Monday, July 5, 2010

To keep, or not to keep. That is the question.

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It is better to give, than to keep. Right?

Today was another day of packing more things into boxes, and placing them into storage. This plan I have, of putting everything into storage once boxed up, has really helped me manage the process. I am able to see what is left to do, and to best gage how much stuff I have, and how much stuff I don't need.

Last week I had boxed up all of the books, photo albums and files from my bedroom. It was a mixture of our things. I decided not to try and sort through these things, as they are not crucial at this time. Once those boxes were in storage I knew what needed to be done next. I had been avoiding it long enough. I needed to decide what to do with Michael's clothing. I had already alerted his mother that I would be placing his clothing into boxes for donation. She had previously asked me to pick what I wanted to keep, then she would take the rest to donate to a hospice store near her home. When I checked in with her last week she said I should go ahead and donate them here in San Francisco.

I took my time, folding each piece of clothing very carefully. I put aside those items that had sentimental value, then went through those items and filtered them once again. I reminded myself that they were just things, and that other men could find great benefit in his clothing. I have often had clients who participated in the Salvation Army's programs for men who are trying to turn their lives around. I know that many of them are given job and interview skills training, and then need a nice suit when they go out looking for jobs. This is what I told myself as I folded all of Michael's suits and dress shirts, and placed them into the boxes.

I kept having this conversation with Michael. I reminded him that he no longer needed all of these things, and that he would be helping so many other young men by giving them away. I have always donated anything that I haven't used during the prior year. It has been a rule I adopted, many years ago, and one I stick to. Michael was of the rule that he should put things away for a rainy day. He always said, "you never know." He often liked to pack up his winter clothing for safe keeping until the following year. As you might guess, his things took up most of our closet and basement storage area. We used to laugh, because the more I got rid of things, the more his things got moved into my side of the closet.

I hope he understands, and if he doesn't, it's high time he did. Yes, even after death I'm trying to change my man. Not an easy feat, as Michael could be quite stubborn. But that was part of his charm I guess.

I'm finding that I am able to do all of this with a matter of fact attitude these days. I feel like it was the perfect time to move some of his things on. As a matter of fact, I was able to move two car loads of our things on today. I think it is my 8th car load of donations since I began packing up the house. I'm really trying to stick with my resolve to give away anything not used in the last year. I have also tried to give away half of everything we had in this house. I don't want to feel burdened by objects from our past. I want to carry forward those things that really mean something, and not cling to other things just for the sake of holding on to them.

I'm finding this process quite freeing.


  1. I reminded him that he no longer needed all of these things, and that he would be helping so many other young men by giving them away.

    Ha. Well, I had a similar conversation last year when I asked Don if it was okay to give away most of his collection of "gimme hats". He was a very well-liked person and his customers were always bringing him hats for their farms or businesses. He didn't actually wear most of these hats, but he kept them in our hall cupboard, neatly sitting in stacks. After he died, it was one of those "Okay, what the hell do I do with all of these hats!" There was a similar situation with the t-shirts as he used to like to buy nice t-shirts with designs by artists from places we traveled through. That was a pretty nice collection too, but one that he actually wore a lot, so I have a bit of an attachment to those shirts as I remember him wearing them when we were hiking or canoeing. I picked out all the nicest of the shirts and the hats, then asked if it was okay to give the rest away. I took the "no answer" as being okay. If he had objections, I'm sure he would have said something. The bulk of the hats and a good number of t-shirts went into the goodwill bin down the road from our place. The same with all of the hiking and running shoes and sandals, most of which were quite new or in good shape. I hope someone gets some use out of all of that stuff.

    I agree, letting go of things is quite freeing. I feel that I actually should have let go of more last year, but I was under too much stress trying to get rid of the big stuff in the farm buildings. I did just as you are doing -- packed things and took them to a storage locker as I had time. I filled a 10x10 with the household stuff, and another 5x10 with our tools, bicycles, canoe and camping gear, etc... Wish I had cut it down a lot more before having it moved here - which was actually my original plan. It's a bit chaotic here now. All I can say is my stock phrase these days.... "Oh well!". (-:

  2. The part about Michael's clothing helping young men in need resulted in me crying. Then your comment about still trying to change your man made me laugh!
    Your trying to downsize by half is giving me some motivation to do the same here on my end. Moving, packing, sorting, putting things into storage is a very draining process. I wish you all the best and will be thinking of you this week. Now I am off to make a donation of my own of old clothing to the Goodwill!