When parents downsize or have died, their stuff must go somewhere. Unfortunately it often becomes the bud of a clutter crisis for people in the throes of exhaustion and grief associated with the death or decline of parents. Furniture, books, boxes, dishes and memorabilia that were hastily packed up at the parents’ home land in their home where ever it will fit. It’s quite common that the stuff stays where it lands for quite some time. Once it’s been there for awhile, its stagnant energy attracts other items and before long the original pain-filled pile becomes an immovable object, a major block to integrating the stuff that really matters into their home and a block to moving through their grief.
Is there another way? Can this painful “stuff crisis” be avoided? It can, but only if the stuff recipients are very conscious of their pain and deliberately choose to take action in spite their pain. I suggest the following:
- When packing up parents’ belongings to take to your house, take only objects that you truly love. Your emotions likely will be running wild. That will make decision-making more difficult. EVERYTHING may seem important because items that belong to the parent hold the energy of that parent. Don’t confuse loving the parent with loving the item. You only need a precious item or two to hold the energy of your parent. You don’t need every item.
- Before you commit to taking furniture, have some idea where each item could be placed in your home.
- Resist the urge to pack everything up to go through later just because that is a quick solution, easier to do than make decisions about everything. Make yourself take the time at your parents’ home to do at least a cursory review of drawers, packed boxes and papers, looking for items that can be trashed, donated or given away. That will reduce the quantity of things you will have to go through and deal with at home.
- Say no to items with a negative association, that you hate or that you know will not fit in your home.
- When you get home, place the furniture you have chosen as quickly as possible.
- Place boxes to go through in one location, preferably one that you encounter on a regular basis so they will bug you to go though them.
- Go through the boxes of paper, memorabilia and personal items as quickly as possible, doing boxes of larger items first and paper last. If you put off that process because it’s painful, those boxes will grow roots, making moving them seem like an insurmountable task.
- If you cannot make yourself sort the items into those things you want to keep and incorporate into your life and those you can part with, get the help of a supportive friend, family member or a professional organizer.
The risk of allowing parents’ belongings to become anchored to their landing spot in your home is that not only will the items be locked in place, creating a painful, physical block in your life, but your ability to move through the normal stages of grief will be impeded. You will be stuck and your grief will also be stuck.
Honor your parents and yourself by making yourself move though the process of sorting and integrating their items into your life despite your grief. Resist the urge to completely avoid dealing with the new additions to your space. Welcome the things that matter and make them a part of your home. Release those that don’t. Expect your grief to surface as you move through that process. Allow it. It’s normal and even essential that you feel and express your grief. You will hurt, but you will survive. Do it in small doses to manage the pain, but keep moving. When you do, your life will keep moving despite your loss.