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Confessions of a Pack Rat (who is the daughter of a pack rat who is also the daughter of a pack rat)

Well, here it is…August 11, 2013.  As of yesterday, it’s been 9 months since my mother passed away.  Honestly, it seems like yesterday.  There are simply days when I sit in wonder at the thought of my mother not being here.  I mean, c’mon, how is it possible that I’ve gone 9 months paying every bill, doing all of the cleaning, planting and watering flowers – all of this with only cats as conversation partners?

Don’t get me wrong…I spent many years living on my own.  I know very well how to do all of these things.  It’s not like I had to learn how to do all of this stuff.  But for so long, we were a team.  And when Gram was alive, we were the Three Musketeers – working together and sharing the load.

Now…it’s just me.  It’s been a strange adjustment.

Before you think this is going to be one of those “Oh, woe is me” blogs, let me tell you that it’s not.  I’ve written blogs that speak to how much I miss my mother.  I don’t think anyone disputes that, so I don’t have to “prove” or “defend” myself with another such blog.

No, this blog is about the things I need to do; it’s about the tasks that have been awaiting completion.  I’d intended to get many things accomplished over the course of the summer.

 Unfortunately, things have not been accomplished.

There are reasons for this – work has been busy, GCLS had me occupied right up until the beginning of July, work has been busy, I spent some time nursing my bad back, work has been busy, I’ve had other commitments that needed my attention, etc.

There have also been excuses – I’m too tired, I don’t have the right “tools” to get stuff finished, recycling is only picked up every two weeks, etc.

Some of it has simply been too painful.

Oh, I’ve talked about all of the things I need to do.  Talked about it a lot.  Verbalized plans.  Worked out strategies.  Sought advice from others.  Yes, I certainly did talk the talk.  The problem is that I haven’t walked the walk.  Clearly, talking isn’t getting me very far.

Thus, my purpose here is to put some of these plans and strategies down “on paper,” so to speak.  All of my talk is ephemeral – it’s there (along with all of its good intentions) and then it wafts away on the breeze (along with all of those good intentions).  So, perhaps, committing them to my blog and allowing others to see it will actually allow me to move forward and check off some things on this “to do” list.

In a nutshell, I need to go through everything in the house and purge.  I mean, PURGE.  There’s my stuff, my mom’s stuff, my grandmother’s stuff, and, I’m sure, stuff that belongs to various and sundry family members who simply forgot that their things were here (in the garage, in the attic, etc.)  This is a 4 bedroom house with a 2 1/2 car garage.  And there is stuff in every nook and cranny.  So, yes, purging is necessary.

I will start with my stuff.  That’s the easiest – I’m the only person that will be affected by getting rid of stuff.

  • Clothes:  I have a lot of clothes.  Mom loved shopping.  And when she found a good sale, I reaped the benefits.  The thing is, I don’t really wear a great variety of clothing.  I have the clothes I wear to work.  I have the clothes I wear on the weekends.  Social activities are not a big part of my life.  So I don’t need to “dress up” to go out all the time.  If I do, I have one or two tried-and-true things that will work for me.  But, other than that, my life is pretty simple.  So, there will be a charity or five that will be receiving quite a bit of clothing.
  • Books:  I have a lot of books.  In addition to the books that I have in my two very large cabinets, I have books in a couple of boxes in the garage  and some that are still in storage in Michigan.  I won’t be purging my books.  Oh, no.  I’ll keep those.  But they do need to be better organized.  I also have some duplicates.  So those will be donated to a library or LGBT center.  But, ultimately, the books won’t be going.

    Cover of "A Walk in the Clouds"
    Cover of A Walk in the Clouds
  • Movies:  Between me and my mom, we have a LOT of movies – DVD and VHS.  Again, some are duplicates.  Mom loved, loved, loved the movie “A Walk In The Clouds” and purchased 3 copies of the VHS (she watched it so much, she was afraid she was going to wear out the video).  Eventually, I got her the DVD as well.  So, there will be some movie purging.  In this case, I may attempt to sell some movies.  The movies on VHS…well, I may have to see if there are still libraries out there who lend movies on tape.
  • Collectibles:  Okay, let me call this what it really is – “Xena and Star Trek action figures.”  I have a pretty large collection.  You know how it is…you have dreams of collecting full sets of action figures and replica props thinking that, one day, the value will appreciate and you’ll have made an investment.  Yeah.  Not so much.  It’s time to cut them loose.  Some will get sold on ebay.  Some will be donated to GCLS for the Silent Auction.  Some will be donated to the Stonewall Library and Archives.
  • Old crap:  There’s stuff I have tucked away in storage bins and drawers that I haven’t seen nor thought about in years.  Honestly, if I don’t miss this stuff, I clearly don’t need the stuff.  Time for it to go!

With a good chunk of that complete, I’ll be able to tackle Mom’s stuff.

