attended by all the family.
This experience showed me what an enormous and emotional job it can be to pack up and disburse a loved one’s home, even with a large team of people.
This has encouraged me to start a service to assist families or executors, confronted with a house full of memories, to gather, sort, distribute or dispose of those things that have been left behind.
The same principles apply to the living – I can help with decluttering and down-sizing now, rather than leaving it until someone has died.
Our mission at www.honesweethome.net.nz is to develop a downsizing goal and keep you on track, without letting emotions control that outcome.