Other People’s Things, The Bumpy Road To Joy

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KonMari Insight Blog Series.

The road to joy is bumpy at times. Sometimes life just happens.  All you can do is deal with it and hang on for the ride. Life becomes a blur of constantly reacting to new stresses and you feel like you’re walking on marbles, not really sure where to put your next step. Some how though, you make it through.

In July of 2005, my sister, Betty passed away. Six months earlier, her husband had passed away, as well. It was a tough time for me.  I had her home and estate to handle, guardianship for my nephew to figure out, and on top of that, I was being laid off in nine months.  My job was requiring  me to make several trips to Mexico to set up a new warehouse and define logistics processes for the facility. It was a crazy time and I didn’t know I was going to survive it.

My sister was a hoarder. When we were young, her room was always messy.  When she married, she managed to get to where just one room  was a disaster, but the rest of the house was livable. When both she and her husband developed life threatening illnesses, that changed.  She was severely depressed and soon the house was nothing but paths through rooms with mountains of black garbage bags lining them on both sides. Inwardly, I know this distressed her to no end.  She always wanted to have a place where visitors could come; she loved being surrounded by people; but the house in it’s current state precluded any of that.

We, (my Mom and I) tried to help, but Betty strongly resisted any attempt to clean.  I think because her life was in such turmoil, Rick had a stroke only 2 years after their son was born.  He was in a Veteran’s Assisted care facility, now, but Betty was fully involved with his care, and facing her own cancer, as well as raising their son. The thought of tackling something as massive as her home just shook her to her core.

Shortly before she passed away, she had begun to rethink her home.  She had been in the hospital for the past month and had the hope of getting better and going home. She made plans to clear out the house. Sadly, her condition deteriorated quickly and her plans never reached fruition.

So, after doing those things that needed to be done for the burial and those pressing legal matters, I was now faced to deal with “the stuff.” I had offers from people to help, but  I had assigned this task to just myself to do.  It was crazy, I know, but I wanted to spare my nephew, and my sister’s memory, any embarrassment. The neighbors were curious.  They constantly asked questions and tried to look past me when I answered the door.  My nephew could only stand to be in the home for minutes at a time. Mom was now ill, so I felt I was on my own.

Looking back now , if I had known about KonMari, or self care, I would have handled it differently.  But I didn’t. I felt the only thing I could do was stumble through by myself.

I lived in a different state. Every weekend, I would drive down to my sister’s, and spend two days sorting, purging and tossing out freshly refilled bags of garbage. Even though she had bags of what just looked like garbage, I would find little treasured items mixed in with the trash.  Everything had to be sorted by hand.  At the end of the two days, I would drive back home and go to work the next day.   This routine continued for 3 months.  And I hadn’t even touched the 3 off site storage units she had.  Yes, I said 3!

Eventually, I gave in and drove a Uhaul down to the house.  I had two yard sales and still ended up making two trips with the Uhaul, bringing the balance of her things to my home.  Finally, I was done with the out of state cleaning trips. Now I could just  sort her stuff at my own home. It was a minor victory, at best.

I packed my house with her stuff. I packed my sheds with her stuff.  The remainder of  her belongings ended up in the yard covered with tarps. I could no longer even find my own things. They were buried behind her treasures.

I had another yard sale, and then another.  I sold things on eBay. I organized what was left.  I finally got rid of the tarps in the yard. Over the years (yes, I said years), I reclaimed some of my home back.  Then my mom passed away …and I inherited a lot more stuff.

I was miserable and depressed. I thought it was because I was still grieving.  I was, but now I realize the pain  was more for myself.  I had totally lost myself in trying to do the best for my family. I was the family curator for the “treasures.”  I didn’t love these things. I felt guilt ridden every time I looked at them. They reminded me that I was the last person left from my immediate family, and I had a responsibility to care for them.

In the meantime, I  met a wonderful man and had the good sense to marry him.  He was a collector too (of course, it couldn’t go any other way, could it?). So what I had managed to clear out, became packed again, when Greg moved in.

I was happy in my marriage, but so sad in my home.  It took another 6 six years, before I found the key to unlock  my self established prison.  That key was KonMari, God bless her.

KonMari taught me to let go. KonMari taught me how to live in the now, not the past. KonMari taught me that there is a whole wonderful world of possibilities that reach out so much farther than the stuff in our homes.  Best of all, by finally learning how to have things in my home that only spark joy, now,  I have memories of my family that I treasure and that aren’t bogged down by sadness and guilt. I have an interesting life, filled with people I love.

(If you want to know more of the story with my KonMari journey, I go into depth in my two  blog posts entitled: Our Story, parts 1 and 2.)

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