My mother passed away in 2008. And after her it was my responsibility to vacate her house in Mississauga, Ontario. It was a three bedroom bungalow, and was packed wall-to-wall with her belongings. Mom had great taste and her stuff was a very high quality.
Initially, I didn’t want to let go of anything. If you’ve ever lost a parent, a loved one, or been through a similarly emotional time, then you understand exactly how hard it was for me to let go of any of those possessions. So instead of letting go, I wanted to cram every trinket, figurine, and piece of over-sized furniture into that storage locker near my place.
That way I knew that Mom’s stuff was there if I ever wanted it, if I ever needed access to it for some incomprehensible reason. I even planned to put a few pieces of Mom’s furniture in my home as subtle reminders of her.
Holding onto pieces of the past
When packing her things, in one of her suit cases, I found little baby clothes. The more I go through it, the more I realize that those are mine and my siblings baby gear. Our clothes from the first few years of our life. Not just clothes, little shoes, socks, wooden toys and much more, packed nicely in separate bags for each of us, with date and name on it. It seems that the suits hadn’t been accessed in years, yet Mom had held on to these things because she was trying to hold on to pieces of us, pieces of the past — much like I was attempting to hold on to pieces of her and her past.
At that moment I realized, why she only kept few things for each of us and not all the things which we may have used during our time with her. And I found the answer to my question in my own memories. I remember she always told us
“We are not stuff. We are more than our possessions. Our memories are within us, not within our things. Holding on to stuff imprisons us; letting go is freeing. An item that is sentimental for us can be useful for someone else.”
I remember when my grand mother passed away, she donated most of her stuff expect for few things, which she passed on to me, too. So, I wanted to do the same. I sorted her stuff and donated most of her things, keeping few things to myself. I kept, some of my grandmother’s things, some of my childhood stuff and some of my mother’s collection. I gave my siblings their childhood stuff and some memorabilia of Mom, upon their request.
One of the things I kept from my Mom’s collection was a coffee table set, she bought in late 90’s. It’s was a solid wood carved coffee table set. It was painted dark coffee colour. Unfortunately, when I brought it home, it did not match with anything at my home. So I put it away in a storage for later use. After few years I bought a dark coloured couch set, and used that table set for few years in my living room. Now, I am thinking of refinishing it, by painting it in a lighter colours. It’s middle stone piece is missing, so I will replace it with mirror or wood.
Hope to complete is soon and show you the finished table set.
Traces of her everywhere
I don’t think sentimental items are bad, or evil, or that holding on to them is wrong; I think the danger of sentimental items (and sentimentality in general) is far more subtle.
If you want to get rid of an item, but the only reason you are holding on to it is for sentimental reasons — and if it is weighing on you — then perhaps it’s time to get rid of it, perhaps it’s time to free yourself of the weight. That doesn’t mean you must get rid of everything, though.
I don’t need Mom’s stuff to remind me of her — there are traces of her everywhere: in the way I act, in the way I treat others, even in the way I smile. She’s still there, and she was never part of her stuff.