Decluttering is all tied up with relationships and often those relationships are with folks we’ll never see again.
My little brother died as a young man about twenty years ago. It was plain awful for all of us, and differently awful for each of us.
But we collected ourselves, came in from our far-flung venues to meet at the family outpost then crossed the river to take our first licks at emptying his apartment. His extended family-of-choice had agreed to come finish the job after we’d taken what we wanted.
My older brother and parents seemed to have their objectives clear: treasures to find or self-assigned tasks to complete. I wandered about the two rooms keeping out of folks’ way and looking at the things my little brother had chosen to keep in his life. There were gifts I’d sent him over the years. I was glad he’d kept them and used them
And I found his old friends from childhood and their newer companions: an array of teddy bears, a couple of toy dogs and a monkey. I couldn’t abandon them! I loaded his collection into a 30-gallon bag and stashed it safely in the car. Although I had no idea what I would do with them, my brother’s companions came back across the river with us.
That evening the phone rang and after a moment Mother passed it to me. There was a tearful voice asking whether in our searches we’d found a toy monkey; she hadn’t been able to find it when she’d gone over with the others. I remembered that unusual toy. I assured her that I had the monkey safe with me.
It turned out that a few years earlier she and my brother both had been strapped for cash. So, for Christmas they’d agreed to exchange precious childhood toys. My brother had given her a book and she had given him her monkey companion. Was there any way, she asked, she could get her monkey back?
The next day I took the train to her place bearing a duffle bag – slightly unzipped, so they all could breathe, of course — full of my brother’s toy friends. There I met three of the most awesome people, friends of my brother’s, one of whom had been in high school with him.
The monkey was home. And, for hours they shared the stories of how my brother had acquired all the newer bears, while I answered with the stories about his childhood friends.
When our tales were all told, those excellent people decided upon appropriate homes for every one of those toys. But I kept Puppable and Junebread, whose picture is featured.
Sometimes, we just need to keep things.