Saturday, May 19, 2012

Losing Weight the 1-800-Got-Junk Way

Denine-in-the-Box: College Graduation Photo from
Mom's Private Collectoin
8:45 - I am heading out the door to meet the Got Junk guys. I am oddly buoyant considering I have waited 10 months (since my mom's passing last August) to clean out her storage room. Part of my motivation is not wanting to spend $96 a month to store memory touchstones that, even if I waited another 10 months or another 10 years would still be there with all their power. I'm not sure what to expect today. 


I know there is plenty of furniture to which I have no emotional attachment. Perhaps, without knowing it, I practiced first by having the Got Junk guys come to pick up the family heirloom first: The Antique Couch (see 1-800-Junk-Therapy, 3.24.12) At least there is nothing in the storage facility that will have the same power, at least in the furniture category.


I know there will be boxes of mementos which I am planning to just haul back home for another day. And there is an odd antique ashtray set that was my mother's pride and joy. Sitting on the sofa last night, trying to figure out what to do with this item made me realize that if there was one thing my mother would come back from the grave to "get me" for, it would be this albatross. I have decided that the better part of valor is to keep it, much as it would be fun to see my mom again.


9:15 - I arrive at Public Storage only to realize that they haven't changed the lock and there's no way to get into the room. I wait. I fume. I rage, rage against the dying of the light. Then I realize that I have have the keys to the current lock on my keychain. Problem solved.


9:40 - I lift the gate to the storage room. So far so good. No ghosts or goblins or scary things waiting for me, at least not in plain view. Just a lot of furniture and a few boxes. I plow through the family photos the never-worn sandals, and the loads and loads of china some of which I know came from my mother's mother or my father's mother. I wonder to myself: Shouldn't their be a statute of limitations on this stuff? I mean Limoges is beautiful but I just don't have a antimacassar, humidor and Limoges kind of life. I own a microwave an iPhone and several other things that begin with "i". 


Nonetheless, I move that box to my car. I'll deal with that when I can deal with that. In the same box, I notice that my mother has saved the very first art project ever that I did in Mr. Stoffel's free-spirited art class in high school -- a hideous chunk of white plaster born from the ungodly womb of a milk carton and upon which I had carved a highly derivative Picasso-esque "sculpture". Right next to that is the very first ceramic pot that I had ever thrown on a potter's wheel in the same class. Although the bowl is only 3" wide by 2" high, it weighs about 20 pounds as a result of the thickness of it's sides. It would make a more effective weapon than anything else. And yet, she held on to it since I gave it to her in 11th grade (1972).


L to R: Woman's photo that came in the frame (I thought that was funny);
My brother, Jay, in red frame; Me and Sam standing in front of car;
My niece, Jane, in large oval frame; Me in red frame;
My brother Jay and I in gold frame. 
10:15 - By now I am humming along, looking through boxes and efficiently sorting. I check in with myself: I seem to be O.K. The combination of smoke-smell from my mother's belongings owing to her 50-year smoking habit mingles with the heat of the day and it reminds me of a conversation I had with Sam earlier this year. We were talking about Grammy's passing and I said, "I know Grammy is in a better place. Somewhere where she can have a glass of wine and feel good, maybe even do some skiing once and a while." And Sam looks at me, very somberly and says, "And some smoking." Then we laugh for 20 minutes.


It's in the high 80's outside so I grab a swig of Smart Water and move to the next box. It's all books: Dorothy Parker, Edna Ferber, John Steinbeck, Carson McCullers. It's then that I start sobbing. It hits me so fast it nearly takes my breath away. There is something about reading the names on the covers, knowing they were her favorite authors, and I hear her voice in my head repeating their names and saying how much she loves them. And it's not lost on me that she taught me to write and to love writing the way I do. I grab some Kleenex in the front seat of my car and cry it out and I'm just so glad that my Got Junk buddies aren't showing up until 11:00. 

