Man thinking on a train journey.

Man thinking on a train journey. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Greetings, fellow clutter maintainers. This is going to be a hard report to write but it’s something I’m thinking about as we go through my late mother’s belongings. It’s something I haven’t seen mentioned in any clutter article I’ve read, or anything I would have thought of until this happened. When it comes to my various bloated collections I’ve been thinking about things like storage space and being able to enjoy my collection. And yet my mom’s passing has left me juggling a lot of different thoughts. Many of them are the typical and personal thoughts we all have when we lose someone we love. However, one matters to this project. What happens to our clutter when we die?

This is a morbid topic and forgive me for that. Under the circumstances I hope you understand why that is. And yet it’s one we probably don’t think about when organizing and expelling the many things we’ve collected, whether you had a hoarder mentality or were just too busy to notice what was happening around you. Or like in my mother’s case, and I’m starting to realize mine as well, you’ve just collected way too many things.

My mother leaves behind myself and my father as well as three brothers and numerous in-laws, nieces, and nephews. She was very sick in the past few years. Every time she seemed to be recovering, she would get sick again. She had diabetes and other medical issues, and was on oxygen 24/7, which caused her sense of smell to go into overdrive. This weekend we’re cleaning the kitchen and bathroom using cleaning chemicals we never could because she could smell them stronger than we could. But through all the years of her life she managed to amass a lot of clutter, often through gifts (who needs that many candles in a small Connecticut town with working electricity and at least one lamp per room?) or impulse buying. It’s one thing to have to do something with the clothes nobody here will ever wear. It’s something else to go through watches and jewelery she never wore, like a certain pendent she wanted and I went crazy trying to find in various branches of the one store that carried it. I kept that.

English: Sizzle the Bear.

English: Sizzle the Bear. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t want to get rid of everything. There is a doll she had as a child that has been in this house for so long I can’t imagine the house without it. The same for a painting of Jesus, and a teddy bear she stuffed herself. (She named it Shelby.) There are other things that I still want around besides her pictures. I always want her a part of this house for as long as we live in it. Sure we’re making changes, partly because there are two men living here now and partly because it’s considered a good step of getting on with our lives to redecorate and maybe refresh the paint. (My aunt went through that when she lost her husband a couple of years ago.) And my mom was responsible for a lot of the decorations around the house, from wall-hangings to knickknacks.

That’s kind of where the problem starts, although again a number of them came from gifts, like those solar-powered dancing flowers, hula girls, and dancing animals. (We’re keeping the duck. He can dance his little nonexistent heart out, he can.) She had more stuffed animals than a teen girl in a movie. She used to keep a bunch of them in her car when she could still drive, and my dad even got her a few for Valentines Day and other holidays. She also has collectible dolls that aren’t from her youth. Anything we don’t have a personal connection to or doesn’t immediately make us think of her are gone or will be. Anything that does have a personal connection to her will stay around, and there are less of those than you think.

Maybe my love of collecting came from her, although I lean more towards transforming robot toys. 😀

A variety of different video tape formats at T...

A variety of different video tape formats at Thurston Community Television in Olympia, Washington. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then there’s her home video collection. Probably the smallest of her collections since she never learned how to use the DVD player. There are some VHS tapes as well. I remember buying her a soap opera memory DVD, with the last few episodes of one of her favorite soap operas that had ended. I think I sprang for the deluxe version that included a replica script from the final show and some other extras. She loved to read after all.

Oh Lord, her book collection will be the hardest to go through. My love of reading definitely came from her. She has so many books, some of which I would like to read, if only for the review feature on my other site (which will become a book report here in the future). However, I don’t care about the romance novels, the ones based on Dallas or One Life to Live, or a bunch of others. I think in media, which will surprise nobody who’s read the other site, so going over her books (including the one she’ll never get to finish) is going to make me sad, wondering which ones she did finish and which ones she never got to. Thinking about all the things she wasn’t able to do these last few years, and what she’ll never get to, is one of the worst parts. She died too young, having just turned 66 a few days before she left us.

I write these words not to complain about all the stuff my mother collected or even as a memorial but as a warning to my fellow clutter cleaners. Life is precious because it’s short and easy to lose. My cousin’s husband died unexpectedly last year and she and their daughter had stuff to go over. We have stuff to go over, and someday somebody is going to have to go through our belongings when we pass. Why have things we’ll never use? Why burden our loved ones with a ton of crap we don’t need. Maybe think about this when requesting, or even when giving a gift, to consider someone else’s burden.

I’m not saying never own things, never collect stuff. There’s nothing wrong with decoration or making sure you have replacements. Not that we’ll need half of the glasses and dishes we own, and oh there are so many dish sets and glassware we’ve never used. You want a large media library or souvenirs from every place you’ve visited? Go for it! You like having fancy jewelry, nice shoes, or beautiful clothes? Nothing wrong with that. But collect wisely. Know your limits, how much space you have, how much you need, and what you can enjoy. Don’t own more than you need or more than you can enjoy. My mom made that mistake, and now we have to go through it all. I’ve made that mistake but I’m hoping to reverse that trend before someone has to go through my belongings and wonder what to do with it all. Don’t be afraid to own things, to decorate, or to keep memories you’ll treasure until your passing. Just don’t leave too much clutter behind you when you go. You really can’t take it with you, you know.