After spending a few days in Michigan near the end of September, seeing some of the people and places I miss, I backtracked to Illinois, where I stayed with my mother-in-law Joan and spent many of my waking hours working on settling my mom’s affairs. My brother was once again there to work with me, coming to the lawyer and the bank and joining me in sorting through stuff in the house. We have a fairly good sense of what sorts of things to consult each other on, which made things go faster, since we could be working in different areas at the same time.
I’d gone through some of my mom’s clothes when I was there in the summer, but she had a very large wardrobe, so there were still more clothes to go through this time. Mom rarely saw a patterned fabric she didn’t like, and she loved bright colors, so the donate pile looked quite festive. If these tops and skirts were made of cotton, I would have been tempted to save some for quilting, but fortunately for my own overstuffed life, they were not.
The closets and clothing racks also had a few things of mine, items she’d saved from when I was young, like this costume from The Nutcracker. I think my nieces used it for dress up at some point, which may be why it survived Mom’s periodic attempts to declutter.
By the end of my visit in Illinois, I had been through all the clothes we could find, in Mom’s room, in the spare bedroom, in the basement. Next visit, I need to go through the pieces that are left, the ones I couldn’t decide what to do with yet. Some may come home with me, as a few have already, things that fit my style or are a blend of my style and Mom’s. Then I’ll have to go through my own wardrobe, because I have way too many clothes, too.
In addition to clothes, I also sorted through other things of mom’s, like old paperwork and classroom materials from when she was a teacher. The sewing stuff was the hardest for me, all those projects she never got around to. There were lots of patterns for doll clothes; after she retired from teaching, she talked often about starting an online business sewing and selling doll clothes, but never got that idea off the ground. She never really took to the internet, even though my brother and I, together and separately, tried to help her with that part.
And then, in a random box, there’d be something unexpected, something that was just so Mom it squeezed my heart to see, like this tiny birdhouse ornament that was in a box with yarn and other craft supplies. Mom loved birds, loved feeding the ones outside, loved decorating with images of them inside—birds and birdhouses on her Christmas tree, a birdhouse lamp in the living room, a metalwork coat rack with a bird motif in the front hall.
My brother and I got a lot done, but there’s still a lot to do, so much that we decided to put off trying to sell the house until spring at least, which gives us some breathing room in dealing with all the stuff and my nephew who’s living there some time to figure out where he wants to go next (he’s not in a position to buy the house himself). I wish I could say that dealing with all of Mom’s things has inspired me to pare down my own hoard, but that effect hasn’t kicked in to this point. I still have boxes and boxes and boxes yet to unpack from the move, and I’m certain I do not need all the things in them. I’m also certain I don’t want my nieces and nephews to have to deal with them after I die, so I’m hoping I get a lot of years yet in which to get my stuff sorted. Finally.
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