Tag Archives: memories

Reduce Grief By Creating a Memorabilia Altar

I’ve noticed that some people who have experienced the death of someoneAlter very important keep large quantities of items associated with that person. Everything seems to have great significance. Clients have stated that when they get rid of things associated with their spouse, parent, child, etc., they feel like they are getting rid of that person. Little do they know that by holding onto quantities of things that remind them of that person they are actually anchoring their grief about the loss.

Everything a person own holds their energy if when you look at it you think of that person. An item might have had a very positive energy when the person was alive. For example, a musical instrument they enjoyed playing would likely hold positive energy. However, when the person dies the energy of their items is tinged with sadness.  The musical instrument that held positive energy could evoke sadness because the musician can no longer play the item. Holding onto it anchors sadness.

To facilitate moving through normal grief over the loss of a loved one, I recommend that survivors keep only those items that they like the best, those things that evoke happy feelings. Less is best.

One way to honor a loved one is to create an altar with an arrangement of a few precious items that belonged to the person. You don’t need to hold onto quantities of items associated with a beloved mother to hold her memory in place. Choose a few special items that remind you of the person and arrange them on a surface that you will see in passing as you move through you space. Those items might include a photograph, a special curio, a medal or award they received, anything of theirs that really matters to you or really mattered to them.

My mother died recently. After she died I created an altar to hold a few special things associated with her. It sits atop a small chest of drawers that was in our living room when I was growing up and has been in Mom’s home ever since. I chose to keep that chest for its association with Mom and my life while I was living at home with Mom and Dad.

I gave Mom the little purple silk flower arrangement. She loved flowers and she loved it. The wax ball smells of lilac, her favorite flower and fragrance. I added a few other items for aesthetics — a small painting by my dad, a live plant and a paperweight given to me by a special client who often checked in with me about how Mom was doing during the last few years.

The quantity of items on the altar associated with Mom was less important than the feelings evoked by the items. Just three items (the chest, flower arrangement, and wax ball) hold Mom’s energy and memory in place. When I walk by this little altar my heart remembers Mom and what she loved, and it smiles.

Do the things you have kept that once belonged to a loved one make your heart smile? Are they out and visible where you can see and enjoy the memories? If not, you have inadvertently created pockets of pain that make moving through your grief a much more difficult and slow process. Keep and honor the best. Let go of the rest! 

Clearing Clutter: Only Keep Parents’ Belongings That You Love

I love this glass bottle. It was in my mother’s home for as long as I can IMG_3750remember. It is one item I chose to keep when clearing items from Mom’s apartment in an attempt to create a simpler, safer environment.

I’ve been clearing out my mother’s belongings since the day she went into assisted living in 2013. First I cleared out her house to prepare it for sale. Over the last two years I’ve taken clothing items from her apartment that she no longer uses or is not likely to use given her changing needs due to the ravages of Alzheimer’s.

More recently in her Alzheimer’s-induced agitation Mom began to pull things from drawers and closets and cabinets, creating visual chaos and obstacles that increased her fall risk. To help calm Mom and eliminate the volume of items that she could move around, I began clearing decorative items, photos, cards plus more clothing in an attempt to simplify her living space.

Each time I take a bag out of Mom’s apartment I sort the items into: trash, donate, give to another family member, and keep for myself. The items I choose for myself have to be “love it” items or items I will use.

The purple vase is a “love it” item. I love the color. I love the quality of the glass. I love the shape. I love that it’s small and fits nicely into our small house. I especially love it because it was Mom’s treasure, a permanent fixture in her home. It holds in place her energy and her love of beautiful colored glass items. When I look at it, I think of Mom and her love for me. Her treasure has become my treasure.

There were many other glass bottles in Mom’s collection. I kept only two. I kept the two that I loved most for their aesthetic qualities. Both hold Mom’s memory and love in place.

When doing the sad task of dismantling a parent’s home, instead of keeping boxes of items to go through at a later date, look for items that you love. Keep those and let go of the rest. Keep items that you love for their aesthetics, the memories they hold in place, and for their association with your parent. 

Mug Feng Shui Tells a Story of Riches

As I was unloading my dishwasher today I took a look at the coffee mugs I was putting away. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that a majority of the mugs in my kitchen cabinet held good energy and special associations.

Mugs tell a story of rich relationships and memories over the years

Mugs tell a story of rich relationships and memories over the years

One mug was from Dale, a very dear friend, lovely creative spirit, and someone who lovingly spends time with my mother on many days when I can’t be there. It’s turquoise and a beautiful round shape. I smile whenever I look at or hold that mug.

Another was from Lou, a former client who is a very special gentle spirit. It’s pink with white spots. I love its association and it’s color. 

