OK, fellow boomers – let’s say you’ve been living in your house (or carrying stuff with you from house to house) for thirty, forty, or fifty years. You probably have things stored in the attic or basement that you haven’t seen for years. Could be like Christmas opening the boxes you find there – all kinds of surprises!
If you’re particularly sentimental, or you’re a little indulgent, you may also be “storing” some items for one or more of your kids. Things like a piece or two of furniture, souvenirs, artwork, musical instruments, sports equipment, or (let’s just say it) forgotten junk. And because the baby-boomers are also the sandwich generation, many of us have ended up with an accumulation of assorted important stuff from our parents’ or grandparents’ homes.
When our grandmother passed away, our grandfather had died just a few months earlier. Mom was just not up to cleaning out their retirement apartment, but we had only a short time before another month’s rent would be due. So, my sister and I shared our first experience with sifting through a lifetime of memories. We found some wonderful treasures, each took some household items and mementos, set some aside a number of things for our Mom, and then donated the clothing and remaining items to Goodwill.
When my father-in-law moved out of his house to a smaller condo – and again later from the condo to an assisted living facility – he wanted to find homes for all of his precious belongings. And so each of his sons (who already all had fully furnished homes) ended up with some lovely little watercolor paintings, nice furnishings, and then some other things they really didn’t need but couldn’t bear to see thrown away. When my Dad passed away, I inherited a similar bounty from his house.
It’s been nine months since my Mom passed away. My sister and I have been gradually going through her things, donating some things, setting others aside for our children or grandchildren, and then deciding what things each of us would like to keep. Now, my sister has decided to leave the larger house she’s been in, for a much cozier and more practical place. So beside deciding about the last of Mom’s stuff, we’re working through my sister’s things as well…
… and all of this has made me keenly, painfully aware that I’m next.
I will have to go through 45 years of memorabilia, my dad’s certificates and papers, souvenirs of about twenty vacations, tons of CDs, videotapes, and DVDs, clothes in two or three sizes (for me and my beloved), and knicknacks from our parents’ homes. Then there are the camping, sports, and exercise equipment, tools in our wood shop, and many, many books, And my kids’ toy box full of games.
This isn’t a task I’m looking forward to. It’s time to hand off some things to my children. Some things will be easy to toss or donate. Others represent wonderful memories of people and places I have loved.
One consolation is that this is the last household I will have to deconstruct, another is that I don’t have to do it in a week or two. Still, this part of our evolution into full retirement is going to be emotionally draining and a reminder of all the things that are behind us. Thankfully, we have a wealth of happy memories to take with us, and the promise of many more to come.