Vestiges of grief and cathartic decluttering

Contemplating what we leave behind

Welcome back! Another week, another missive and, as always, thank you for following along.

I’m really getting into my stride with blitzing the house. I’m systematically working my way through each room, and religiously doing a daily charity shop drop. I’m on first name terms with the staff there now.

With each bag or box I deposit with them, I can feel a weight lifting off my shoulders. A few less things to clean, look after, store or contemplate. It feels great and, as someone said to me recently, decluttering can quickly become a compulsion. I think I’ve reached that stage!

This week a number of larger items were collected by the British Heart Foundation. I love the space that has been created. Our house buyers visited at the weekend to measure up and they would like one of our wardrobes, an enormous thing, plus the single bed. We had been debating for several weeks how on earth we were going to get the wardrobe downstairs. It’s in two parts and was constructed in situ. Problem solved and another item off the list!

I’ve been sorting through my Mum’s button collection too. There’s a whole life history in one sewing box. Buttons from dressing gowns. A lilac cloth covered button from a suit my Mum wore to a family wedding. A green button from a 1970s coat. Other coat buttons. A button from one of my Winter jumpers. And a very old looking coat button that I suspect pre-dates me. I’m amazed how one small disc can conjure up so many memories.

In case you don’t know, my Mum died in October 2013 and my Dad in March 2016. After my Mum died, my Dad and I sold both our houses and bought one together. We combined the contents of both houses into one. Although I pared back immediately after my Dad died, I didn’t really do a proper job of it. I didn’t need to. But now I do. Hence the daily charity shop visits.

I’m not massively sentimental but, even so, there’s an occasional wave of grief when it’s time to part with something that was significant. My Dad’s bureau - a 21st gift from his Grandma - was hard to let go of. But it wasn’t really my style and was never used as a bureau. I have a stainless steel tea set that was my Mum’s leaving gift in the year she was Head Girl. Again, never used yet conferred with the title of treasured item by my Mum. But not by me. It’s tricky separating out someone else’s attachment from my own.

I’ve been taking photos of several of the items that I sell or take to the charity shop. I think that’s all you can do. Eventually they will pop up in a year’s time on my Timehop.

We all have so much stuff these days. But it doesn’t represent the original owner even though it’s tempting to assign some sort of physical connection to an inanimate object.

I’ve noticed unexpected waves of grief floating up from time to time over the past weeks. I feel it rise within me and fill my eyes with salt water. Some last vestiges of grief bubble up like air trying to escape. I don’t think grief ever fully goes away. It makes its presence felt every now and again. For me, rarely at the obvious times like birthdays or anniversaries. I usually get hijacked unexpectedly. Chris and I talked recently about how I could never watch The Railway Children again. (That scene at the end. You know which one I mean). And, surprisingly, The Sound of Music. When my Grandma died, I was 20. I had a meltdown in the hospital when it was clear she had taken a turn for the worst and then, after that, I was remarkably pragmatic about things. I remember choosing the opening music, Eidelweiss, and noting on the day how all her friends wept when they heard it. However, the joke was on me, as I can never listen to it now.

I’m very conscious of some line being drawn. I’m leaving the house my Dad and I bought together. Every now and then I sit on one of the sleepers around a raised bed, looking up at the hawthorn trees and thinking of my Dad. I feel him most in the garden.

A part of my history is over. A new chapter is about to begin.

When I was drafting this email I had no idea that we would end the week with two bereavements on the same day.

I wonder now whether some of the grief I’ve been feeling was simply a tapping into the ether and prognostication of what was to come. I’ve done that before on a few occasions. Whether that’s the case, that line being drawn is very clear, and another reminder that our time here is finite.

Chris and I have been talking a lot about legacy and what legacy do you want to leave is one of my favourite questions to ask my podcast guests. Is it important? Do we need to leave something behind or is that simply vanity? Is a life well lived enough, or is legacy simply determined by our own values and ours alone?

I’d love to know what you think and what your take is on the question of legacy.

Look out for the email with the link to join in the conversation. Have a great week!

Until next time, thank you for reading.


P.S. Series 2 of the Follow Your Bliss podcast will be live on Monday. My first guest is Michelle Myrick.