You know those stretches in life that are just insanely busy? You keep thinking that things are going to calm down “as soon as,” but as soon as never quite seems to come. That’s what I’ve been dealing with for the last 6+ months.
Rather than get upset by all of the craziness surrounding me, I’ve done my best to try to embrace it. There are so many things that are out of my control and sometimes the only realistic thing to do is to just take it day by day.
When my grandmother visited the hospital back in October, I never imagined it would signal the beginning of her slow decline. What’s more, I never thought that she wouldn’t return to the home she had loved and lived in for 20 years. As it became clearer that she would be unable to return home, I was tasked with the difficult assignment of cleaning out her place. My 94-year-old grandmother had kept every single piece of paper since she had her first house built in the 1950’s. Although she kept everything, she was also insanely organized, meticulously documenting every medical appointment, phone call, and follow up she needed to have. Disassembling the life she had created was no small feat—especially for a devoted granddaughter who had spent so much time in her home.
After a couple months of sorting papers and starting to make piles of what to keep and what to donate, the hard work began. I found a realtor in her development, listed the condo for sale, and watched as prospective buyers traipsed in and out. Then came the offer, the negotiations, and eventually, going under contract.
Each weekend was met with hours of the same—sorting, bagging, wrapping, boxing, and yes, crying—until eventually, it was time to take the furniture out. My grandmother had the same furniture for most of her adult life. Many items were period pieces that for modern folks, would seem like junk. I wanted to salvage the furniture and ensure that it was put to good use by another person or family. But, sadly, with staffing shortages at many local non-profit organizations these days, most were not able to pick up the furniture soon enough. I knew that to keep it and pay for storage would cost a fortune and I also didn’t have the space (or frankly, the need) for more pieces in my own life.
As the closing date loomed, I made the difficult decision to call 1-800-Got-Junk and have them clear out the remaining contents of the condo. It broke my heart to see the pieces be hauled out one by one to get junked, but I knew they had served their purpose.
After six months of back-breaking work every weekend to clean out the condo, I felt a sense of accomplishment, but I was consumed with sadness. So much of my time over the past 10 years had been spent doing the drive to visit my grandmother in that home. Cooking for holidays, summers by the pool, and weekends spent grocery shopping with my grandmother, were all things that would never happen again and now felt like such a distant memory.
In cleaning out that condo, I knew I had also cleaned out a life. I touched every single thing that my grandmother had treasured. I looked at every scrap of paper, photo, postcard, and holiday greeting. I went through all of her notebooks, calendars, and phone books from decades prior. But how to properly dispose of the physical stuff and the furniture is what haunts me.
Today over on The Hospital Bar’s Instagram, we’re sharing more about what to do with a loved one’s stuff as a caregiver. Head over there for more tips and resources!
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