I spent the last few weeks cleaning out my mom’s house while she was recovering from open heart surgery. She’d been meaning to do it for years: clean it out, sell it, and move on to a smaller place, with less room and cheaper taxes.
Just a couple of months ago I had resigned myself to the understanding that in order for her to ever leave, I was going to have to help her clean out her house, packed with 35 years of trash and treasures. To that, add the cat hair, dust and pollen that had accumulated, with piles of “important” papers and books stacked everywhere.
In plowing through my childhood home, I couldn’t help but take note of what I found that really mattered to me as an adult child.
She’s not a hoarder, but definitely a sentimental saver. I like to think that there’s a difference between the two, though when I saw her bedroom, I wasn’t so sure. Her bed was barely visible among the piles of clothes, books and papers.
But cleaning out her house would involve her leaving the house and taking a leave of absence from work, a task that was just as overwhelming as the de-cluttering itself.
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So I couldn’t help but acknowledge the irony of her health issues. Not a “blessing in disguise” or “an act of providence” but rather an opportunity for me to do what she would never be able to do. It was something I know she wanted to do but just couldn’t—physically and emotionally.
Two 20-yard dumpsters later, my brother and I had unearthed our childhood home, ransacked the cabinets and bookshelves of 30-year-old books and bills, baskets and baby dolls. Some saved, most tossed.
And in plowing through my childhood home, turning over boxes, and charging through drawers, I couldn’t help but take note of what I found that really mattered to me as an adult child—what I could learn from my own experience that I could share with my children. Not only so they’d never have to do this for me, ever, but also so that they’d be able to enjoy the important stuff in their old age and mine—the memories.