Moving Forward

I think my husband and I were just a teeny bit optimistic when it came to my mom’s move to her new retirement home.  Yes, she was moving from a spacious house to a one-bedroom apartment, but we thought we had the perfect system to handle it.  “Just pick the things that you want to take with you, and we’ll handle the rest,” we told Mom.  “It shouldn’t us take very long to clear out the house.”   Seriously, I don’t know what in the world we were thinking.

The problem wasn’t so much the sheer quantity of stuff that was left in her house even after Mom took everything she wanted to her new apartment, and even after all the members of the family had taken all the stuff they wanted.  The problem was trying to decide just exactly what to do with everything else, because her old house has to be cleared out before anyone can move in.  (The last time I checked, there’s not much demand for a house that is full of someone else’s stuff.)

We donated as much as we possibly could, and contacted antique dealers to see if there is any interest in buying some of the older items.  We filled several recycle bins with anything that could be recycled, and finally ordered a dumpster for the rest.  All of this took much more time and hard work than we had anticipated, but even that wasn’t the hardest part.  The hardest part was watching my mother visit her old house and seeing how sad it made her to watch a lifetime’s worth of accumulation being donated, recycled, and sometimes even trashed.

I understand her pain, and I do wish there was a way that we could keep everything she wants us to keep.  But we can’t.  We don’t live in a huge house, and our house is already pretty darned full of our own stuff.  Ditto for all the other members of the immediate family.  After stewing about it for a while (my way of dealing with conflict), I finally decided that we all needed to face a simple truth:  it’s time to move on.

So I told Mom that it’s perfectly normal to feel sad about letting go of some of her possessions.  But I also reminded her of how happy she is in her new home.  She loves her new apartment, and she raves about her new retirement community.  She says everyone she has met is so nice, and she enjoys all the social activities that are offered daily. They even have a room devoted to jigsaw puzzles, her favorite hobby.

Sure, Mom could have kept everything if she had chosen to stay alone in her house, surrounded by all her stuff.  But she chose to move to a retirement community where she would have an apartment small enough for her to easily manage and far more of a social life than she has enjoyed in years.  And the price she has to pay for that choice is giving up some of her possessions, even knowing that some of them won’t be “staying in the family.”

I believe the lesson for my Mom is really a lesson for us all.  Life is meant to be lived to the fullest, and we can’t do that when we cling to the past.  Letting go of the things that hold us back, whether they are material objects, old grudges we continue to nurse, or even belief systems that have become outdated, can be painful for sure.  But it’s the only way we’ll ever move forward and discover the promise of our future.

fullsizeoutput_54efIt helps to remember that the life we’re living today is the one that will be creating the memories of tomorrow.  Like, say, sharing a meal in your new apartment with your favorite (if only) great-grandson….

