Through the process of Mom dying, I rarely got stuck. When I started thinking, “I can’t do this,” my inner voice would say helpful things like, “Just make the next phone call”, “Take a minute to breathe”, or “You don’t have to fix this, you just have to be here.”
Over the last month, I’ve gone through some of the grief stages I know I must go through. I spent the first two weeks in a tired fog, and when I came out of that, it has been to the acknowledgement that this is going to be a very long process (practically and emotionally) and I’m just going to have to deal with that.
Frankly, there has been a lot of procrastination. Whenever it felt like too much, trying to take on the next form or sort through another website, I pulled a Scarlett O’Hara.
It’s been pretty effective. In the last month, I’ve accomplished a lot. Probate started, insurance claims filed, banks contacted. But Mom’s house has been the “big thing” that I have been dreading facing.
From the beginning, I knew that I wasn’t going to make a decision about the house (whether to keep it or sell it) for at least a year. (To recap, Mom’s house is at the Oregon Coast. Mom and Dad bought the lot before they had me, built it from scratch with their parent’s help, and I’ve been in and out of it all my life. While I was growing up, we’d go down there about once a month for a little break, and Mom and Dad retired there in about 2004. It’s been extensively remodeled and is well set up for retirement, being a single-story home with two handicap-accessible bathroom.) My original, long-term plan was to retire down there, but that was when I expected Mom to live until at least 2030. Right now, my best guess for my own retirement is 2035 (and that’s an early retirement.) I don’t know if I want to “carry” the house for another 16 years.
Regardless of my eventual decision, the house needs to be cleaned out. Perishable food is really all that has been addressed. You can imagine the other details.
A few weeks ago, I sat down and with Marie Kondo‘s help, drew up a plan for tackling Mom’s house.
And then… well… I procrastinated. I had “too much to do” or “was too tired”. Or had to pet the dog. (Note to self: Now, look, it’s only been a month, and you know it. You get a break whenever you want.) At heart, I didn’t want to go down to the beach and do what had to be done. I knew I’d go down and work myself until I was sore and tired. I’d get emotional. I’d forget to eat and then have low blood sugar problems. Then I’d come back and have to to back to work on Monday and be reasonably professional.
Finally, I asked a friend (the amazing Gretchen) to come down with me and help me by saying things like, “Have you eaten?” and, “Let’s take a break.” So, Friday I picked up Gretchen and we took off. The plan was to stop by Baskett Slough before heading down to the beach. Once there, we’d go for a walk with the dog and then start on the two tasks, per Marie Kondo.
The KonMari Method™ encourages tidying by category – not by location – beginning with clothes, then moving on to books, papers, komono (miscellaneous items), and, finally, sentimental items. Keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy. Thank them for their service – then let them go.
Gretchen, Key (the dog), and I got down and did our walks, and then we hit it. I set Gretchen the task of rounding up clothes and books, then I started on bagging up Mom’s clothes. Gretchen kicked butt. It turned out that Mom’s clothes were very well organized and essentially in one room of the house. The books were scattered around, but easy enough to identify and bring to the designated area. It was hard, but in the end it wasn’t difficult to get rid of things when they don’t fit and are not your style. They needed to go out into the world.
By the end of Saturday, Gretchen and I had loaded up the car twice to go to the thrift shop. I had given all baking items (including ingredients) to the next door neighbor and Mom’s friend Nancy had been excited about the Keurig. A total of twenty-five 30 gallon bags had been removed (in addition to the 10 bags that had been removed at my house.)
And I was nearly hysterical over the mountain photographs and memorabilia.
As Gretchen had been scoping around, she kept saying things like, “Do you want this photo album, too?” or “Gosh, this trunk is filled with genealogy papers…” And I kept saying, “Yeah, bring them out and put them on the bookshelf. That’s where I’m keeping the sentimental stuff for the last stage.” Gretchen kept finding photo albums, Aunt Carol’s genealogy stuff, Grandma Eunice’s diaries, and Great Grandma’s family Bible.
What am I going to do? I am an only child. I will not have children. My mom had a sister, Aunt Carol. She had two children. While both my cousins have gotten married, neither has had any biological children. Aunt Carol was very into genealogy and over the years amassed a huge collection of material about both her family and her husbands. Neither of my cousins have shown any interest in it. My dad had a brother. Uncle Darrel had two children, and both of them have had children. However, they have always said they aren’t interested in any of the older photos and memorabilia that has been kept around.
In short, for whatever reason, I am now the owner of a huge collection of historical items that I have neither the time or interest in cataloging.
I can’t do this. I am just completely stopped. I can’t figure out the next stage for that pile.
Technically, the next stage in KonMari is Lesson 3: Papers. Mom was excellent at accumulating and keeping papers, so that’s going to be a very big task. I may cheat and do the easier (for me) kitchen lesson. Items like these photographs are Lesson 5; in other words, the end. The theory is that with everything else straightened up, you’ll know and understand what you really feel about things.
But still, that mountain awaits. And it’s really discouraging.