14 May 2010

Suddenly, my whole life flashed before me

At the moment I am keeping busy, partly through choice, partly because the daily post brings mountains of paperwork which needs dealing with. Much needs to be done in the house too. Over the last few years as Greg's health declined, he did not feel like doing any DIY which he had always loved doing before as a means of switching off from the stresses of his job. Nor did we have the funds to get someone else in to do it, as he drank and smoked our spare money away. So now, I am going through each room of our house very slowly, sorting though stuff in cupboards, clearing out rubbish, being ruthless about things I don't need any more and either taking it bit by bit to charity shops, the refuse dump, or selling it on ebay. It is a big job, because we have a house on six levels (a tall thin house with a room on each level) with 4 bedrooms, a cellar and a garage. It is not made easy by the fact that in the past we both were afraid to throw things away because of their sentimental value or in case they might come in handy one day. Once the clearing out is done, I intend to decorate the rooms - either doing the repairing and painting myself or in worst case scenarios getting someone else in to do it. I plan it will take a couple of years but it will keep me busy and therefore help me over the initial bereavement period. Apart from all that, I still intend to visit my mother frequently who lives sixty miles away and do the same in her house.



This week saw me making a start on what I grandiosely call "the study" - the fourth bedroom crammed from ceiling to floor with bookcases, his and hers desks, laptops and their now-defunct predecessor desk-top computers. Not to mention other stuff that has been dumped unceremoniously on the floor as there is nowhere else to dump it - such as Kay's old board games/jigsaws etc intended for sale on ebay so kept close to the computers as an aide memoire when I get around to writing the adverts. Yesterday, I tackled the five-drawer unit that stands alongside our desks. I very much doubt we have gone through the drawers since we moved into this house 22 years ago. Every time, in the past, that I have opened the drawers with the intention of tidying them, I have shut them again quickly, as the task looked too impossible. But there is one positive thing that Greg's death has done and that is to impress upon me that I must go through this process if only to spare Kay the job of doing it, if anything should ultimately happen to me. So yesterday, I attempted the impossible, opened those drawers and my whole life flashed before me. I had no idea what was in those drawers and what I would find. I found Greg's university dissertation written forty years ago; countless university membership cards with photos of him as a fresh-faced 19-year-old on them; all sorts of bits and bobs that had a story connected to them from different stages of our marriage; old batteries; paperclips of all sorts,shapes and sizes; home-made anniversary cards we had sent one another; the odd foreign coin from a range of countries: super 8 cine films of 1980s holidays; index cards or notebooks with his writing scribbled on them; business cards with contacts from his early days as a journalist; an instruction manual for something long gone. It reminded me of a sketch from the British comedian Michael McIntyre entitled "The Man Drawer". In a few hours, having emptied out the contents of the drawers either onto the desk in piles of subject matter or into the waste bin, I had wandered through 40 years of our life together. It was most unexpected and a strange feeling.

18 comments:

DogLover said...

It's great to have a clear-out, but try not to throw away photos and other records of your lives that you may want to look at again in years to come. And if they have details on the back, Kay and others may want to have them long after they are no longer of use to you! They shouldn't take up much room - in a six storey house!

PS I have just been looking at family photos from the late 1800s!

Nota Bene said...

That's a very funny sketch...I remember it well. It must have been both strange and re-affirming to go through the drawer

Monalisa said...

I love having a clear out.
I still find it hard to get rid of everything, things that might come in handy sometime.
Although,when I go looking for a particular item I know is somewhere, I just can't find it.

Retiredandcrazy said...

When Davy died I had the same urge to have a good clear out. My daughter said there was no rush to do it, but I had to do it then or it would never and got done. I just closed my mind and did it and I think it was the best thing I did. We all have our different ways of coping. But I agree with
DogLover, be careful not to throw away too many precious memories.

Nechtan said...

Hi Addy,

As I started to read through the second paragraph the man drawer came to mind too. That was a funny sketch. It is amazing how every little thing has a story to it.

