Sunday, October 24, 2010

What gets left behind

I few months ago, a neighbor was in a bad motorcycle accident. He’s a young dad, a nice guy, and has a wife and two little kids. The little girl plays with my daughter sometimes. I’m happy to say he is still with us and that the neighbors stepped in to help the family in crisis, but he’s not yet been fully released from the hospital and faces a long recovery.

Yesterday was a pleasant, sunny day, and he’d been allowed to come home for a few hours to visit his kids. I saw him outside basking in the mild October sunshine and went over to say hello. He is so vastly changed from the man he once was. He’s lost a lot of weight, he suffered brain injury and now one eye looks different from the other. All his long bones were broken and he’s now using a walker and can’t move one leg. But this isn’t about motorcycle safety.

I thought about what would happen to us if something happened to me. I can barely stand to think about my daughter without me standing between her and the world. Yes, I have life insurance, but that isn’t what I was thinking about yesterday.

I thought about all the stuff in my possession, and how someone would have to go through it all. My own mother has had the task a number of times of sifting through the paperwork and belongings of a deceased family member. She’s told me about how overwhelming the job can be, especially if the person was the kind who keeps everything and isn’t organized. That is what I was thinking about yesterday.

Having moved a few times in the past five years, I have pared down the amount of stuff I own. I have reduced the amount of furniture and large objects, and gotten rid of a lot of unnecessary things. What I’m still weighed down with is the small stuff: the papers, the files, the piles of little objects that someone would have to either comb through or discard wholesale, not knowing what was important and what was meaningless.

If my daughter was still a child, someone else would have to do this, and that makes me shudder. I decided to confront one more thing I’ve been avoiding, and have begun sifting through my own accumulations myself. I’ve used my decision to dismantle my huge oak desk as a launching point. It feels good to be doing this. The shredder is getting a workout.

The townhouse I live in now is very small, but it came with a two car garage (and I only have one car), so I am lucky in that I have a large storage area built in. I’ve decided, now that I’ve put the class work and the job hunting behind me, that I no longer need to have my enormous desk dominating the tiny living room, and am going to store it away while we live here and replace it with a couch and a little computer desk. I gave away my last couch five years ago, and right now we just have two comfy upholstered chairs to sit on. I love these chairs, but my daughter and I can no longer both sit together in one – although she tries – and it is time to have a couch again. I thought about how many more years I have left that she will want to cuddle with me, and that eliminated any last traces of indecision.

Plus, it’s kind of fun to buy a couch. I realized the last time I bought one was about twenty years ago, and my tastes and the amount of money I have to spend have both changed a great deal. I have coveted this couch for a long time, and it finally went on sale! I chose the sleeper sofa model, to add some flexibility. And it’s being upholstered in a lovely buttery dark taupe microsuede, so it should be able to withstand a lot of wear. It should be here in about six weeks.
Thinking about curling up on this couch with M this winter is great motivation to keep slogging through all the minutiae in and on this desk and get rid of the clutter and crap.   I’ll still need someone to clear my cached computer history, should anything dire happen, though!


  1. Just a few months ago, I had the task of emptying my parents' home so that it could be sold because my mom is in a nursing home. My mom (like me, unfortunately) is one of those who keeps everything and isn't organized. Overwhelming in huge measures is how I would describe that task. I finally got through it, but it was a very difficult process. Now I keep looking around at my own home and thinking that I need to do the same thing here because I don't want to leave it for my sons to do. I'm not quite ready to start it yet because I'm still kind of reeling from doing it at Mom's house, but I really do need to get it done.

    Good for you, that you are making progress with this. Hurray for a new couch too! It sounds lovely. Yes, cuddle that M as much as you can while she still wants to do so. That window of opportunity passes quickly.

  2. I keep lots of things, or at least I did. While I've gotten better at paring down the items I decide to keep, I've still made little headway on the items I've already kept.

    But after a long-overdue PTO day on Friday, at least my garage is organized, and we can once again park a vehicle indoors.

    And we're resisting the new sofa, since ours are paid for. They could use a little cosmetic update, but they work. And again, they're paid for.

  3. Wow. How very familiar. Weren't we just discussing this? Good for you! Dave cleaned out the garage over the weekend and did quit a bit of pitching. Mostly, my stuff, but that's OK. There's lots more stuff to do, but baby steps! So excited for your new sofa! Can't wait to see a picture of it in place, and look forward to hearing about you two gals snuggling up on it. :)

  4. Daisy: Maybe when you are ready to weed through your own stuff it will be easier! I will most likely be the one to clean out my parents’ things. What is more daunting is dealing with my siblings when the time comes!

    Elliott: Good for you for tackling the garage! And I am all for making things last. This new couch is paid in full, and my old one is long gone.

    Samsmama: Yes, we were! It’s been on my mind a lot. The paperwork is the worst! It breeds like bunnies.