by Kevin Burton
This is going to be harder than I thought, maybe much harder. Home sweet home is getting a makeover.
I have written about my mother’s move to an assisted living facility last summer and the chaos of organizing her new place and fitting new furniture and other things into our house.
Now Jeannette’s mother is moving to assisted living, something I thought she would never agree to. When I heard about it I thought, “She’s going to change her mind.” I understand there were some second thoughts, but the move is set now, happening this week.
Jeannette’s mother is downsizing and we are getting some of her things, furniture, gadgets, pictures, you name it.
It’s a second wave, when we aren’t quite recovered from the first wave. We disposed of or incorporated many of my mother’s belongings but there are still things in the garage that we have not found a home for.
Our house has that warehouse look. In less than a week that second wave comes crashing in. It will look worse before it starts looking better.
The first thing we have done is thank God for his provision. Having too much furniture is a good problem to have.
We were in our 40s when we got married. So we had to combine two lifetimes worth of belongings. Everything Jeannette had was bigger and better except for my coffee maker. (I purchased that coffee maker after considerable chiding from Jeannette. I may get back to that in a whole other post sometime.)
We have enough Christmas decorations for at least two trees, maybe three. This is still true, despite the fact that I break at least one ornament almost every year (not this year though!).
With our mothers downsizing we will now have a good chunk of those lifetimes here too. Therein lies the problem. The stuff is not just stuff.
Maybe a stranger could come in, look at the furniture and space available, pick out the best of it and come up with a plan. We can do that too and we will, but there are memories and feelings attached to the belongings.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it’s in the heart too.
I can look at Jeannette’s old cookie jar but I can’t see the memories it holds. Multiply that by every treasure in a roomful of boxes and you can see that memory lane is a superhighway just now.
A non-profit agency I used to have had a garage sale fundraiser each year in May. In was a major event, with goods on tables stretching out as far as the eye could see.
Well, at least my eyes.
At the end of the sale, we were tired and ready to get the whole thing over with. We boxed up whatever was left to give to a nearby secondhand store. We didn’t think about any of it except will it fit in a box and how fast can we deliver it.
With these family treasures we can’t do that.
I have said that things can always go out later. Don’t be too quick to get rid of things in that maybe pile.
On the zero-to-ten annoyance scale, the warehouse look registers about a two with me, but about an eight with Jeannette. I would like to have a great looking house, but it is more of a priority with her.
We’ve already had some conversations about family belongings and the stories behind them. I’m looking forward to more of that.
In addition to dealing with nostalgia we also must figure out how to best use the existing physical space. The new bed is wider than the old one, the new dresser wider than the current one.
This will require a redesign of the master bedroom, which means some furniture has to go elsewhere in the house or out altogether.
Our town’s secondhand store is very small and only open Monday and Thursday afternoons. We are frequent contributors and will be for a while now I suspect.
I don’t know if Good Housekeeping will ever have us on their tour map, but we will get to our version of house beautiful. It will just take some time, as we make more memories.
I can really relate to this one. As my wife and I are older than you and yours, we have gone further down this road, but it does not get any better. When my wife’s mother died, we only got a couple of pieces of furniture because my wife has three brothers and a sister, and a whole gaggle of nieces and nephews. I am an only child though, so when my mom died we got a lot of additional family heirlooms. Then, a short time after those acquisitions, a former employer required me to move from Topeka to Wichita to keep working for them. I did so, but we did not want to move completely. We thus got a large, mostly unfurnished apartment in Wichita, but kept our Topeka home as well. Ann spent an average of two to three weeks per month in Topeka. And I spent two to three weekends per month there. Anyway, Ann traveled back and forth a lot, and I was in Wichita most of the time during most weeks. I was going to attempt to keep things fairly minimal in Wichita, but one does need some comforting things around. Essentially this meant we equipped two complete households. When I retired from this employer, and moved back to Topeka around five years later, our amount of furniture and other possessions in our home increased exponentially. In addition to all of these acquisitions, during our time maintaining two households, we rented a spare room in our home to a single gentleman who went to our church, and who had been living in a small apartment which his landlord was not keeping up. He moved most of his furniture into the room he rented, but the things he did not need ended up in one of the bays of our garage. When I moved back, we decided to invite him to continue living with us. Ann and I both liked the guy a lot, and he was semi-retired, and provided some most welcome driving for us. As a visually impaired guy married to a totally blind woman, having this service available was very handy. Unfortunately, he died suddenly after having lived with us a little over three years. He had acquired more stuff during these years, and his family did not want most of it, so this all got added to our possessions. Now, we have parts of our home that we really can not use because it is so full of stuff. Our church use to have very large rummage sales once a year, and we thought we could get rid of a lot of the extra stuff by giving it to those efforts, but with the Covid epidemic, the Church stopped having the rummage sales about the time we were ready to give lots of stuff for it. Now that I have a little more completely retired, we may be able to find ways to unburden ourselves from some of our excess possession. It would be nice to use some parts of our home again which have essentially become a warehouse. I guess in summary, my comments to you is it is really hard to change situations such as this, but unless you actively try to make the situation better, it will not happen. The stuff just keeps coming.
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