31 Comments

  1. Sorry to hear about losing your mentor, she sounds awesome! I had the same experience when I found out my dad had passed. I looked around for things that he had given me, or stuff I could look at and remember things more and I realized I’d done the same as you and gotten rid of a lot of it in the name of “decluttering.” Just the same little inane things like your salt shakers. Like you, I had those same feelings.

    I can’t say I missed the stuff, but rather the feeling of the connection with him that came along with that stuff.

    • Yeah. The salt shakers would traumatize my nephews. But they were so her sense of humor. I do many of my essays that I wrote for her classes and other things to remember her by. But it’s funny what we look for.

      Thanks for the kind words, Mr. SSC.

  2. This year we have been purging our home, not in a superficial way, but the painful deep way. Things that are very dear to my heart. And honestly I miss a lot of them. Not all. But enough of them. But in order for our 1650 sf ft house to comfortably house our 7 people and sweet puppy, we can’t be a safe haven for unused things. If I wanted to spend another $100k to buy a bigger house, then maybe we would keep all those things I miss. But I don’t want to spend that much money to house things we don’t use.

  3. I’m so sorry for your loss. What an incredible woman to have in your life and I have no doubt someone in your classroom will look at you the same way one day.

    I am fortunate and unfortunate in the way of purging. Moving 7 times in 11 years will make you pare down real quick. I did, however, have a major setback last year when I found out the items my ex was storing at our house (I moved out 2 years prior) had all been thrown away without him contacting me first. Everything was gone. My Nanas antique cake stand from out wedding, her handmade velvet bedspread from the 60’s, all my camping gear, photos, my grill. Everything was gone. I was so pissed! And then I realized that had it been that important to me in the first place, I never would have left it there. I had to remind myself that if the house was burning, would those have been the items I grabbed? No.

    The fact that he did the purging for me sucked – but I probably wouldn’t of had the strength to do it myself. We attach memories to items in such a strange and sentimental way. I have heard of people taking pictures of things before donating them but I wonder how many ever look at those photos again? The memory is more powerful than anything else. It sounds like you have a lot of great memories with your mentor…that is worth all of the salt shakers in the world. Again, I am sorry for your loss.

    • I’m so sorry that it happened that way! That’s really stressful and emotional.

      My parents boxed up all my leftover stuff in the desk I used at their house. There are a few photos that I’ll copy, but I’m not even going through the rest of the box. It can get tossed. If I didn’t miss it for three years, I certainly don’t need it now.

  4. I’m so sorry for your loss. She sounds like an amazing gift–much more so than those salt shakers–and by writing this a piece of her will live on in eternity on the internet and with your readers too. Actually, it already did since you’ve been using what she taught you to write for us and teach your official students.
    Remember the salt shakers fondly, but you don’t need them anymore. She has become a part of you now and you can never lose that.
    Hugs.

  5. I am so sorry for your loss. She gave you the greatest gift of all…her time. She left you with lasting memories and lessons you will have with you the rest of your life. Even though the saltshakers are gone, you won’t forget.

  6. I’m very sorry and sad to hear about this.

    I lost my mom 5 years ago, and I’ve had this exact experience. I threw away her old baby shoes. In reality, this shouldn’t have mattered very much. I don’t have kids yet and yes, it would have been One More Thing cluttering our home.

    But when I think about those little shoes I get upset. And that goes for all of the other things of hers that I gave away/threw away/donated. I was down on my luck once and sold some of her gold jewelry–it was stuff I would never wear, but I do regret it at times, even though I needed money for food.

    It’s hard to balance out the desire for decluttering and keeping the things that matter. I’ve started assigning special spots in the house for sentimental things like this. For example, I have a fancy box I’ve filled with all of my mom’s things. This way, it’s all in one organized spot and I know that I shouldn’t get rid of these things.

    • I’m so sorry for your loss. And it sounds like you have a great system for making sure that you keep track of things that really mean something to you.

      In another week or two, I don’t think I’ll miss the salt shakers much. But right now, I really do as silly as that seems. I’ll get to pay my respects this week and visit with her family, so I think that will help a great deal.

  7. She sounds like an amazing mentor. I’m so sorry for your loss. You’re very lucky to have had someone like her in your life and her memory will live on in all that she taught you.

    I can’t remember longing for any material possessions, because I’m still struggling with sentimentality in my quest to become more minimalist. I hold onto a lot of stuff. I also seem to have a pretty bad memory. I’ve gone through boxes and been reminded of good memories that were previously lost some deep, dark place of my brain.

    However, I really do want to get away from having so much stuff. And, um, we are going to need a bit more space in the house 😉 😉 My current plan is to tackle small amounts of stuff at a time. If I’m on the fence about something, perhaps I can just take a picture of it. One of the really big issues is clothing. I have so much outdated clothing that I can’t seem to sell. I want to use it for refashioning projects, but haven’t spent much time doing that lately. So, I have duffles and bags hiding in closets and other places. Little by little, I will figure it out.

    • I’m definitely take the slow approach to minimizing. I’m not sure I’ll ever actually get to minimalism, but I am enjoying the decluttering process. This is one little hiccup. But I’m going to keep going forward. I would love for you to update me on your journey, Harmony!

  8. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    Some of my mentors turned friends are getting into their 70s and 80s this year and each year I’m a little more worried about having to say goodbye. They’re such a rich part of our lives and not having them around will be so incredibly hard.

    Definitely have regretted giving up some things but they don’t come to mind right this second. The grief-memory-item I’m struggling with is this one: http://agaishanlife.com/2016/11/grief-hiding-in-closet/.

    • Thank you so much for sharing a link, Revanche!