96 thoughts on “Moving Forward

  1. Oh my. So much easier said than done as you learned. My mom has done a great job of clearing out unnecessary or undesirable items, even in her nearly bare attic as she has been there with her own mom and was so overwhelmed. Now I’m tackling our mountains in hopes of making things easier for our own kids. In the distant future hopefully. Glad to hear your mom is happy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Lisa! And like you, dealing with this matter with my mom has made me look at my own stuff with a very critical eye. When I come home from working on her house, I start boxing up some of my own stuff to donate. I don’t want my kids to have so much to deal with (in the future), and I also realize that it’s silly to hang on to stuff I don’t use anymore when someone else could actually use it!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, she doesn’t really think about it very much until she visits the old house. Once the house is completely cleared out, I’m sure it will get easier. Meanwhile, she is enjoying her new home very much. And yes, I’ve been purging my own house a LOT lately!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great lesson but a difficult one to embrace wholeheartedly when you’re filled with doubt about your belongings. I’m sure your mother will adapt to her new apartment, but I can understand how missing your things could make you unhappy, at least initially.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, her feelings are totally understandable. And although she took quite a bit with her, and her family took a lot too, there is just was much stuff left that needed to be dealt with and that made it hard on everyone. It’s a huge emotional thing for her, and for us it’s a little bit emotional and a whole lot just plain hard work! It does make me look at my own house differently, although I know I’ll always have too much stuff!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Very wise words! Sadly, it’s almost counter-cultural not to believe that things can make us happy, and to make the emotional separation from the people we loved and the things those people gave us. But it’s still so very important to replacing “living” with trying to “store up!” Thanks for putting that so well!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You’ve written so well about an issue we will all face, or have already, either with our parents or with ourselves. My parents willingly downsized over several years, even moving three times before my dad died and mom moved to assisted living. What a gift that was, though! They made hard decisions that we children didn’t have to handle. I know that my husband and I need to do the same now as we age. I’m glad that your mother is happy in her new life. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That was a huge gift from your parents! It’s hard enough to grieve when our parents die, much less have to sort through all their belongings when we’re so emotionally fragile ourselves. I guess that’s why I thought this process would be easier…Mom is still with us. But my dad died 12 years ago, and we’re going through his stuff now as well as my mom’s, and Mom is sad over the loss of some of her possessions, so it’s not nearly as easy as I had anticipated. Still, we’ll get through it, and the important thing is that she loves her new apartment!

      Like

  4. With so many personal changes coming to fruition over the last few years I began long ago to put my stuff in order and only keep essentials. Everything that I thought the kids might want was already offered to them and as I never was one for antiques, and no heirlooms ever came my way (!) I have now what I need to live and that’s it. I do have some really healthy plants that I hope someone will take when it’s time, but the rest should be easily taken care of. Not owning a home anymore makes you think very carefully about what you keep around 🙂
    It looks like your mom has a great set up, and a lovely little person to visit with!

    Liked by 2 people

    • That sounds like a very smart way to live! Really, the things that Mom is most emotionally tied to are the things that her older relatives gave her. And even though a lot of those things are staying in the family, some of them aren’t because of the sheer volume of stuff she had. Less stuff not only makes our lives easier, it makes the lives of our loved ones so much easier too.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Very timely essay (going through this with Louise’s parents right now). Great insights and wisdom, so I’m printing to post on our fridge! And the picture was priceless… it’s truly worth a 1000 words!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Bomi! You and Louise have been in my thoughts so much lately, and my advice is to take it as easy as you can as you deal with this issue in your own family. It’s hard, both physically and emotionally, so take breaks wherever you can. Tell Louise I’ll call her very soon!!

      Like

  6. Beautiful post. It is easy to move on when young but really hard to let go when old. I think my mother’s upbringing had a lot to do with it. Everything was carefully looked after to last longer, the old ‘waste not, want not’ adage. Also, she went through the second world war and the only stable things in life were possessions, they embodied memories of comfort and security. My kindest thoughts to you and your mother on such a big step.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Oh yes, being raised in a time of scarcity can have a life-long impact. My grandparents lived through the Great Depression, and consequently lived very frugally for the rest of their lives. I think the difference in that generation, though, was that they didn’t acquire nearly so much as people do now. It’s far too easy to over-buy today, which means that when we want to hang on to things, our houses fill up very quickly. The answer, of course, is to buy less, but that’s only a way to deal with the future. My mom already has a lot of stuff, some just everyday items that she acquired and hung on to, and other things that her family gave to her. (She had a lot of family, and for some reason they all passed their things on to her.) So that makes deciding what to keep and what to let go of very hard for her and all of us. But we’re getting there! And thank you so much for your good wishes!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. I’m sure downsizing is painful for everyone … but once you truly let go it is soooo liberating!

