I have decided it is finally time to deep clean. Deep clean means you actually go to the closets, crawl spaces, basement, garage all overflowing with their bounty and tackle with single-minded determination the fine art of sorting, decluttering, pitching and putting some kind of order to the chaos. Success in this endeavour can be defined as being able to at least open the doors, without fear of receiving a brain injury from some treasure falling onto your head. This of course, because I am a therapist and occasionally deeply insightful  is a metaphor for turning the corner with my grieving process, and allowing myself to sort through the past and say goodbye to what I don’t need to dwell on any more.

My parents are depression era babies. These are folks born in the 1920’s with a huge attachment to all things. The Buddhist principle of non-attachment does not apply here.  According to the elders in my life, one never knows when you might need something, so keeping everything is the antidote to need. If you don’t throw anything out, including relationships, you don’t have to have regrets and as well you don’t have to face the consequences of those decisions.

Mom had a lot of extended family who never married, so therefore had no children to take care of the fine art of clean up and asset disposal, after their deaths. All the unmarried relatives turned to her as the dutiful niece/daughter to look after business. Lucky me, when my mother became too cognitively impaired to continue in this role it became mine. My house became filled with so many remnants of their past – photo albums, furniture, knick-knacks, antiques, and the paper, oh the paper, documenting lifetimes of expenditures. The compulsion to go through every box, read every line to make sure I wasn’t discarding a deed to some castle in England was overwhelming.   I didn’t have the heart to sell anything or put things to the curb even after no one in the extended family showed any interest in taking them, so I became their guardian, much like one takes in orphaned kittens.

Avalanche of the old
Too many deceased relatives, too much of the past

These very possessions, representative of the past threaten to consume and overwhelm me. One of my opinionated children recently said to me, “Mom, you gotta let it go, let it all go. Every time you walk into this house it is like walking into the depressing houses of your childhood, and it makes you sad. Get rid of it all.” I believe those words of wisdom had been brewing since his best friend Jon had said, “No disrespect to your mom or you Gray, but I feel when I visit, I have inadvertently showed up at an estate sale and I am waiting for a ghost to join me on the settee.”

Covid Captivity is getting to me and being surrounded by the remnants of so many dead people’s stuff has made me decide to get cracking on cleaning up my 100-year-old cottage, as well as my house, both properties jam packed with stuff that needs to find new homes. Anyone want a perfectly good bath tub? Just have to be strong enough to remove it from the flower beds…. My family would just say give it all to the Salvation Army and if they don’t want it, take it to the landfill. However, I am my mother’s daughter and mom couldn’t bear to get rid of anything of value, sentimental or financial. Before their matrimonial home of 67 years was sold, I was astounded by the number of beautiful china tea cups that grew exponentially as each elder transcended to the great beyond. This is how I have come to have 92 bone china tea cups lined up in my cupboards, much like the Terracotta soldiers are excavated in their perfect rows in Xian, China.

Since I am currently not cleaning up highway 118, (see previous blogs) as it is looking quite pristine after my removal of copious quantities of beer cans and Tim Horton’s coffee cups at the beginning of Covid Captivity, I am now supplementing my future retirement income with Kijiji sales. By the way, at last count I made $147.30 in alcohol container returns. My son’s girlfriend, Devon, is a whiz at on-line everything.  With her wonderful help I take the pictures of the articles to sell or give away and she does her magic posting them on-line. She negotiates the sales, gets the purchasers to the right address, instructs me to put things out for contactless retrieval, and then lets me know when to expect my cash to roll in…… I cannot believe how cheap people want things. It offends my sensibilities! Reminds me of a charity garage sale we hosted and a person wanted a plastic milk jug for 5 cents, when it was marked at a dime. It was for charity, people!!!

