How I “decluttered” my belongings and my life… And you can too

Money can’t buy you happiness, and I discovered this the hard way. Here’s how I brought new meaning into my

Money can’t buy you happiness, and I discovered this the hard way. Here’s how I brought new meaning into my life, by letting go of old belongings…

When my husband Pete passed away, I was suddenly left alone in a house full of “things”. Pete’s clothes, books, musics, medicines and favourite foods surrounded me.

At first, living alongside my husband’s belongings was a source of comfort. I couldn’t imagine parting with shirts that had his familiar scent, or his much-loved books about fishing and camping.

In fact, I started to buy more “things” to fill the hole that Pete had left. When I was feeling lonely, I’d go to the shops and buy magazines, vases or costume jewellery… Anything to help me feel a bit brighter.

Within a year, my house was filled to the nines with “bits and pieces”. I would never say I reached “hoarder” status, but I was definitely shopping to curb my grief.

I started to feel more and more desperate. As the space in my house reduced, the pain in my heart grew. I got less and less happiness from new purchases, and shopping became addictive – not enjoyable.

It wasn’t until my daughter Eva visited, that I kew something had to change. “Mum, when did you buy this vase? It’s huge”, Eva noticed. “Have you always had so many scarves? Some of these still have tags on!”

I shook off her comments and avoided answering directly, but then Eva found Pete’s old medicines in our bathroom cupboard. “Mum… These tablets are out of date”, Eva said gently.

“Have you been holding onto Dad’s things all this time?” Eva asked. “It’s been two years, maybe we could get rid of these medicines for a start…”

Slowly, Eva helped me clear out Pete’s medicines from the bathroom, his cereals from the kitchen and some old shoes which had gotten stinky. What came next was much harder, though.

“Maybe we should look through Dad’s clothes”, Eva suggested. I was gutted. Standing in the bedroom I’d shared with my husband for forty odd years, I had no clue where to start.

Getting rid of his old socks, underwear and handkerchiefs was one thing – but his shirts? Pants? Favourite hat? Eva gently helped me choose those items which still had sentimental value.

I kept Pete’s token Akubra, a collection of his checkered shirts, his suit jacket he’d worn to countless functions, his watch, wedding ring, belt and a pair of cuddly pyjamas I’d bought him one Christmas.

Watching the Salvation Army clear out the rest of Pete’s used clothes was heartbreaking, but I knew it needed to be done… Next, Eva helped me sort through Pete’s books.

The titles that Pete had spent hours pouring over stayed, which meant quite a few books about fishing and camping. More technical books though, about spreadsheets and numbers (Pete was an accountant) could go.

I also kept Pete’s beloved collection of records, the whole lot. I wouldn’t budge with Eva on that. Although his VCR recordings of “Fawlty Towers” did find their way into a bin, I think.

Next, I had to look at myself. I didn’t need twenty pairs of sandals, I supposed. Nor did I need twelve scarves, or months worth of gossip magazines. My shopping really had gotten out of hand!

Eva helped me sell some of my newer belongings online, and she also put me in contact with a grief telephone counsellor. It seems that many people use shopping and “things” as a way to recover emotionally…

These days, I’ve managed to curb my shopping habit. I still buy myself a bunch of flowers if I visit the grocery store, but I’ve tried to find happiness in my friendships and family.

Decluttering my house has given me room, both physically and “emotionally”, to let go of grief. Of course, I will always miss Pete and so many things still remind me of my husband.

But time goes on, and we cannot weigh ourselves down with material belongings. It’s the people in our lives who bring true love, peace, comfort and happiness. Believe me…

Have you “decluttered” your home? Does physical space help you think clearly? How have you coped with the loss of a loved one? Have you needed to sort through their belongings?