Stuff is just Stuff!
We have spent the past few weeks sorting, carrying, throwing and re-using loads of stuff! When a person reaches the final stages of their life you realise that all the stuff that was once thought to be so important becomes, simply, just stuff. Useless stuff, things that may have served a purpose once in life are suddenly no longer necessary. My mother-in-law has just made the big move into a nursing home, it was entirely her choice and she is very content in her new safe and cosy home. It is lovely to see her enjoying meeting new friends, being cared for 24 hours a day-but still maintaining her autonomy, and relishing the fact she no longer has to worry about the menial chores of every day living such as cleaning, cooking and paying bills. She is still surrounded by plenty of stuff, those extra special items that survived the necessary cull to fit into a surprisingly large, but single, room.
As I enviously watch my mother-in-law enjoying her new digs, surrounded by the most special mementos of her life, it has really made me re-think just how important stuff really is. After all we certainly can't take it all with us when we are gone; if we could we would need a ridiculously large coffin to fit all of the stuff we collected throughout life! Morbid I know, but that is the reality of life. I was recently contemplating this with my 19 year old son when he reminded me that although stuff eventually becomes useless to us, we should still get to enjoy it while we can. He is right, just because we can't take it all with us doesn't mean we should simply throw it all away or not strive to attain it. This experience has simply been a reminder to me that all the things we strive for in life, to purchase and to own, is simply stuff that will one day have to be culled. It has helped me realise that a simpler life may be more beneficial as life moves forward.
Packing up a person's life is a huge task riddled with emotion, as item by item memories are stirred and the clock suddenly winds back as if, just for a moment, time didn't exist at all. It is both a difficult and empowering experience to realise that you don't actually need objects to remind you of life, that you already have those memories stored away ready to recall whenever you need them.
Making room for this stuff that simply was too good to pass on or to discard was also a challenge for us. This experience actually forced us to sort through our own collection of stuff and cull the many things that we realised we no longer had use for. Our house has been transformed throughout every room, inside and out, to make room for new stuff, new memories. It's healthy to allow for change and it is certainly rewarding to enjoy new stuff. However, what has changed for me now is the meanings that I place on that stuff, I realise more and more that objects are simply reminders of our life thus far. However these memories are not simply attached to things, they are embedded in our minds and it is ok to let go of the stuff, doing so does not diminish the memories.
Although I have traditionally been an avid collector of stuff, believing they elicited special memories for me. I had begun to slowly realise that there are actually many things that have cluttered my life that are just not worth taking up the physical space. It has been very strange for me to throw away entire files, old tax returns and all the hard work I put into keeping meticulous records from previous businesses I now no longer need. You become so used to simply keeping everything, you forget why. Although there has to be some stuff that is worth keeping, such as a couple of my first pay slips to remind me how far I've come, and a few school reports and select childhood mementos.
Something I could never throw away are my photo's, even though I don't look at them very often, when I do I am always thankful I have taken the time to document my life through pictures. Photographs have always been important to me and something I can pass on to future generations. I'm sure the huge volume of digital photo's that are produced today will not carry forward to the future, instead a select few that are printed and kept in real, rather than virtual space, may be retained. I have already had to let go of so much stuff throughout the stages of my life that I am learning to get better at it; it is cathartic to let go. After all, it is the experiences and lessons learnt along the way that is important, not the stuff.
When I see my mother-in-law in the nursing home she now calls home; cosy in her new room with gorgeous views from her lovely big window overlooking the perfectly manicured garden. I realise that all the struggles, the heartache, the sheer hard work and stress will all be worthwhile in the end. After all, I hope that one day I too will be an old lady enjoying a well deserved chance to sit back, relax and contemplate the long life I have enjoyed; reminiscing the many achievements and experiences along the way. I sincerely doubt that I will spend too much time remembering the stuff that cluttered my life...