One of my items for sale, a small roll top desk had one of the little knobs coming loose. Never one to sell something and have it fall apart, I dispatched myself to Home Depot to buy a screw. My ADD brain was completely out of its’ mind when I went to aisle 17 and proceeded to stare at the entire aisle full of fasteners of every kind.  OMG! I had no idea what screw to buy. I am not like many men in my life who won’t ask for driving directions, so I sought guidance to the right bin. After two calls over the loudspeaker and waiting 35 minutes for someone to show up, I did my best damsel in distress act and approached a man who was confidence inspiring. I asked him for advice and God love him, he spent 10 minutes helping me make a decision. I thanked him profusely and proceeded with my screw to the check out, only to be told after waiting 20 minutes in line that I needed to put the screw in a bag, and put a number on it much like buying candy at the Bulk Barn. Who knew? Off I went only to spend 15 minutes looking for said bags and pencils to write down the number, only to find there were none AND, I had no idea which bin I had taken the screw from. I was ready to blow a gasket by this point (gaskets, aisle 23) so I reached into my purse, found a pen and decided to write down any number on my arm. Back I went to the checkout, marginally guilty as I had for a moment contemplated putting the screw in my pocket, much like I steal little jam pots from Hilton hotel lounges (see Chapter 7 in my book), but my usual terror of going to hell if I do something like that made me go back to the socially distanced line up, which by now was half way around the store.

Another 20 minutes went by until I could make Home Depot a grand total of 29 cents richer.

I got home and successfully managed to put the screw in the knob and later received 100.00 from a very happy customer who knew she had the deal of the century. That $100.00 payment probably took me 6 hours of driving time and screwing around time, but hey one more thing has now left my house and I am feeling lighter because of it.

Sometimes all it takes is one good screw to feel fantastic……

Getting rid of the elder’s artifacts and the lingering effect the past has on one’s psyche creates room for a new beginning into the next stages of life.  The sense of weightlessness and freedom from the hold the past has on one is an incredible feeling. Anyone else out there feel the same?   

Letting go
A better balance!
Categories: Expert advice

11 Comments

Carolyn · 8 November 2020 at 10 h 14 min

Sorry I’m not there to help Gaye – cause I’m really good at getting rid of stuff, as you know.

Linda Henshaw · 8 November 2020 at 10 h 19 min

As usual, there’s lots to think about in your blog. Taking out the junk seems appropriate in the wake of US election results. There too, they decided it was time to clean house but the toughest job will be to remove the items (or people). I loved the comment from your son’s friend about the expectations of a ghost sitting beside him. It’s hard not to feel that way when living with the past. It’s hard to resist the temptation to go through papers and little drawers. When cleaning out my parents’ house which was over 100 years old I found $800 in coins – not saved in one place but scattered throughout the detritus. I guess, in metaphoric terms, it would be wise of me to forget a number of things in the past and only keep a few things of value. It’s actually good advice. Because I’ve lived in so many different houses I seem to throw away things on a regular basis. However, I still have my notes from University- you know, in case I need to understand a particularly scintillating perspective on literary theory! It’s good that you’ve moved your junk removal pursuits inside, side Canadian winter is drawing near. Thanks for the laughs and the observations that prompt thought. It’s hard not to now focus on the junk part of your blog name though.

Sonia Desrosiers · 8 November 2020 at 10 h 25 min

Hi Gaye, I admire your determination to declutter your cottage and house. It takes a lot of courage to undertake a complete cleanup, bravo!

Darlene Josephson · 8 November 2020 at 10 h 40 min

Gaye: Awesome post! I always find your posts so interesting. You have such a unique way of viewing and wording things. A great spice to life! Thanks for sharing once again, and I look forward to your future writings. All the best with your endeavours.

Cliff Whitfield · 8 November 2020 at 11 h 05 min

A most amusing approach to an ongoing problem for many families, Gaye. Having moved 9 times times since first married, I have cast off myriad items no longer needed – many long before Kijiji existed. Thank goodness we had the salvation Army stores.