Got Junk "Ghostbusters" P.J. and Zach
11:00 - The crew arrives and they are courteous, helpful and truly pleasant. As luck would have it, the extra time I spent sorting and clearing out mementos means that all they need to do is swoop in and move things to the truck. Zach and P.J. are extremely helpful, and comment several times on how nice the furniture is that I'm giving away. It is nice stuff and it makes me feel good that they think so too. As I say to them, "Unless I want to start a museum in my Mom's honor, I really have no place to put it." They are very understanding and assure me that they will donate everything and it won't go into a landfill. This means everything to me. It means recycling and a good home for furniture that meant something to my Mom. And less grief for me when she comes back to haunt me about giving away the grandfather clock that never kept the right time. 


11:50 - By now the truck is loaded and the storage room is completely empty. It feels like a small miracle. And I can't believe how good it feels to know that this little 5x6 room, with all its power and all its memories has been resolved. It's like Ghostbusters came this morning instead of 1-800-Got Junk. As I drive away toward ARC Value Village in New Hope to donate some of my Mom's special art prints that will help support their mission for DD kids (I know she would like that), I feel this tremendous weight lift from my shoulders. Ten months ago, just thinking about these items overwhelmed me and now I am sending them on their way. I'm smart enough to know that I have only dispersed some of the physical manifestations of my mother's passing. But I am also smart enough to know that this is a very big step forward. One she would approve of if she were here.

13 comments:

  1. Never had that problem thank goodness.

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  2. Yeah, it can be a little intense. Luckily, as life would have it, I was able to do this in stages over a period of time: Moving Mom to assisted living (pare down #1), moving her to a nursing home (edit #2) and then today. I can't imagine how a loved one could do it otherwise...:-) Hope you are have a great weekend, Jo!

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  3. Whoa, that was a momentous step, Denine. I'm impressed with how well you handled it. I cannot even begin to imagine what I would do with all of my parents' stuff (my mom is a big time hoarder), not what my daughter would do with mine (this apple hasn't fallen too far from the tree).

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    1. Thanks, Megan! It's not a job I would wish on anyone but doing it in stages helped. Look at it this way: at least hoarders have their own TV show now...lol. Cheers!

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  4. Thank you for donating to Arc's Value Village! We don't often hear the story behind people's generous donations, so it is particularly sweet reading your blog. I hope your mom would be very happy knowing her things will help provide services for people with disabilities.

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  5. Hi again Denine. Actually I would like your permission to re-post your blog or link to your blog on our 1-800-GOT-JUNK? corporate blog? Please let me know if that's okay.

    Thanks,

    Tania Venn
    pr@1800gotjunk.com

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  6. Denine - what a heart-warming story. I love to hear from our customers and our truck team crews about the experiences they've had. It's all about relationships, isn't it? Thanks for sharing!

    Tania Venn

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    1. You are SO right, Tania! It IS about relationships and that's what your guys are so good at! I sent you an email earlier -- would be honored if you want to re-post. I am a dedicated customer (who is, thanks to you, running out of extra junk in my life...:-)

      Thanks for your kind words about the story and for visiting...
      Denine

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  7. Yay! Good job, woman!!! Also, your senior picture is GORGEOUS!!

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  8. Oops....college pic, I mean. :)

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  9. Hi Rache! Thanks. It's kind of old school, even for back then, but it's what I wanted. Wish I had all that naturally brown hair again!!! :-)

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  10. It is really helpful to have a junk removal service that you can rely on to help you out! Not only when I move, but whenever I build up too much excess stuff I like to clear it all out. Being able to do that without the hassle is really nice! Glad everything worked out for you!

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  11. Thanks for sharing this. My grandmother recently passed away, and like you, we waited a while before venturing into her overly packed house to clean it out. It was a trial going through everything to decide what to keep and what was junk. I wish i would have thought about calling someone to do all the junk removal like you did. At least I'll know for when I have to do this for others.

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