The house in which I grew up in Miami was built in 1934. Cinder block construction with a flat roof. It’s the foundation of all my childhood memories, and so much “life” was experienced within its four walls.
This house is now old and decrepit, unfit to function as anyone’s abode, and should most likely be condemned and torn down. It’s cross beams under the floor have sunk and patches of the roof have caved in.
Yet despite its condition, there was still a good amount of stuff in several of the rooms. Most were old, wooden dressers and night tables, all mostly hollowed out by termites. But some boxes and containers had items – mostly from my dad who passed away in 2004 – that can be donated, repurposed, or kept for their sentimental value. So I spent my day clearing out a bunch of
sh crap and loading it onto a pickup to take to the dump.
The primary purpose of clearing out that house is to – hopefully – get my mom in the mindset to begin clearing out her house. My mother lives on the same lot as where my childhood home is, but it’s in the back in what used to be (at a time) a guest house. To say her house is cluttered is an understatement. To say she has a borderline hoarding problem is not an exaggeration.
I’ve watched my fair share of Hoarders and on more than one occasion (like every show) I’ve had the impulse to say, “that could be my mom.” And I don’t mean it in a bad or evil way. I simply recognize the tendency to keep useless stuff. It’s a behavior I see in myself as well, and one that is at the forefront of my personal life given that I will be moving soon.
My goal is to get rid of the junk (e.g. encyclopedias from 1979), make her living space more open and safe, and prevent her from being in a situation where she trips over a collection of TV Guides from the 80’s and ends up breaking a hip.
I hate to see my mom living the way she is, but it’s her life and it’s her choice to do so. There is also a world of truth to the fact you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. The fact we had only one shouting match today is a victory in my eyes. I don’t think I will be so lucky on Tuesday as I invade her space.
Overall, however, this experience further strengthens the lessons of these past several weeks: don’t let yourself get caught up in stuff. Life is not measured by the number of porcelain dolls or VHS tapes you may have (yes, my mom still has a ridiculous amount of VHS tapes). Rather, life in the memories we make and the experiences we share. Having stuff is nice, but at the end of the day, it’ll just be stuff someone else will have to throw or give away.