Ann · 8 November 2020 at 13 h 19 min

Gaye,
Thank you again for starting off my Sunday morning with a good laugh, especially the Home Depot or as we like to call it Home Dumpo, experience. Being married to Mr DIY I been sent on many a nightmarish hunt for some bit or piece perfectly understandable to him but totally foreign to me. Thank God for online shopping now. Good luck with the clear out, keep going! What an awesome thing to have Devon to make it all happen and so much easier for you. It’s fun to see things go to people that are so thrilled to have them, and then you can buy new stuff! 💜🌞

Susan Gaden · 8 November 2020 at 16 h 50 min

Wonderful news… I am blessed to have a thrift store at the local community hall and the Nearly New store in our church basement, so it’s easy to drop things off. The Swedes have a custom that i heard of years ago from my Swedish friend Kirsten… it is called döstädning, which translates to death cleaning. Dö means death in Swedish and städning means cleaning. The idea it to begin decluttering so your death isn’t such a burden for those you leave behind. It is also practical, her parents gave their house and possessions to their children to avoid inheritance tax, which is quite high in Sweden. (They bought a modest cabin in the country and lived way into their 90’s.)

Tracy · 9 November 2020 at 13 h 38 min

You always tickle my funny bone Gaye! I can relate to the conflicted feelings of wanting to hang on and the need to let go. Such a common human struggle and you captured it in a most elegant yet humorous way! Good on you for repairing the desk. Sometimes I think we could stop manufacturing new stuff, repair the old stuff trade amongst ourselves for what we need, and we would still have too much LOL!

Aldona · 9 November 2020 at 23 h 32 min

What a perfectly timed post! I must admit I have deep, sentimental attachment to things from relatives who are now gone. I will tell myself that it’s just a china cabinet, it’s not ACTUALLY my grandmother and I can let it go. But I’m not ready. So the china cabinet stays in the upstairs hallway…sticking out slightly so we need to be careful as we make our way to and from the bedrooms. No one can admire it unless they are dragged upstairs, but there it is and I love it. Every now and then I find myself possessed by the spirit of Marie Kondo and I will tackle a closet or drawer and purge like a maniac, and that is the only reason I’m not a complete hoarder. I wish you much good fortune on Kijiji or marketplace or wherever you can sell some old stuff. And thanks for the brilliant blog. xo

Melody Harding · 10 November 2020 at 7 h 42 min

I am laughing and crying and clapping and sending you a heartfelt thumbs up❣️ I love teacups but I k ow what my daughter would say if I added one more to THE COLLECTION 😂 I’m so glad we chatted about this and very glad to be able to read about your successful project ! We all need a Devon in our lives !! Thank you Gaye and I look forward to sharing my success with you 🤗🤗

Diane Hamilton · 21 November 2020 at 19 h 46 min

Love this blog ,as it is a poignant time with everyone during COIVD having time at home. Okay ,so I also de-cluttered but for me it was CLOTHES. Okay maybe other things but mostly clothes,belts,shoes etc. I went through my entire wardrobe for Fall, Mid Fall , Winter, mid winter , Spring , mid Spring and summer, mid summer. As well as any other season, Christmas season,New Years Season, Birthday Season etc,
I realized as 60 Mature Woman some of these outfits which I loved did not represent who I am today. They did look great when I did wear them.(10 years or more) They were clothes from my decades of life. In my 30’s single and going to nightclubs for dancing. 40’s married with children but still going out dancing once in a blue moon-Date Night.
50’s more business attire Suit jackets etc Then casual Fridays started to happen. My
fashion style no longer existed.I gave away 22 garbage bags full of clothes, coats, sweaters ,shoes, jackets, belts and more. It was hard to say goodbye to those clothes memories.
I had to put the bags in my car immediately ,because if not I would reopen the bags to take one last look.I finally gave it all away. I felt like I lost 10 lbs. I wish.
Anyways I think it is good for everyone to declutter as I think we all have too much stuff.
Thank you for sharing your story.Miss you. Hope all is well with you and your family.

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