Before my mum and step-dad passed in 2008, they would often have discussions about the stuff in their farmhouse and outbuildings.
My mum would always say "we need to consolidate", to which my step-dad would reply "you mean throw out". Yep, that's exactly what she meant. But he just couldn't do it, so it never happened and it was left to my sister and I to sort through. The amount we've subsequently held on to is still considerable. So I had all this hanging over me when Ian died, and 15 months later, his mother died.
Over the weekend I removed the visible portion of Ian's clothes from our walk-in closet. I've done a few chunks here and there, mostly a year ago, but I've not removed, or even sorted anything for about a year. Anything that has been touched has really just been put into boxes. There's still a few drawers full, but apart from a selection of items I've left hanging, all his business shirts, suits and pants, that he wore regularly are now donated to a charity linked to both him and his mother.
I was surprised, even though they've been left to the open air and the shoulders were covered in a film of dust, that even close on 3 years since he wore them, they still held his smell. I'm more surprised this didn't trigger anything major for me - more surprise it was still lingering. Maybe it's an indication that it's time to clear out many of those physical items he left behind.
There is so much stuff cluttering up the house, it's reached the point of it being there is driving me more bonkers than the thought of removing all the things tied to people who have passed makes me upset. Ian's stuff, my mum & step-dad's stuff, Ian's mum's (and three quarters of this list hoarded to some degree or other!) plus all my pre-existing stuff and now John's things. I only have a little house!
As others have said, Ian's not is his clothes or the items he kept (that quite frankly for the most part I have no idea what the meaning of them are). Doesn't make it too much easier, but I am able to work in fits and starts when I can get through the question of 'what if this is important?'. I guess, if I don't know the story, I can't pass it on to John, so it's significance to Ian has passed with Ian. They held memories for Ian, but I only knew him for the last 3 years of his life. Much of the stuff from Ian and his Mum don't signify or represent any memories for me. It is just stuff.
But if I'm in the wrong mood, it's still difficult to go through and part with it.
One thing that's helped me at this point is doing a bit of a sort through my stuff as well, so donations have included stuff I no longer wear, read or need. It's helping me to consider the process as an overall household clear out, not just removing the bulk of Ian's remaining things. Although they did make up the bulk of the donation I just made, the balance will vary each time depending on what I tackle.
So I plan on spending the rest of my summer holidays chipping away at the piles, a little at a time. This time it was 3 foot of hanging space. Next time it may be a box, or a shelf, or a drawer.
I'm slowly consolidating Ian's life and our life together to the key, significant items I can use to tell John about his dad.