  • Clothes:  Mom had a lot of clothes, too.  Not as much as I do – she tended to buy more stuff for me than she did for herself.  But, she still has a good amount.  I’ll go through it and see if there’s anything there that a family member might want.  So many items in her closet still have price tags on them.  (She’d get the pretty blouse for $4.99, but then she would forget about it and not wear it.)  What family members don’t want will go to charity or get sold in the church yard sale.
  • Papers:  OH.MY.GIDDY.AUNT!  My mother hoarded paperwork like no one I know.  There’s stuff from when she was still working.  There’s bills marked “paid”.  There’s stuff from when she had meetings with other parishioners from St. Anthony’s.  The list goes on.  The difficulty is that most of this stuff needs to be shredded.  I can’t just throw it all in the recycling bin.  I’m probably going to have a shredding party – invite everyone I know with a shredder over to the house and we’ll all just go to town.  I’ll buy the pizza.
  • Movies:  See above.
  • Gift Stuff:  Again, Mom loved shopping.  She could smell a bargain at 100 paces.  Mom and Gram (mostly Mom) would find some of these really nice bargains and buy stuff “just in case we need a gift.”  Yeah, you read that correctly.  Items were purchased without particular recipients in mind.  “This is a very nice crystal vase.  It’s Mikasa.  The original price was $120.  But it was on clearance and the store was having their yellow dot sale, so it was an additional 50% off.  Plus, it was Senior Citizen day, so we got another 10% off that.  Plus, I had a coupon for 25% off the total purchase.  So I only paid $7.99 plus tax.  That’s a nice gift for someone if we need it!”  So, there are a lot of really nice things – still in boxes – all over the place.  Not to mention all of the wrapping paper and gift bags – because when it’s on sale, you gotta stock up.

    Imelda Marcos shoes
    Imelda Marcos shoes (Photo credit: Vince_Lamb)
  • Shoes:  I called Mom “Imelda” quite often.  The woman has some shoes.  And they are all stacked in her closet in the boxes they came in.  She kept them nice and neat, that’s for sure.  And she kept them for years.  So, again, a charity will be receiving the shoes that any family members don’t want.  (A great majority of the shoes are new or nearly new.  Once Mom retired, she really didn’t have much need – or want – for shoes other than her Crocs.)
  • Antiques:  Mom has a bunch of antiques that she got from a friend or client or someone when she was still living in San Diego.  I guess they were about to have an estate sale and the friend or client or someone asked Mom if she wanted anything before putting it up for sale.  So, Mom got some stuff.  We’d always wanted to get these things appraised, but never did.  So, this is something I want to do.
  • Recyclables:  The porch is full of stuff that can go directly into recycling.  There are only so many plastic grocery bags, shopping bags, and plastic containers a person can handle.  When Mom and Gram were alive, these items were needed.  Particularly the containers.  Mom and/or Gram would cook something – spaghetti sauce, stew, chicken soup, split pea soup, etc. – and then the left overs would go into a container to be stored in the freezer for later consumption.  Or they would be used to send family home with leftovers at the holidays.  Well, that doesn’t happen so much anymore.  So the plastic butter containers can go away.

Following that, I’ll need to then delve into Gram’s stuff.  This is a bit more involved.  There are others to consider – her daughters, her grandchildren, her nieces and nephews.  I can make wholesale decisions about my stuff and Mom’s stuff, but I can’t with Gram’s.   Quite a bit of Gram’s stuff was already dealt with when Mom was here.  But there are still somethings that, I’m sure, will be found as I get into some of the hidden places around the house.  There are some things I know I can deal with on my own.

  • The Hallway Closet:  This is where things like bandaids, shampoo, soap, towels, cleaning supplies, flashlights, etc. were kept.  It’s FULL!  So, I’ll need to pull everything out of there and start checking expiration dates on the aspirin, the Neosporin, the Cortizone ointments and things of that nature.  I will ask the family if they would like some of the towels and bedding that Gram has hidden away in this closet as well.  If not…charity.

    English: Perry Como
    English: Perry Como (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Movies/Music:  About 99% of the movies and CDs that Gram owned came from me and Mom.  I often bought Gram DVD sets of some of the great musicals.  Gram loved Perry Como and Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, so we got her quite a few DVDs and CDs featuring these men.  Quite a bit of these things will be absorbed into my collections…but if there are any family members who want a particular CD or movie, I’m happy to let them have it.
  • Clothes:  A lot of Gram’s clothes were already given to people who could use them.  There are some elderly women at our church who are the same size as Gram, so they got some of the clothes.  But, there’s still a good amount remaining – again, some with tags.  If there are family members who can or want to use them, they are welcome to them.  Otherwise, they will also be donated.

Everything else…well, those will be taken care of by a family committee.  There are some things that have been “tagged” for certain family members.  Gram was very clear with me and my Mom about those things.  So, some stuff will not need committee approval – Gram’s wishes will be adhered to.  But the other stuff – well, the family needs to be involved.  And that’s just the way it is.

So, there it is.  In writing for you all to see.  Perhaps now it will become more “real” for me and give me the motivation I need to get things done.

I know that this will still be a long process.  My mother passed away three years after my grandmother and even MOM hadn’t gotten through everything.  It was too hard for her.  And this will be hard for me.  That’s why I need to start with my stuff.  It will be my emotional buffer, I think.  If I get into the purging and cleaning mode with my things, then it will be a more natural progression to my mother’s things.  Though, I have no doubt that it will still be a long, difficult process.  But, I need to get started!

I’d really love to be able to put my car in the garage now and then.

5 comments on “Confessions of a Pack Rat (who is the daughter of a pack rat who is also the daughter of a pack rat)

  1. Pingback: Less is More: 2016 is the Year of Declutter |

  2. Thanks for the links! They will come in handy as I prepare to move.



  3. metalbeth

    One step at a time. I found that as I filled black garbage bags with stuff to donate, the filled bags went directly into my car. That same day, the filled car went to Goodwill and the bags taken away. I know that it took me a long time to go through things but as I made each trip to various donation places, I did have the satisfaction of knowing that some things were truly out of the house. I tried to match my donations to places that could use them the most….Union Gospel Mission for the homeless, worn sheets and towels to the animal shelter, excess toiletries to a women and children’s shelter.

    As hard as my process was, and still is, I do feel better knowing that my going through clothes and closets was helping others. The tears still flowed but sometimes. they were tears brought on by the knowledge that others were being helped.

    Sometimes, the hardest thing is taking that first step.

    ((Carleen)) You are surrounded by love and support.


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