    For many prioritising quality of life above material possessions is essential . They only weigh us down! Let go of those grudges, declutter …
    start afresh
    it will give you zest!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Change is hard and it does not get easier with age. Your mother is blessed to have you in her life…a bright spark that will always brighten her life. In the end, it is the people who bring us the most joy; the things are lovely in their way, but they are nothing compared to the relationships we have with our loved ones. Your mother has those ‘bright sparks’ in her life, her beloveds. And now, she has room in her heart for new bright sparks to emerge. She will form new friendships and her life will be fuller than ever.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your encouraging words! And you’re right, it’s the people who always bring us joy. I think the problem for my Mom is that some of her things remind her of the people she has loved and lost, because they gave their things to her. But in the end, they are just material objects, not people, and she’ll always have her memories of her loved ones. And, as you say, new sparks will emerge! She has already made new friends and is enjoying a whole new community. As I keep telling her, “you’ve worked hard your whole life, you deserve the chance to relax and enjoy!”

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I am sure you and your mom felt the toll. I mourned a broom once, so I am not saying a thing. I advise every one to start the decluttering. I am still thankful I did. Now I pray a blessed life for your mom in her new home-let her know we are all cheering her on! I am so glad she has you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No worries, Michele, I think we’ve all mourned some rather odd things at one time or another…you never know what you’ll get attached to! But you’re right about the decluttering, it helps everyone in the long run. Thanks for your prayers and good wishes, I will certainly tell Mom about them. And trust me, she’ll really appreciate it!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. As I’ve mentioned before, you are where I was a little over a year ago, Ann. With my mother’s advancing Alzheimer’s she didn’t have issues with letting things go. It was difficult for my father, but I think he was so worn down from caring for my mother, he had a sense of relief. I struggled with getting rid of some of the contents in their home and as a result, many things are stored in our extra space. I think the time has to be right to let go of certain things. My parents continuing care community sounds very much like where your mother is. They have a puzzle area, too. Is your mother in an Erickson community?

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, it’s a local non-profit organization. They do have facilities with all levels of care, though, and she’s in their “independent living” so she still can pick and choose what she wants to do. The good thing is that if she ever needs more help, she can move to one of their other facilities if needed, or even get extra, temporary, help where she is. As for your parent’s stuff that you’re storing, I think you are absolutely right: you have to wait until you are truly ready to let it go. When the time comes, you’ll know it. And there are a few things that you just might want to keep, and that’s okay too! Best wishes to you all….

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Perhaps the young generation, who is accustomed to moving frequently, will not have this problem with too much ballast to worry about. I know the pain of leaving behind all the memorabilia that you are talking about. It also points to another problem. We must not get overly attached to any material things and focus more on the more important personal relationship. Your photo of your mother and her favourite grandson says it all.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I would have thought so too, Peter, but my daughter is in her early thirties and she already has as much stuff as I do! But you’re so right, the main lesson is not to get too attached to material objects. We all have some precious items we’ll hang on to forever, and that’s fine. But sometimes we confuse a thing with the person we associate with that thing, and that’s a huge mistake. It’s the relationships that count, not the stuff that reminds us of a person. Thanks, Peter, for the reminder!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Ann- these times shall pass and so will all the things that seem important. In the end they are only things. Moving so much over the years I don’t collect much, well that is my opinion I am sure the hubby sees it differently as his Dutchman ways are minimalist. More living less stuff! So glad to hear you are close to closure on this part of you and your mother’s life. Just remember it is only a dress rehearsal for the next hard thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love that saying, “more living, less stuff!” Words to live by for sure. And thank you for the reminder that we will get through this, and wonder why we stressed so much over it. You and your husband are wise not to carry to much material baggage with you…it makes things easier for you, and some day, it will make things easier for your kids!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. It is such a learning curve when dealing with our parents downsizing or their death. I think in some ways it makes us better prepared for when we reach that stage or does it? Will things be different in goodness knows what ways and the struggle we and our kids go through be just as new and difficult. I’m learning to be a minimalist, or a little bit of one, to save us all some hard work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m learning that too, Barbara! I’ve never been a huge saver, but after this experience, I look around my house and realize that I still have far too much stuff. And I’m doing something about that in order to spare my own kids as much as possible. Thanks for the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Been there. My mother was able to help and after the garage sale and putting stuff on line with Craig’s list we were able to really clear out the house. I’m guessing it is all over now and you can take a deep breath and relax – I’m sure you deserve a break!! ps -glad your mother is happy in her new place!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much! It is almost all over, and we’re going to take a much-needed break when it is. And as you say, the most important thing is that Mom is so happy in her new home. That’s all that really matters, as I have to keep reminding myself!

