25 January, 2021

Stuff and Sentimentality

We are still clearing out my in-laws’ house, but we can see an end to it now. My husband has had a huge job clearing the garage of building materials and tools, and is almost done. Whenever we discussed moving with my in-laws over the last 20 years, my FIL would say, bewildered, “but what will I do with all my tools?” And inertia won out. Many of the tools were his father’s, and one item in particular – a lathe – seemed to centre largely in his concerns. A wonderful solution was found. A neighbour (and one of his very few friends) who had lived next door for 40 years, with her boys raised alongside my husband and his brothers, sought the lathe for one of her grandsons. Yes, it is sad that FIL did not have any grandchildren in New Zealand who could or would take the lathe. But this is the next best thing. I could see the burden lift from my husband as the decision was being made.

 One of my brothers-in-law accused my husband of not being sentimental about his father. This particular brother has lived overseas for decades, and has made very few trips back to see his parents. I was furious at this, having watched the tenderness with which my husband cared for his parents, and then his father alone, in the last years. And pointed out that sentimentality is a luxury that perhaps comes from distance, not proximity over 30 years!

My latest task was to take all my MIL’s jewellery and send photos to all the generations to see what, if anything, they would like. Most of it is costume jewellery, but there are a few interesting vintage pieces. It has taken hours, and in this my husband has not been sentimental, as he suggests – barring a few things – he would just have given them to a charity shop. But I thought of the grandchildren, in particular the granddaughters, and how nice it would be for them to choose a piece or two from their grandmother. I have worked over it for hours –sorting the items, getting photos in the right size to send, compiling documents, etc – and wondered myself if I am crazy. But I do it for the grandchildren. Ironic, isn’t it?

Once again, I think about who will look over my jewellery. One or some of my nieces, I assume. It’s not as if I have a lot of expensive jewellery – I have few pieces that could not be described as costume jewellery, as I have always prized interesting pieces or interesting trips over diamonds! I hope that I will have any special pieces labelled or itemised, as my MIL did with her most precious four rings. It strikes me that I need to do this now, not leave everything until it is too late, as there are a couple of pieces that hold some sentimentality for me. After all, I could be run over by a bus tomorrow!

I promise I will finish these posts soon. We are about to engage a real estate agent, and put the house on the market. What then, I wonder? Will we feel empty, and need new projects? Will we feel ridiculously free? Or perhaps we will turn inwards, and begin some more “death cleaning,” this time with our own belongings? I suspect it will be a little of all of the above.



  1. This is kind of you that you took photos of MIL's jewellery and sent them so the granddaughters can choose.

    Accusing from the distance - yes, there are lots of people doing that.

    May I ask - if you are planning to put the house on the market... what are your plans where to go? To a different house or to a flat?

    1. Oops, sorry if I wasn't clear. My husband is putting his parents' house on the market. Not ours.

    2. I am relieved! I am glad that you are staying where you are. Since we would love to visit you one day ;)

      No, you wrote clearly. I was just reading too early in the morning and didn't understand. Everything clear now!

  2. Such an interesting exercise, to look over the meaning of a life backwards and forwards in terms of objects and memories left behind.

    I love how you say this: "sentimentality is a luxury that perhaps comes from distance, not proximity over 30 years!"

  3. What a beautiful gesture/gift to pass forward your FIL Lathe...I am so glad your husband had that perfect fit!
    I think you sending photos to the family is incredibly kind and generous. My parents did the same when they took the task of cleaning and clearing my grandmothers items...it is a HUGE task!
    I am now prompted to catalog my jewelry, many handed down pieces, so I can start naming who should have what, should I get hit by a bus...
    Hugs and many hopes for bright days ahead for your heart

  4. I love that you are taking the time to take pictures to send to your MIL's grandchildren. I really, really appreciate that. I have one of my maternal grandmother's paintings and two of her quilts. I have several things from my paternal grandmother. I treasure them all. They are my most important things. I know your efforts will be appreciated!

    So rude of your BIL. We have a phrase here called being an "armchair quarterback," which describes the guy at home in his recliner yelling at the tv how the (American) football game should be played. It's so easy to say things, like you said, from a distance. Insert eye roll here...

    I'm happy the lathe found an appropriate home. It's always important to me to re-home the important things.

    Good work!! Feeling empty, free, and turning inward all make sense to me after this... <3

  5. I think it's fabulous that you (& your dh) are taking the time to do this for your family! When my paternal grandmother died (when I was 14), my aunts went through her jewelry box and each granddaughter got something as a remembrance. I got a brooch, which I still have -- one of the very few things I have of hers. (There were something like 30-35 grandchildren on that side of the family, vs 4 on the other side of my family, so heirlooms tend to get spread more thinly! lol) I'm thinking I will pass it along to my cousin's daughter (who would be her great-granddaughter) when she graduates from high school.

    I think it's great that the lathe went to someone who will use it and appreciate it, even if it's not a relative -- versus a relative who doesn't use or appreciate it and lets it gather dust in the garage.