On March 28, we moved Kirstin out of her mobile home which, until a year ago, she shared with her grandmother. The park her home is in will be closing, so selling it was necessary. It was much too big for Kirstin to keep up anyway. Now she is living comfortably in a one-bedroom apartment in Prescott Valley, only a short drive to where her grandmother lives in a care home.
Because the mobile was the last place my mother lived independently, most of her possessions were still there. Anyone who has had to move elderly parents out of their home knows it is an unpleasant task–dismantling someone’s life, bit by bit and deciding what to do with it all. I had a month to complete the move and so it seemed challenging but doable. At first I tried sorting through and making decisions about what to keep, give to other family members, sell, or give away. I even had a yard sale to get rid of some of the excess stuff my mom had acquired over her lifetime. (I found twelve coffee makers and a whole box full of irons.) But in the end, as time grew short, I resorted to rounding up boxes and hauling things off to my house to go through later.
When moving day finally arrived, we began putting furniture and boxes into the twenty-six-foot U-Haul truck. (My son, Michael, thought we didn’t need such a large truck, but we filled every inch of it.) First we dropped off the furniture that would have to be stored in my garage. Then we took Kirstin’s furniture and boxes to her new apartment. It was eight o’clock at night, when we finished, but the biggest part of the move was accomplished.
My euphoria over finishing the move only lasted until I returned to the mobile for what was left. After countless more trips with my car loaded down and three trips with our pickup, everything was finally out. Now all that remains is dealing with the furniture that is taking up most of my garage, (I did manage to leave enough space to squeeze my car in.) and the 500 square feet of boxes in my basement. I hope I can accomplish that before I go into a care home myself.
The process of moving my mother gave me cause to think about my own future and how I want to leave things for my children to deal with. These are some of my thoughts. I hope they will be helpful to some of you.
- If you treasure something, pass it on to a younger family member. Tell the story behind it–how you came to own it, why it’s special. In that way, it will become a family heirloom instead of another item in the Goodwill donation box.
- If you are no longer using something, get rid of it–Give it to someone, sell it, donate it, throw it away. It could still be useful to someone. Don’t leave it to collect dust in your home.
- Be selective about what you save. Keeping every birthday card you were ever given may seem thoughtful. But if you don’t enjoy reading the cards over and over, no one else will either. No matter how large your collection, it won’t make it into the Hallmark Hall of Fame. Keep what matters–pictures and special memorabilia–throw out the rest.
- Make your life about people rather than possessions. Instead of giving your loved ones another knickknack to sit on a shelf, consider spending time with them. Take them to a museum or a park. Read a book together or watch a movie. Go through old photo albums and recall family stories. The time you give will mean so much more than any gift you could think of.
In a book I’m reading, Life’s Greatest Lesson, by Allen R. Hunt, Grandma Lavish says that we should prepare for death, not fear it. Today, we are writing the stories that will be told at our funerals. We have the chance now to decide how we want our story told. In the end, those stories are all we take with us from this world–and all we leave behind.