monk figurinesHave you ever wondered how you accumulate so much stuff and why you keep certain things? Recently, I have had the distinct privilege and responsibility to sort through the belongings of people who are close to me that have died. In the past five years, I have peered into the intimate life details of my mother, father and most impacting, my husband of 26 years.

I hadn’t much considered who generally sorts through the things of a person when he or she dies, but commonly, when a woman dies, her daughters, sisters, or if the woman was young, her mother goes through her belongings and finds new homes for her personal things. When a man dies, if he is married, it is generally his surviving wife who is tasked with sorting through his things. After 33 years together and 26 years of marriage (living in the same home all 26 years), I didn’t expect to find any surprises, as I thought I knew everything about my life’s partner.

As I sorted through his clothing, boxes of letters and cards, trinkets and mementos, sporting equipment, personal notes, and pictures, I found some little “surprises” about the man I know and love so well. I did not realize he kept every card I had ever given him. Cards from funerals he attended were in his bedside Bible. Small boxes, jars, and cans of unusual or rare coins were tucked everywhere. A single picture of a prom date with the young lady who broke his heart in high school was in the bottom of an old box of yearbooks, engraved glasses, and stamped napkins. I am still scratching my head over the “Praying Monk” decanter and set of six shot glasses in a box in the garage. All the surprises were good or humorous. Nothing that would taint or cloud any of the wonderful memories we shared. Nothing hurtful, scandalous, or incriminating was revealed.

And then I got to thinking, “Who would be sorting through my things?” Will it be a burden and a nightmare, or will it be a time for laughter, reminiscing and reliving intimate details   my life? What surprises about me would be uncovered and would they cause anyone pain, hurt or hard feelings? As I sorted through my husband’s things, I started sorting through my things, considering why I was holding on to each item, letter, picture, treasure; if anyone would be negatively impacted by the discovery of anything, and is the item currently  serving me any good purpose in my life?

It was somewhat liberating to let go of some silly things from my distant past that had no good use in my life right now. Things I was holding onto that invoked bad feelings in myself, almost certain to hurt someone if discovered after I die, have no place in my space. Those things were discarded, never to be uncovered. As I continue on my journey to establish order and simplicity in my life, cleaning my house takes less time, reducing clutter gives me a sense of more space and room to breathe, and finding new homes for things that no longer serve me a purpose is rewarding.

And that old prom picture of my husband with the most beautiful girl in my high school class? I am okay with that. She was his first love. I was his last. I’ll take that any day.
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Christopher Olson - Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Well said Lisa. We are getting ready to move and Patti is pushing hard to sort and remove, much to my distress. I’ll try to remember your words as I do my best.

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