When Mom and I merged households, we found ourselves surrounded by extra plates, pots, and candlesticks. Mom has always been a shopper and as hard as I pushed for practicality, she brought far too much stuff to my place. She tends to hold on to things under the best of circumstances. When I packed up her house, I was shocked by how many boxes from my childhood and teenage years remained in her garage, untouched. After so much loss, this tendency became all the stronger. For the first year together, few statements from me elicited a reaction as negative as her response any time I brought up the idea of making some donations or cleaning up her closet.
One weekend I managed to purge a significant set of dishes with her full agreement. We sorted and agreed which sets to keep and which to give away. It was a tough couple of hours but we made fair decisions. When we got to the donations center, Mom had forgotten the agreement and fought to keep a portion of the dishes sorted to go out the door. Exhausting. A pile of dishes moved right back to a box in our kitchen.
After a year of tripping over those dishes and far too many linens, pillows, framed photos, and excess clothes relative to our modest apartment, I committed to purging in spite of her protestations. I got started with sorting in earnest when she went through a hospitalization a few months ago. It so successful and I see every time I better clean out and organize something, the Mom functions a bit more easily.
Now, it’s a silent ongoing battle waged hourly in our house. I move four kitchen items to the donations zone. Mom stealthily removes one without comment. A few hours later, she brings another item over to me to explain its virtues. I agree. Ten minutes later, I move it back to the pile. When donation trucks arrive, she usually fights for one or two items. Last time she salvaged a huge box of notecards– a fascinating choice for a woman who no longer writes letters.
And yet, eager as I am to purge, I know there will come a day that I will be grateful for what remains. Some items I hold on to claiming they matter to her. I realize as I do, that they mattered more to the woman that Mom used to be and it makes them a bit more worth holding on to now.