      Losing my grandma a few years back was really hard. This is the first teacher/writer mentor that I’ve lost, and it has made for a difficult few days to say the least. When the person who normally helps you sort through things isn’t there to do the sorting, well…I’m glad I have my blog.

  9. She sounds like an amazing woman, I’m sure she’d be proud to see your tribute. We downsized 30 years worth of “stuff” earlier this year when we sold our primary home and downsized to our cabin. It was surprisingly non-emotional, and we’ve had no regrets. I did keep a few significant heirlooms, but would have tossed those salt shakers, too. She lives on in your mind. Treasure her there.

  10. I am so sorry for the loss of your mentor, and your mementos of her. My own decluttering efforts have been so lackluster to date that I don’t think I’ve missed anything. But I have bought doubles of things that I couldn’t find. And I’ve spent hours looking for things that didn’t have a proper place in my home. And I’ve been stressed by the clutter. I think there are some important trade-offs here and while you may be beating yourself up for giving away the shakers, you are reaping other benefits of your efforts. Hold on to the memories of your mentor, and try to let the shakers go.

    • Yes! That is part of what prompted my decluttering. All the times where we couldn’t find something, bought another one, and then discovered the original. So maddening!

  11. So sorry for the loss of your mentor. She sounds like she was a wonderful woman, and your memories of her and her impact on your life are the things that will endure. I can understand how it feels though – to wish to have that one physical thing to hold on to, no matter how trivial.

  12. I’m sorry for your loss. What a wonderful lady. How lucky you are to have learned from her and to have those memories at your disposal.

    The only thing I’ve ever missed I don’t even remember tossing. It was a small bottle of some type of liquor my father was given as a present at work. At the bottom was a windup music box that fascinated me as a child. I still remember the tune to this day.

  13. I’m really sorry for your loss. Your mentor sounds like a fabulous woman and we should all be so lucky to have fabulous women in our lives.

    My mom passed away a few years ago and as an only child still living at home I inherited all the stuff. My childhood drawings she kept, mementos, knickknacks, fine China, clothes, EVERYTHING. Initially I did a good job of donating a ton of stuff-our lease was up soon and I need to move quickly. I still have an unreasonable amount of “things”. I know that keeping something just because my mom touched it once is not a good reason to hang on to it today. But sometimes it’s hard to not think that the things are a link to the past. I have recently come to terms that the amount of things I have is causing me stress and that it is time to finally let go, but it is an ongoing process. All of this is to say-I completely understand about the somewhat terrifying saltshakers.

    • Thank you so much for sharing, Jax. I’m sorry for your loss. I can’t even imagine. How wonderfully therapeutic that you have a process now to continue sorting through her things.

  14. It’s amazing the impact one person can have on your life. Someone you’ll remember always…I like that we have almost a year to really downsize. I’ve read through all of the comments and there are some great ideas about ways to keep some of the memories while still being able to reduce our belongings.

  15. I’m so sorry to hear about your mentor.

    I’ve touched on it in the blog a bit here and there, but my wife’s mom died early last year, completely unexpectedly and just as we were coming back from a trip, denying my wife the chance to spend one last moment with a lucid mother. Both of her parents grew up with next to nothing, so when they finally had the opportunity to have “stuff,” they loaded up. Because of that cycle of deprivation, my wife and her siblings grew up investing massive emotional value in things that had a passing connection to the people they love. I’m not totally sure how it developed, but it’s there.

    As a result of all of that, clearing out anything that her mother held or gave to her– even a random receipt or scribbled note– is incredibly hard for my wife. I don’t know how to make the loss any better, but I know for sure that the goal of your mentor (and my wife’s mom in her case) was to bring you joy. Dwelling on pain or sorrow because a thing has passed out of your life is the opposite of the reaction the thing was meant to invoke in the first place. I understand the sense that “there will never be another ‘x’ like this,” I do. Just try to spare a thought for the fact that *you*– not the stuff– are her real legacy.

  16. Oh I’m so sorry, dear Penny. She sounds perfect. The perfect ones are always the first to go because the world can’t handle them for long. I’m so sorry about the salt shakers and note. Hanging on to something is helpful. And I have done that. *hugs*

    • Because I treasured her classes so much, I still have my papers that I wrote. There are dozens and dozens of them. I thought about chucking them because my writing has changed (and improved!) so much, especially since my first class with her at 18. But now that I have her comments scribbled in the margins, it makes my favorite parts of her as a teacher become so clear in my mind. I am going to scan the documents so I can have them as long as I want without the clutter.

      Thanks for the kind words, Maggie.

  17. Katie

    I have this fridge magnet my grandmother got me at the dollar store about 25 years ago… many times throughout the years (and moves) I thought about throwing it out – but I always decided that it was just a magnet and it doesn’t take up room and I always ended up throwing it on the fridge….

    Almost 6 years ago, she passed away. I got the call at about 9 pm. After I hung up the phone, I went into the kitchen and saw the magnet. It is heart with outstretched arms and stitched in the middle reads “I love you this much”.

    That’s when I started to cry. That’s when the emotions came rushing forth.

    I have moved 2 more times since then and its the first thing I put “up” in both houses…

    I had gotten rid of a lot of other “things” that she had given me throughout the years – but I think I will end up keeping that magnet for the rest of my life.

    To be honest, though, it may have been easier to get through that time without the magnet. Maybe that sounds horrible – but every time I look at it I get a little sad.

  18. That’s so sad. I’m terribly sorry for your loss. She sounded incredible. I’ve been lucky to maintain most of the little things that remind me of loved ones, but I fear what my next move will bring.

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