I'd imagine there are items that you, or Kay, will want to hold on to. Maybe there is still a place for the man drawer. The cine film for example must hold a lot of good memories shared by the three of you which shoud Kay one day have children would be worth keeping in the family and later getting transferred on to DVD.

The clearing out process must be filling you with a wide range of emptions. Take care of yourself and balance it with some rest too.

All the best

Nechtan

Kelloggsville said...

I can only imagine how difficult it is for you but I would like to say, thank you for finding the time to find and post the video - I really appreciated the chuckle - it is so very true. xxx

Achelois said...

This is so very brave of you. I read somewhere once that when doing things like this it can be helpful to have a box (attractive if possible not some old cardboard box) and put in it some memento's that are really precious. This can then be 'gotten out' and lovingly looked through. Perhaps also a scrapbook could be included. I imagine choosing what the contents should be would be inordinately difficult.

I would personally find throwing things such as a dissertation difficult.

Photo's if I were organised would be put into albums - for future generations to enjoy. I know my children really enjoyed trawling through albums of times past before they were born.

It sounds as though along with doing your house and your mother's you have a massive job on your hands, particularly starting with what sounds like the most complicated room in terms of memories.

You definately won't need to go to a keep fit class though running up and down all those stairs with all the stuff!

I hope that looking through everything is helping with the grieving and is cathartic for you.

With very best wishes as always.

Furtheron said...

By nature I'm the horder in our house and my wife is the clearer. I'm trying to get better about it but when my daugther saw that sketch she went to my "tut drawer" as my wife calls it and found pretty much everything he describes!

Alcoholic Daze (ADDY) said...

I just thought I'd add here that I am not throwing away anything precious. I have not thrown away photos,his dissertation, or anything with lots of memories. I am only throwing out cratefuls of computer or camping or other magazines going back to the 1990s (!), odd scraps of scribbled paper with no articular significance rusty paperclips and such like. I certainly could not part with things which mean a lot.

Flowerpot said...

My god Addy that is some task - that will certainly see you through the worst of your bereavement. Very sensible and therapeutic I hope as well. Take care.

Working Mum said...

I'm sure this is a very sensible thing to do even if it seems difficult at times. As you say, it will keep you busy, but also, at the end of it, you will have such a sense of achievement and a feeling of freeness (is that a word?).

PS I love that sketch as well!

Gone Back South said...

Oh wow, that must have been really weird seeing all that stuff again. I am always aghast by how time-consuming it is to do sorting out and admin, and it sounds like you have a huge mound of that to get through. I hope it will be therapeutic though, and I hope you come across some treasures to remind you of good times.

Eliza said...

Just catching up. A good clear out is good therapy, but like others have said, hang on to photos, and things Kay and her children may find interesting. My Grandmother had a bonfire when she moved house in the sixties, and there are no photos left at all!
I can't imagine how you are feeling, but I know on the rare occasions I have a clear out, one draw can take a whole day when there are so many memories.

Manchester Lass, Now and Then said...

Huge task Addy, it will certainly keep you very busy. Six levels, crikey you must be very fit:) Take good care xx

Shammickite said...

I'm in the middle of exactly the same thing.... clearing out "stuff", lots of it. I've lived in this house since 1978... with husband, 2 sons, assorted dogs and cats, and then a boyfriend, and now I'm on my own trying to clear the house out so I can move to a smaller place. It's quite a task, as you already know.

ladythinker said...

You're are doing a grand job. It will all help with your grieving process. Leave some items of interst for your daughter (and maybe later her offspring). Family history and mementoes are lovely to inherit. Just make sure all photos are identified so there are no unexplained mysteries left behind . .

dulwich divorcee said...

I know I'm weird, but I LOVE decluttering. I bet you'll feel a whole lot lighter when you've finished x

~ Melinda from Texas said...

Love notes, letters of encouragement, sticky notes with words that will never be read again.