I watched my in-laws’ tidy bedroom closets fill with suitcases and clothes after each of their parents died.
Add to this the odd table, chairs, hutches, and antique Victrola that migrated to the basement family room, which transformed into a maze you’d see in an episode of Hoarders – the couch piled with boxes, the TV pushed into a corner and covered with grandma’s quilted bedspread. The remote lost forever.
Everyone is different when it comes to living with material things. When family treasures are involved, it is especially important to respect our differences; they don’t define who we are as human beings.
For instance, I’m easily overwhelmed when surrounded by too many things. A minimalist by nature, I function better with fewer things in my life.
Others find comfort surrounded by things that hold memories of those they loved. Neither is right or wrong. There is no moral high ground.
There Is a Tipping Point, However
Too often, we keep things tucked away in storage boxes only to think we can forget about them. Out of sight, out of mind, right?
Sorting through a loved one’s belongings can evoke an undercurrent of delayed grieving or guilt. We may end up thinking we’re a terrible person if we choose to say we actually don’t want to keep Aunt Myrtle’s coffee table or porcelain figurines.
There are some heavy “shoulds” that arrive with the boxes and furniture, however. And, there comes a time when it serves us to question why we’re hanging onto stuff that sits somewhere in our house and might get looked at once a year. Maybe.
Our Hearts Are the Memory Keepers
In the midst of tending to the treasures, it’s important to remember that our hearts hold our memories forever. To recall how that person made us feel, the echoes of time spent together, and what they handed down doesn’t need to take up space with things.
Our hearts hold their memory – the legacy of who they were and who we are because of them. The true treasure of who they were to us. And what we were together.
It’s important to hold this truth and give yourself permission to let go of what was left behind in terms of material possessions that have become burdensome.