      Like

  15. Human consciousness is complicated. I am fully in consonance with what you told your mother about feeling sad about the dissipation of a lifetime’s belongings. One of these days, I too have to let go of decades old electronics and obsolete component, that my wife keeps me reminding I must do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It can really be hard, can’t it? I don’t think it’s really the stuff we’re so attached to, as what the stuff represents. But at some point, we have to learn to rely on our memories and not on the “props” that we want to keep. I think your wife has a very valid point! Thanks for adding to the conversation!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Good for your mom, to make the decision to downsize and move to a retirement community. Mine never did, digging in and stubbornly refusing to leave her house even when it became a danger to her. And I think her quality of life suffered for it the last few years. I hope I am able to move on to something new when the time comes.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That must have been so hard. And I do understand how hard it would be to leave the house that you’ve lived in for so long. We saw that with my grandfather. He bought his house shortly after he married, and kept it until he was a widower in his seventies. He didn’t want to leave, but one day he fell and then the choice was taken away. Luckily, he recovered enough from the fall that he could go to an independent retirement community. And you know what? He LOVED it once he got there! I think that example helped my Mom to see her move as a good thing, and it also helped that she has moved so much that no one house had a strong emotional hold on her. Still, I know how lucky I am that she’s the one who told me she was ready to move out of her house.

      Liked by 2 people

  17. What an important message here Ann. It brought back many memories of going through mum’s home after she passed away. I guess the difference is that she wasn’t there to see everything go. She kept everything and nothing was wasted. You’re right, we can’t keep everything and there comes a time in everyone’s life when we have to let things go. In the end, as sentimental as it might be, it’s stuff that weighs us down. I’m slowly decluttering bits and pieces from my place now. Glad your mum’s happy, that’s the main thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Miriam. Yes, the main thing is that she’s happy in her new home. And I guess that I thought since we were going through her things while she is still with us, it wouldn’t be so hard. But even though we’re not grieving, we are dealing with her emotional attachment to more stuff than any of us has room for. I guess there really isn’t any easy way to clear out a parent’s house. Which is a very good reason for all of us to declutter as much as possible for ourselves! Take care, Miriam!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Ann, as you know, we have been dealing with a similar situation. It is so sad as we purge our family homes and yet I truly have come to believe that letting go of things is so much more about an emotional attachment than the things themselves.

    It us such a difficult process but one completed, it makes things so much easier for everyone in the long run. So wonderful to hear that your Mom is enjoying her new living situation!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you! And I agree, our attachment isn’t really to our “things” it’s to the emotions that those thinks invoke, and to the memories they bring. We just have to remember that we aren’t getting rid of our feelings or memories, we’re only getting rid of the triggers for those things. It can be hard, but you’re right, once it’s done, it is absolutely worth it!

      Liked by 1 person

  19. My mom moved out of her home into a nursing home because of mobility issues. She hasn’t given me permission yet to arrange for her house to be sold. I know it will be a big job once I start clearing out her house. No one prepares you for this stage of life,

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I’m so sorry, Kate! Yes caring for aging parents can be a huge challenge, and you’re right, no one really prepares us for this. I think we all secretly assume that our parents will stay vibrant and healthy right up until the day they die, and we have no idea how hard it can be to take proper care of them when things get more complicated. I can understand why your mom wants to hold on to her house, too, because as long as she still has the house, she can still hope that she’ll be able to move back some day. I wish you peace and strength as you move forward on this journey!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sure it will, Anabel! I stopped by her new place today, and once again, she was telling me how wonderful it is. It’s just a hard process to see her old stuff going away. I did tell her that there is room in her storeroom for one more box of keepsakes if she wanted to pack up a few more things, and that seemed to help!