Another was from Barb, a very dear friend I had when living in Salt Lake City between 1979 and 1983. It has an artistic picture of a sheep on it. I raised sheep on my dad’s farm in Vermont for a year, and Barb knew I came away from that experience with a special love for those gentle creatures. That mug holds memories of all the support Barb offered me when I was divorcing my first husband and of the Vermont chapter in my life.

And, the most recent addition to my mug collection is a white mug with little black cats walking around its bottom edge. I gave that mug to my mom years ago because we had had a black cat named Beaut (affectionately called Beuttox or Toxity), a favorite cat among our family cats. That mug came to me just last week when we moved Mom into memory care where she has no kitchen. It holds the energy of our love for Beaut and my love for Mom.

Who knew a kitchen cabinet could be a treasure trove of my wealth of love, special memories and treasured relationships! Over the years I had been intentionally making it a point to weed out mugs that I didn’t love (the look, shape, size, association) or use. With my clutter clearing efforts I unconsciously ended up with a collection of useful items that not only appeal to me from a practical and aesthetic standpoint, but also document in physical form precious relationships I’ve had over the years.

Feng shui teaches that living exclusively with what you love or use is the way to transform your space so you can attract good things into your life. It seems to be working for me!

End of Life Clutter Clearing: An Emotional Process

Mom and brother Mark overlooking the water view from Mom’s house.

I’m gearing up to clear out my mother’s house. My mom is adjusting well to her new home in Gayton Terrace, an assisted living facility near me in Richmond, VA. Now it’s time to take the next step, clear out Mom’s home in Kilmarnock, VA and get it ready to sell. It will be a big job, but I’m so lucky that my mom and her husband had only been living there for about 13 years and both regularly got rid of things. They were neat nicks and great purgers. Compared to what many people face when their parents leave their homes, this job will be a breeze–on the physical level.

What has surprised me are the waves of sadness I’ve experienced since I made the decision that it’s time to begin the big clean out. It wasn’t my family home. Yes, I’d had many nice visits there with Mom and John, and this last year with just Mom since John’s death last January. It’s a lovely home on the water. But the sadness has more to do with dismantling the physical remains of two lives that had been intertwined for 27 years. Mom and John had a deep love that begin in high school and reignited in their late 50s. They loved their life together and they loved their home.

Mom and John carefully tended their home, kept it neat, clean and organized. On one level–the physical level– that will make my job easier, but no less difficult on another–the emotional level. How will I do it? I will work hard to remember that what I’m doing will benefit my mother who needs to close this chapter of her life to be fully present to her new life in Richmond. I’ll keep in mind that Mom will also benefit from the funds generated from the sale of her home. I will also remember that I will benefit because I currently carry all the responsibility for the safety of the home, a home that is a 90 minute drive from my home. I need to have this chapter closed to better be able to focus on Mom and her needs and to have greater peace of mind.

But, it’s still sad. I will allow the sadness and enjoy the memories that emerge while I work to respectfully close the door on this chapter of my mother’s life.

Transform Trophy Clutter: Create A Trophy Garden

Trophies: The New Yard Art

Trophies hold the energy of the accomplishments associated with them. Some people find it very hard to let go of trophies, even when they get old and ugly. I’ve recommended that clients reduce their quantity by only keeping only those that hold memories of the most significant achievements. I’ve suggested that clients take photos of their trophies and then discard them. But, today learned of a creative way to deal with the trophy dilemma.

Charlyne Meinhard, whose husband, died within this last year, was left with boxes of her husband’s chess trophies in her crawl space. The trophies had been awarded for chess victories in the years prior to starting a family and mark his having achieved a master’s level. They were prized possessions. Getting rid of them was never a question while her husband was alive. After his death, while in the process of regrouping after her loss, however, Charlyne unearthed the trophies and had a decision to make–keep the trophies or get rid of them.

Charlyne knew she didn’t want the trophies displayed in her home, but throwing them in the trash just didn’t seem right. They held the energy of her husband’s mastery in chess. They also held the energy of the early years of their marriage. She also knew her children might be upset if she got rid of them.

Her solution was to create a trophy garden. She carefully placed the trophies in the garden beside the driveway at the front of the house. That way she can see them when on her way in and out of the house. She told me that seeing them is a comfort to her. They remind her of her husband and make her smile. And, she told me,“They were a whole lot less expensive than other yard art!”

Charlyne also removed the engraved plates on the most significant trophies and plans to make bookmarks from them by attaching them to strips of fabric. They will become Christmas gifts for family members.

Got trophies? Transform them from a pile of junk into something that will hold only good energies of accomplishment and positive memories!