Letting Go of Stuff

Finally, spring has come to New England!
Finally, spring has come to New England!

My mom has recently become engaged, and now she and her fiancee are going through the house to see just what’s in it and what needs to be done before they combine households. Totally cool with that. Here’s the thing – my mom is a holder-onner when it comes to stuff. As in, she has found a medal wagon that my brother used to use when he was a child to get around. Um, my brother is now 40.  (To be frank, I don’t even remember what wagon she’s talking about.)

She said that they cleaned up the wagon, and that people have told them it’s “worth money” because it’s not made of plastic. Um. Ok. Here’s the thing – she wants to hold onto all this stuff for us to sell when the time comes (i.e., she’s gone) because in her mind if it’s worth something today, well, it will HAVE to be worth more come the next 20 years or so…. I tried explaining to my mom that we have no idea when her time will come, and where each of us will be when that happens. (Personally, I’m thinking I will be on the other side of the country.) My sis has three kids. My brother is in NYC, but he’s also very busy.  We won’t be able to come home for weeks on end to get rid of all of her stuff.

I have always joked with my mom that if she feels like the end is near, and the “light” is calling to her, I’m going to reach over and pull her back into this world if she thinks she’s leaving us with a house full of stuff to clean out. We laugh every time I bring this up.  When my grandma died, my found had found a note from her apologizing for having left so much stuff behind. That was classic “my grandma.” Compared to the amount of stuff my mother has and has always kept, to my mind, the amounts just don’t compare. Plus, my grandma would leave the cards that came with stuff that had been given to her as gifts so we would know who gave it to her, and the idea was it would go back to that person. My mom knows how hard it was to go through her stuff, and in fact, she probably still has a lot of my grandma’s stuff.

Please, people….don’t do this. Don’t hold onto things with the idea that because it’s “worth something today” that it will be “worth more tomorrow.” Especially when you don’t have a buyer lined up (which is the case with my mom.) In my mind, until you have that buyer lined up, it’s worth nothing other than sentimental value which you might have with it.  Especially when it is literally taking up space.  My mom doesn’t pay extra for storage space right now (Thank God) but a lot of people do just that.   I asked my mom to sell some of the stuff yesterday. She said “maybe.” (It could have been said just to get me to stop talking, not sure.)

Personally, I look around at my place and although I’ve been culling out crap now for the past two years, I still see way too much crap. That is a huge turnaround from when I left my marriage a few years ago and held onto things as a sense of security. Today, as I get rid of stuff, I feel lighter and lighter and lighter. And I know I still have my work cut out for me if I am going to live in a motor home or other small dwelling. I am thankful that I no longer hold onto emotional ties with most of my stuff because it just weighs me down.  There are a few things I do hold emotional weight with and I am working through those: my many seashells that I collected over years of going to the Cape with my ex-husband (because I love the sea), my wedding proof album (we never ordered the actual photos, and while I can’t bring myself to actually look at that album, I have not yet been able to get rid of it. I know where it is, but I still don’t want to look at it.)  I guess with the album, part of me feels that if I get rid of it, it’s like that part of my life didn’t exist, and I can’t just wipe it out of existence. Does that make sense?

I have two photos of my grandparents in frames on my bedroom dresser. It is the only one I have of my grandfather, who I never met. So that is going to be going with me into the RV. And the photo of my grandma with her mom, and sisters from the early 1900s, that, I will also keep.  The rest, I will digitize and put into a digital photo frame. That’s my plan.

If any of you have parents out there like my mom, and have suggestions on how to encourage her to get rid of stuff, please tell me. I’m all ears. My mom is in debt and wants to be rid of it before she gets married, so I am trying to tell her to sell stuff she doesn’t need and to put it toward that debt. I recommended she check out Dave Ramsey’s book, The Total Money Makeover, and have mentioned his financial peace university classes that are held in churches around the country. (She’s religious so I thought that might be an extra bonus for her to hear.) But I’m her daughter, so she may not listen to me. (Please note, I’m not a total Dave Ramsey fanatic, but reading his book helped me get some priorities together, like on getting out of debt.)

Seriously, any suggestions, anything, I will gladly receive!

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6 thoughts on “Letting Go of Stuff

  • I think that is a VERY common situation. I have heard the “it will be worth money” so many times, When in fact it is an excuse to say “I can’t part with these things” and if you care then you wouldn’t want to either. My grandmother has done a similar type thing almost as long as I can remember. So often she would take each of us through the house stopping at what seemed liked every item and say “this goes to ….” I think it is a way some people want to say these things are important to me because you ‘each person” is important to me. Some people seem to have that one thing they can’t part with, while others hold on to MANY one things. It is difficult because it is an emotional response. I have heard that if you can sit down and say I get it.. I understand, you MAY be able to get her to agree to one or a couple major things she needs to keep near by making a “special” item for each person. The logical thing is to say , if this is so important why is it packed in a box in the garage? let’s take one thing clean it up and keep it on the mantle or frame it or in some way make it “special”. It isn’t easy.. My grandmother is now in a nursing home and there are still many things our family has to deal with. But telling someone that something that has meaning to them doesn’t matter or is silly can be painful them, even if it is true.

    • I was kind of saying the same sort of thing to my mom – if it’s really important, then it should not be sitting aside just waiting to be gotten rid of. The problem is that I don’t go home quite often and when I do it’s only for a few days at a time, here and there. I can’t really get a lot accomplished. And with all my animals, I can’t really leave them for too many days at a time.

  • I am in that same situation with other family members. I think the best thing to do is lead by example first. I mean deal with your own ”stuff” first.

    For other people with their stuff, it is different. First plant seeds of your concern, offer to help if they want the help. Its important that they dont feel attacked about the amount of stuff they have.

    I am glad your bringing up this topic. I am in somewhat the same situation. Its so much easier to change our own case, but very different about others stuff and living space. They need to want to change things before anything begins. Any other thoughts, suggestions?

    • Troy, I think you have the right idea. We can’t make the other person feel like something is worthless. My sister and I talked last night and if I talk to my mom about the stuff, I may just say something like I’d rather see her enjoying her life right now, and if the stuff is not being used, if she can sell it and make money, then she might not have to work so many hours or as hard. (She’s over 70 and still working.) And I hope I can show what I am doing by example – I’ve definitely gotten rid of crap over the last two years!

  • I feel like it’s a generational thing, “I need to save this because it will be worth money someday”, because that USED to be true. Kind of the same way that keeping up with the Jonses hit its peak in the mid-90s to mid-00s. My mom has PILES of stuff that she’s keeping around “to sell someday” and I don’t think realizes that it’s probably not going to be worth more than she paid for it. These thought patterns get ingrained, and don’t change over time. Probably the same way I’m always going to be wary of big banks.

    • That’s exactly my way of thinking – by the time my mom sells this stuff, it probably won’t be worth much more. But my sister said to me last night that maybe it’s our mom’s way of thinking that she can leave us something. She doesn’t have a lot saved, and we don’t expect a big inheritance (from either of our parents, actually.) I agree, big banks will always make me suspicious!

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