I moved to be closer to my mom once her health started to decline. She lived in an affordable area, where I could get a cute little house on my modest salary. She kept the house I’d grown up in, which she’d slowly filled with things.

After seven years, her illness had gone from chronic to terminal. I kept her at home until her last moment, thanks to hospice and volunteers from church.

It’s clear that I have to sell her house. Her healthcare expenses have eaten up just about all of her retirement money, so taking my time to go through the things she and my dad accumulated over a lifetime together isn’t an option. I can’t afford to pay for two homes for longer than it takes to sell hers and it needs to be “showable” to put it on the market.

I knew this was coming, but I didn’t have the heart to try to do anything about it ahead of time. Our neighbor cleaned out her mom’s house and it took half a dozen yard sales and endless trips to the town dump to clear it out. It eat up as much time as taking care of her mom when she was alive.

Suggesting we clear things out before she died wasn’t going to fly with my mom. It would have just made her cry. Instead, I’d try to casually ask about one thing at a time.

This looks a bit worn, do you need it anymore?

Should I get this broken XYZ repaired, or should I find it a new home?

You haven’t used this in a while, have you? Maybe I could drop it off at the Salvation Army.

But for her, everything had a memory. I just didn’t have the heart to press the issue.

When a family nearby had their house burn down, I tried to get her to donate the kitchen things she didn’t use. I brought over a list of things the local women’s shelter was asking for, acting like I was doing a general collection.

She had excuses for why she needed everything, even though we both knew she was never going to cook again. She could hardly eat and everything had to be pureed. But she needed all of her serving trays and dusty appliances as if she was going to be roasting a turkey for 20 this Christmas.

So I let it go. We had so little time left, I wanted to enjoy every moment we had together.

Now that time’s up. And all of this stuff has been here, waiting for me.

I loaded up my car for a couple trips to the women’s shelter with the best stuff, the practical things, the clothes in good condition. I’ve been calling around to find a place that wants her furniture and will pick it up, but after endless phone calls I’m not any closer to a solution.

Taking photos of things and posting them to Craigslist and our neighborhood Facebook group has cleared out a few things, but not really enough to be worth the time it takes to post it and coordinate with the people who respond.

I’m torn on what to do. Some of it is useful and probably worth something. Some of it is trash. I’ve taken a bunch of trips to the municipal waste center to get rid of the things that are obviously not going to find a new home, but there’s so much stuff left in that limbo of neither trash nor treasure.

I feel guilty just giving it all away, but taking the time to weed through everything and sell it would probably cost me more in expenses (to keep the house) than it would bring in.

Keeping things, even the things that are sentimental are for me, isn’t really an option. With her gone, there’s nothing keeping me in this (perfectly lovely, but not for me) little town.

As soon as I was old enough to leave for the city, I did. I came back for family, but once this is settled I’ll be transferring back and trading my cute little house for an apartment.

I’m going to be getting rid of most of my own things after this. I’m already sick of clearing everything out, the thought of doing this twice is difficult.

It’s already difficult. Because I miss my mom. And as much as I don’t want a house full of clutter, I certainly don’t just want to let go of everything she owns. I wish there was space for a lot more than there’s actually space for.

I finally understand how hard it can be to let go.


Judy Allen

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