Clearing the clutter out of your life

Clearing the clutter out of your life

There must be some good reason why I haven’t written about this area of my retirement life so far. In my New Year resolutions / goals blog, I said I would be concentrating on three projects. There was the gardening business and the vineyard but, first on that short list, was the renovating, is that the word, of my late mother’s house, now my house. It may be the reason for not writing about this area so far is that we have been too busy actually doing the renovating / remodelling to write about it and there has always been something else to write about instead. But I think now is the time for an update probably because I’m in need of a little writing therapy to help me cope with the trials of working on the house. As you might predict if you extrapolated (lovely word) from other areas of the complexity that I call my retirement, it has not been at all straight forward…

My mother died last year, when she was alive she used to laugh and say you’re going to have a hell of a job clearing out this house when I’m gone. My mother being a great one for the negatives of life, took pleasure in looking on the darker side. We got used to ignoring her gloom and, although she was in her nineties, she seemed likely to go into her hundreds, and I got the feeling – frequently -that I would die before she did, so I didn’t need to worry about what might happen to the house after her death. Well, I was wrong and she was right, we have been having a hell of a problem clearing out the house. It’s funny but although we used to visit the house at least once every week, I never really noticed how cluttered the place was. Yes, there were ornaments of many kinds on every surface in every room, but that’s just the way things were and we never went to the hidden depths of the house to see what might be lurking, time enough for that when she was dead. Well, now she is dead and there isn’t enough time to remove everything she had hoarded. I mean you see TV programmes about hoarders but not until we came to clear out the house did we realise we had our very own hoarder in the shape (now urn shape) of my mother. Remind me to tell you about what happened to her ashes before I finish.

So not only every surface covered in objects but every drawer in every cupboard in every room full of clothes, shoes, lampshades, yes, that’s right about 15 of them in a compartment under one of the beds. Rolls of wallpaper, fabrics, pieces of card, blotting paper, perished elastic bands, hole punch holes reinforcers, picture frames, trunks, suitcases, cans of food, flour, rice, kitchen utensils and on and on and on…  Not to mention items of furniture – beds, dressing tables, chest of drawers, tables, sofas, chairs by the dozen. There is an outhouse that defeats us, we open the door and then close it again – another time, we say. Why, why? we asked as we cleared it all out. Actually made me quite angry I felt like she had done it to make life as difficult as possible for us after her death. She’s looking down and laughing right now although she nearly wasn’t. More of this in a moment.

It took us a while to face up to the enormity of the task mainly because we couldn’t bear to go near the house. After a visit a week or more for the last four years we just breathed a sigh of relief and stayed away. Until the guilt took over and we made a visit maybe once a month to tinker with the task. We put the house on the market as it was, full of junk. Unsurprisingly, although we had some offers, they were low and from speculators / flippers. I wasn’t going to let them make a profit at my expense. Normal people didn’t seem able to see past the house’s current state, indeed couldn’t see past it. It was quite hard to see the house at all and what could be seen was not enticing. It’s taken us 7 months to clear the house (nearly). The plan was a simple one. Three groups – one, stuff to keep in the family (sounds good, in practice this simply means that our house/s are getting as cluttered as my late mother’s and this is not good ). Two, stuff to take to the charity shops. Again not quite as simple as it sounds because charity shops are picky about what they take – no upholstered furniture, wall units, beds and so on. One local shop said, looking at my van full, we can’t take them, they’re scratched. Well, excuse me. Three, whatever doesn’t fit into the first two categories to be taken to the tip. And yes, you’ve guessed it, not so simple either. Because the bloody tip won’t take certain items and our local tip (it’s a great looking tip, very neat, everything in its proper place, only problem it doesn’t like rubbish) even more so and you can’t turn up in a van, so one van full had to be transferred to the Land Rover for half a dozen trips and heaven help you if you forgot your resident’s pass. So neat plan but…

