The sorting of my parents' items has begun.
This task has hung over the head of my sister and myself since February of this year, when it became blatantly apparent that neither of my parents would be returning back to The Ranch to live. We were now in the situation of having a house full of items to examine, catalog, and disposition.
My parents had gone through one large purge almost 20 years ago, when they had relocated from my hometown to The Ranch so some things of my childhood, like fifty 4-record albums of "Reader's Digest presents" were no longer our problem. But that was 20 years ago, and other things have accumulated in that time.
Fortunately my parents did not have a problem with hoarding things; that said, they did have a great many collections.
My mother collected books, hundreds of them, with paperbacks going back to when I was growing up to books recent purchased. She had various sewing and photo album supplies. My father, on the other hand, collected antiques. We have a rather extensive collection of a great many different old things, bottles and old kitchen items and furniture from the late 1800's and old fans (two, to be precise).
The problem, of course, is knowing where to begin.
It is perhaps doubly compounded by the fact that I impart emotion to items. Things have memories and value to me beyond their simple functionality - and not just memories for me, it seems, but memories of my children with them to, or memories of the generation beyond my parents with them. In some cases, I am likely now the last person that possesses those old memories, of knowing why we have a violin when no-one in our family ever played one (it belonged to my Great-Uncle, who used to live at The Ranch. I can remember him playing it when I was a child).
So how does one go about make a start of sorting two lives?
We are fortunate in that 1) There are very few items which are perishable (and thus had to be immediately handled) and 2) We are not on a "We have to clean the house so we can sell it" clock. This can be done at our pace.
I have managed to move through my mother's entire books collection, two bathrooms, and a sewing/craft closet - with some ground rules to make it easier on myself.
1) Anything that I or a member of the family might want, I keep.
2) Anything that has emotional value or I am unsure about, I keep for another round.
3) Anything that has some reason to be preserved, I keep for another round.
4) Everything else gets put into the give away pile or the throw away pile.
I have to confess that giving myself the freedom to not have to make a decision on the first round of consideration has been freeing. Instead of agonizing over what to do, I simply put it to the side and move on. This allowed me to sort all of the books (which have not yet moved from the house, and I keep pulling volumes out and putting them in the "To Keep" pile) and most of the sewing and craft items. The bathrooms were much easier of course; only a minimum need to be kept in each, sufficient to support me on my regular visits or a larger group for shorter visits.
Of course, as I go through things, I am constantly surprised by the amount of stuff in closets and cabinets and drawers (which is why I hate all of them; it just makes it easier to hide things). My mother had at least 20 handbags which appear to never have been used. I know my father literally has hundreds of baseball caps. And the number of small tissue packages and handkerchiefs is staggering.
But the progress, if slow, is now constant. Each time I leave, something else becomes a "organized" area, one less area on my mind.
For one brief moment I opened the drawer at my father's nightstand, which was filled with birthday and Father's day cards - then closed it. I find myself far less up to such things than I imagined.
But one thing at a time. Today the bathroom drawers and non-personal items items easily decided on, tomorrow the personal items that hold far more in memories and emotion than they do in substance.