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Learning how to hold on to the right things

About six years ago I began a gentle cleansing of the contents of my home. I knew that when Ari finally moved out the following spring, I would put the house on the market. While much of what my parents left behind was disposed of when I moved in in 1996, there still remained…stuff in every corner of the house and yard.

It’s difficult to see correctly things that you’ve seen all your life. It’s worse when you know you should send something but hesitate because of the story behind it. Too many stories, too much…stuff. Of course, I ended up keeping the house (and Ari ended up moving back for a while) and taking a break from the cleanup.

I had done well enough. If you paint the inside of closets, you know that those closets are really empty. There are a few things I regret pitching, and there are a few things I do forget Pitching, but when you have to do something this overwhelming in a short amount of time, decisions are made.

If I may give some advice to any of you who have lived in your home for decades, start getting rid of things now. There are community organizations that need these winter coats and flannel shirts and jeans and boots. The household goods, the tools, the sheets and towels that you don’t use give them new life. I can’t tell you how difficult it is for someone else to take care of things you care about and when you come back as a ghost you will be so angry at what they did to you.

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I’m having the attic insulated this week. Their attic needs to be completely emptied before they can do that. I went upstairs for the first time in 30 years to find out what my dad had carted off up there in hopes it might be secret treasure. It was box after box of Reader’s Digests from the 1950s and National Geographics from the ’60s and ’70s. There were also giant carboys and gallon jugs from his wine growing years, because why wouldn’t all these things be in an attic? I swear every time my mom made him throw something away, he just put it in the attic. Or the garage.

New paint hit every wall in this location after Ari left. It became a boring blank canvas; Any paint shop should just make a shade called Realtor Beige. As strange as it was back then, I’ve treated it like a clean slate ever since, slowly, deliberately adding things I love without hearing Mom whisper in my ear, “Well, I wouldn’t have done that, but it’s your house.” now.” It’s funny; when it was my parents’ house, everything was beige. I think Mom laughed last.

The one thing I did that I will forever regret was a decision made in a split second. I was painting the side door and moldings and stopped, brush in mid-air. The boys’ heights over the years, carefully measured year after year (“He’s standing on tiptoe!”), some with pen, some with pencil, some with felt-tip pen. You used to be able to buy charts to pin to the wall for this task, but because I never thought of leaving them behind, we embedded this vital information right into the bones of the house.

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I tried removing the frame piece but it has stood for 60 years and no doubt will stand for another 60 years. Instead, I snapped a quick photo, completed my task on an endless list of tasks, and moved on.

Decide what’s important to you before a storm. Let go of everything else

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