You start to sift through (just in case there are any five pound notes in there, mother did like to hide a few quid round the house), what you initially imagined as, your chucking out pile. You stand poised before the dustbin or whatever and you look at the object in your hand and a pang of guilt wafts through you. You can’t possibly throw this out, it’s been in the family for 50 years, true it’s not been used in 45 of those years but maybe it meant something to somebody. Yes, but not me, throw it in, no you can’t etc. On several occasions I threw stuff away and then pulled it out again. Guilt 1, common sense, 0. It has all been quite physically exhausting and emotionally draining. And I’ve got this far in this blog and not even begun to tell you about the renovation work itself. That’s going to have to wait for a future blog.

Of course every part of our lives has humour if you care to search for it. This area is no exception. We asked our one gardening chap to do some work on the house, clearing out, cleaning, painting while the gardening side of things was a bit slack. We went down together the first time so I could give him an idea of what to do. We did a bit of clearing out while we were there so as not to waste the journey. My mother’s ashes were still in the house in a nice, purple container in a nice, purple, paper bag. The bag was in her bedroom and no, we haven’t done anything proper with them yet, that’s another story and yes, that probably does make me a bad person. Anyway, as we were leaving, having cleared out quite a bit of stuff and chucked in it the van, my chap said, don’t you want to see what it looks like upstairs after the clear out? As requested, I went into my late mother’s bedroom. Something different alright, less clutter, oh, hang on, less mother as well. What happened to the purple bag I asked Adam, with some trepidation? I chucked in in the van along with all the other rubbish, he replied brightly. I think you better go and get it out, that is my late mother you’re taking to the tip. Ha, I thought, you’re not laughing now, are you? Would she have seen the humour? NO. Yes, I’ve already admitted, I’m a bad person. Before I retired I’m sure I was a good person but I lost it along the way and clearing out this house has made me worse. Retirement, who’d of thought it?


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  1. Still the Lucky Few 2 years ago

    You say, and I quote, that “every part of our lives has humour if you care to search for it”, so that appears to be your main pursuit right now—searching for that little nub of humour! Keep at it, you need it to stay sane. I don’t envy the job you have with your mother’s house. What a challenge!

  2. Author
    summerhouse 2 years ago

    Mrs Summerhouse says my humour is my best quality! It certainly provides an antidote to my natural negative inclinations. Wait til you read next week’s house blog.

  3. Patricia Kennedy 2 years ago

    There are lots of articles on Heirloom Guilt, but I’m sure you know this. For me, they at least let me know I wasn’t the first down this path and gives me permission to let things go. Gives you a different perspective on buying things. Now when I see something nice and a little costly that I would like, I think that someday this will be in the driveway for a garage sale with a $1.00 tag on it. Suddenly I change my mind on wanting to buy it.

  4. Author
    summerhouse 2 years ago

    These are wise words Patricia I wish I was mature enough to adopt the same attitude but thanks for the thought

  5. Lynn Turner 2 years ago

    I am loving picking up on this strand of your lives. How did you ever have time for work? Sounds like hard work too, do hope you found lots of £5 notes hidden around the place to give you some reward for your labour!

  6. Author
    summerhouse 2 years ago

    welcome back! Hard work and no fivers. Watch out for next week’s episode. Off to Heanor again today

  7. Graham Turner 2 years ago

    Sounds like a labour of love…have you thought of investing in the funeral parlour business….but remember to label the urns?

  8. Michele 2 years ago

    Great information. Lucky me I ran across your website by chance (stumbleupon).
    I have saved as a favorite for later!

  9. Bernadette 2 years ago

    Did you get mother back and find enough money to properly store her ashes?

    • Author
      summerhouse 2 years ago

      Yes, we got her back in good shape, i.e urn shaped. My excuse for her not being properly stored is I’m struggling a bit to decide what to do with her ashes, look like she’s going to be scattered on my father’s grave, not sure how he or she will feel about that!

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