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Your mom sounds like a very nice person, taking most of this huge change in stride. I know how complicated this phase of life can be having been through it twice with my parents. I think you’re doing a great job on staying focused on what’s important.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your encouraging words, Des! I admit, sometimes I’m just too tired and stressed to properly appreciate what an upheaval this is for my Mom, and to cut her enough slack as she goes through the understandable emotions that come with it. We had a nice talk about that today, and I feel better about it. The main thing is, she’s happy in her new home, and I’m so glad that she’s there. We’ll figure out the other stuff…

      Liked by 1 person

  21. I’m not always so good with change, so I can see this being damn difficult. It’s not easy to move on, and even if we know that a house is just a house and things are just things we still get attached, our memories still cling on for dear life sometimes. I love your final thoughts and I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. This will be a new chapter, for new memories. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, change can be so very hard! I think the trick is to separate the memories from the objects that evoke them, because otherwise we’ll never be able to part with anything that reminds us of someone we loved or a good experience we had. And in Mom’s case, she just can’t take all her stuff with her to her new apartment, and no longer wanted to live alone in her old house. So some hard decisions had to be made! But you’re absolutely right in that this is a new chapter, and I really hope it will be worth all the stress. Thanks for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  22. It must have been hard for your mother to down-size, Ann. As you say, the physical part of getting rid of extra stuff is tiring, but the emotional part is more difficult and draining. I am very happy to see that your mother is happy in her new apartment, and is entertaining such a handsome young dinner guest. Hopefully, her exciting new life and friendships, and jigsaw challenges will help her forget all of her old stuff, and embrace the chance to move forward and realize the promise of her future.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Joe! She’s already moving forward. When I talked to her yesterday, she said that when she’s in her new apartment, she doesn’t think about any of her old stuff. It’s just when she visits the old house to pick up a few things and then sees all the stuff we’re still dealing with that it becomes hard. But we’ve “re-homed” most of it, and are almost at at the point of putting the whole ordeal behind us…thank goodness! Plus, there was one chair she particularly cared about, so we’re just going to take it to her new place and put it into her bedroom. Problem solved!!

      Like

  23. It’s easy to be sentimental about the things we’ve collected during our lifetimes, but your advice is the only advice to follow. I kept three little lighthouses from my parents’ shore house and their simplicity carries many happy memories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love that way you put that! Sometimes we have so much stuff that we can’t even keep track of the memories that are attached to them. Often, just a few simple things are more than enough. For example, my husband has his father’s watch. My father-in-law had many, many things, but that watch is what my husband wanted to remember him by.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. A heart warming photo and post, Ann. As only children, my husband and I did this for both sets of parents. My mum was much more organized, as am I, but my parents in law taught their son very bad habits!! He has the whole bloody closet for his clothes and stuff…

    Liked by 1 person

  25. So glad to hear that your mom is happy in her new place even though there was pain involved parting with her old house and all her belongings. But you’re so right saying that we need to learn to let go of the past in order to create a future. And that shared meal is a lovely start. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  26. I think we all face this issue at some point in our lives (I’m dreading it!). I know I personally certainly need to have a good sort out and get rid of things I don’t need. I think those who live more of a minimalist lifestyle have probably got the right idea.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I think minimalists certainly have the right idea, and aren’t weighed down with so much stuff. Now that we are done sorting through my mom’s stuff, we’ve begun to intentionally get rid of some of our own. I really don’t want my kids to have to do that!

      Like

  27. What a timely post, Ann! It is so hard to let go of stuff. Yet when we are gone someone has to deal with the stuff we have left behind. Recently with repairs done to our home, we had to move things around. As we brought things back in we evaluated them. Thankfully, I was able to let go of some things and give some away. We can’t take stuff with us. I am working on a post about death cleaning.

    I am so glad that your mother is happy in her new place!

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Pingback: DEATH CLEANING AND MORE | THE COASTAL CRONE

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.