A life changing shift has happened in my mum’s reality and I wanted to celebrate it with you.
Six months ago (and after I’d sorted out my own hoarding problems) I stayed with mum for a week. It was the hardest week of my life, because whereas I hoarded clothes and trinkets, she hoarded those things plus large pieces of furniture. Staying there meant having no clear pathways, no space, no peace. Just cluttered madness. To move around felt like being in one of those sliding puzzles. A job couldn’t be done without five more jobs being done first to get to the actual job and most often than not I just gave up trying and camped out on the epic sofa too large for the room. Hiding from reality.
Imagine an over the top, luxuriously grand sofa meant for say, an art gallery, designed to sit many many people, heavy, wooden, highbacked, with hundreds of cushions situated in my mum’s tiny cottage lounge. It obviously dominated the space. Maybe that would have been just about manageable if there weren’t seven more bits of furniture in there too. Here was a woman, in denial, with little means, big ideas and a desperation to spend money (out of loneliness and boredom) in massive debt, living in clutter. I was shocked. It had got really bad. She didn’t know where to start. She wanted help but found it hard to let go. She didn’t like giving things away so had three generations worth of possessions competing for space on top of all her own purchases. If there was a bit of space it had to be filled. It drove me to the point of madness. I was patient, I was not patient, I helped and talked and understood and supported. Sometimes I shouted, then felt guilty. But I couldn’t always be my nice, calm self. Sometimes it was all just too much to bear. Sometimes she saw what had become of her home, other times she couldn’t let go of things.
Then she decided to move house. To pay off debts. To be nearer me in Scotland. It’s been a long time since we were in commuting distance of each other. It’ll be great to be nearer her again but I did freak out thinking how she would possibly let go of all this stuff. As the process of decluttering began, I kept reminding her to let go, to have the memory rather than the object itself. Take a photo if need be. Just don’t keep the physical thing. Because there were SO many physical things. She told me she was being ruthless. That was amazing to hear. Her journey had begun. She told me she was finding birthday cards of her mother’s squirrelled away from years and years ago. And all her old diaries too. “The things she used to write about” she’d say (very boring apparently - “what days she was doing the washing, when she was going shopping” etc). A very different way of living. Very organised. And perhaps that’s partly why mum’s like she is - because she didn’t want to be so fastidious and tidy as her own mother. So she became the opposite.
Most days mum would say the same thing - “I’ve got rid of so much stuff”. This was great to know but hearing that same thing everyday for months was scary. How much stuff was there exactly? Yikes.
And then came the beloved sofa. One which she’s still paying off on her credit card. It wouldn’t fit in her new lounge. It’s too small and compact. It’s the size of the sofa itself! It took her a long time to come to terms with saying goodbye to that.
But then….she did. And a few months after saying she couldn’t part with it, turns out she’d called an auctioneer a few days ago and today they came and took away thirty items of furniture. Thirty! Including the darn sofa. I’m so glad I wasn’t there to witness it. It had to be lifted over a fence out in the back garden (too big to go out the front), through a tiny alleyway at the side of the house, down a lane, up some stairs into a carpark and into the van. Wow. I felt sorry for the chaps having to navigate that puzzle eeeek!
Now the beautiful blonde wood flooring, always covered up by furniture can be admired and the space all around appreciated.
After it had all been taken away she said to me “Holly, I feel so free!” And I could see just how much the weight of all that stuff was affecting her soul. And now her spirit is lifted.
My mum is very set in her ways. It’s hard to get through to her at first. She puts a wall up and thinks she knows best. She doesn’t like to be told. Especially not by her daughter. But what I love about her is her ability to go away, think some more about what’s been said and come back the next day saying “Let’s get rid of it all, I’m ready”. I’m so grateful she can do that. There’s a real sparkle about her now. The excitement is building for her big road trip north.
The removal company came round recently and said they might have to take her house contents up in two large vans. I said “Mum, you are not a two van lady, you are a one van lady”. It’s my mission to make sure she only takes one van. But that was before all the furniture got taken away. Fingers crossed all will be well on that front now.
I respect how much commitment she’s put into moving, aged 76 and on her own after dad died ten years ago. She’s excited to start a new life, she wants a change and I think she’s wonderful and brave and amazing for doing it.
This move is the last big thing she’ll have to do before she settles down to a quiet life in a sweet Scottish seaside town….
…. but then if you know my mum and all her eccentricities like I do, you’ll know she has other ideas.
I’m looking forward to her being able to have a rest from what has been one of the biggest challenges of her life. Letting go.