Letting go of stuff – 5 years and 5 lessons learned

April 11, 2017

Remember how I told you “I love you, thank you for being the best mom ever, it’s okay to go, we’ll be okay?”  Some days it feels just like yesterday when I think back to our last conversation.

If you were here today, I’d grab your favorite coffee cup, fill it up for you and ask you to sit down to reminisce just like old times.  You always loved sitting with friends and chatting while enjoying a cup of coffee didn’t you?  Today, instead of saying goodbye, like we did the last time we talked, let’s just catch up.

When we said goodbye, I didn’t think ahead 5 years and wonder where I’d be.  I’ve continued to grow and learned great lessons about this stage in life since we last talked.  It’s okay you didn’t have time to fill me in on those lessons before you left.  You taught me well how to persevere and be brave.

At some point you have to realize that some people can stay in your heart but not in your life.  (Same is true for their stuff they left).  

I’ve been thinking back to the times when I have missed you most the past 5 years.  You weren’t here physically, but you were quietly giving me support through the memories I have of you.  For today let’s share a toast to growth over a cup of memories.  I’m glad you’re here with me in thoughts.  I’m positive if you were still here you’d be listening quietly as I reflect.

What have I learned in the past 5 years?  Wow…yes, it has been 5 years?

Lesson #1 – If you haven’t let go of stuff yet, the 5-year mark of pondering if you should keep it or not is enough time to decide!  Just let it go – NOW!

You’re right, stuff is just stuff.  I learned well from you about how to treasure stuff from the past.  It is wonderful how each item has a unique history.  I do love my favorite vintage pieces and plan to keep and treasure them.  But, like you, it has been easy to accumulate way too much stuff over the years.

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Believe it or not, some of the stuff is still your stuff from when we moved it to our house 10 years ago after moving you into assisted living.  A minimalism move on your part, executed by me, you were able to downsize from a 3 bedroom home to a small one bedroom in the facility.  You never had to decide what to keep, I made all those decisions for you.  I learned a bit then about being ruthless and how to sort down to the necessities.  But under distress or stress, some of the stuff we moved to our house reminded me so much of you that it was just too hard to part with at the time.

Now I am ruthless again and overcome the years of slacking.  I am getting back on track with some lessons from The Minimalists.

I bet you’d be thinking, “You’re kidding aren’t you, you still have stuff from a move 10 years ago?”  No kidding, I really still have some of your stuff.  Yeah, right, I’m sure you never intended for that to happen.  What am I waiting for, why not just let it go?  DO it, just let it go!

OMG, it would’ve been so awesome to have heard you say that you’d be okay with me letting go of stuff.  Despite that you modeled for me all your life to keep stuff, it would have been such a relief to know it was okay to let the stuff go.  I’ll take the thoughts I’m feeling now and thank you for your permission to move on.  Yes, you’re right, I can treasure the memories instead of the obligations to hold on to your stuff.

Lesson #2 – Empty nesting is a freeing time in life.

You and I never really had the time to sit down and talk about empty nesting.  I’ve discovered parenting in an empty nest is different, freeing in a sense, but just as challenging as when the kids were little.  Oh my, you’d be so proud of them.  They are so brave!  They’ve grown into strong and beautiful young women. They got their bravery from you, you know.  Just like you, they have a great sense of adventure and no fear to try new things.  I’m learning that everything will be okay, even when I’m worried about them.  I’m sure I worried you at times!  Paybacks are a bitch, aren’t they?  I’m sure if you could, you’d tell them how proud you are of what they’ve learned about life.  You’d smile too, because they still love shoes, just like you always did.

Lesson # 3.  Life is too short – buy the (right) shoes and clear out the uncomfortable ones!

What about your shoes, do I still have any of them?  No, I don’t still have any of your shoes.  I did for a while, but, I learned to let them go. Even though we wore the same size shoes, some footsteps I didn’t follow as closely as you’d think I would.  Shoe shopping still gets me every time though.  We used to have so much fun shoe shopping, didn’t we?

My choice of shoes is more for comfort than style.  If the shoe isn’t comfortable, I don’t have it or keep it.  Running shoes are my favorite shoe of choice.  I remember how you liked comfy shoes.  They helped keep you walking and steady as you pushed your walker around.  You named her “Betsy” didn’t you?  A trusted friend she was.  I’m glad she was there to keep you safe and comfortable.

Lesson # 4.  Stuff should provide comfort, purpose, and value if you’re going to keep it.

Speaking of comfort, I’ve learned comfort, purpose, and value still win when it comes to what to keep and surround yourself with and what to let go.  I remember how much you loved your collections of bears.  When I sorted through your clothes, I kept a few pieces and made a picture frame with bear shapes cut out of the fabric.  A small treasured memory I made for myself from your clothes.  I also kept one bear that I had made for you.  But the rest, I’ve since donated or given away.  Bears were your thing, you loved them that’s for sure.  I have great memories of all the bears, and so do the kids.  I can still hear their giggles as you would play with them with the bears, always ending each playtime with a great big bear hug.

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Our favorite memory is of your bear hugs.  We still have those and share them all the time.

Lesson #5.  Bear hugs never take up take up too much space, but will always warm hearts.

Oh my, look my cup of coffee is almost gone…it’s probably time to get going.


Wait for a second, enough on past stuff, I’m sure you’d ask, “What’s new with you?”  Well, despite your own choice to color your hair well into your 60’s, I’ve decided not to follow those footsteps.  I remember back to how I admired your hair color the last 10 years.  I loved how your eyes sparkled with your natural color.  I am letting my salt and pepper grow out now, a bit earlier in life than you did.  But really, your salt and pepper pixie cut was adorable and so easy to take care of.


I still smile thinking about what you told the hairdresser who came to keep it short for you on a regular basis.  Michelle, that was her name wasn’t it?

You’d tell Michelle, as she cut your hair, “Go shorter, I want it easy to take care of.”  You always loved shorter hairstyles.  I haven’t taken the chop it off route yet…even when I’ve been tempted.  I know you loved it when I wore my hair short.  Sorry if that disappoints you.  But it took too so long to grow out, and the growing out stage is oh, so hard.  Maybe…just maybe, I’ll go short again, I’ll let you know!  Over next cup of coffee okay? Here I am at the 7-month mark.


Mom, as I reflect on the last 5 years since you left, I have grown and had a bit of your bravery going on.  I’m being adventuresome and flaunting every gray hair I earned.  I’m going lighter in having less stuff, in shoes, and in my hair color.  I hope you’d be thinking now, “Good graycious girl, I’m so proud of you!  You’re doing the things I can no longer do, you’re being yourself, that’s what I always wanted for you…oh, and don’t forget to wear the red shoes too!”

I love the memories I have for you.  Thank you for being the best mom ever.  It was great to catch up and share a cup of coffee.  I will always remain full of happy memories of you, your love, your sense of adventure and your quiet support.  Most of all, I love the bear hug skills I got from you.  That skill beats every piece of stuff I’ve let go of and I know it is a life skill that will never grow old.


By Shelley

Letting my quirk out one post at a time.


  1. Reply


    Shelley, Thank you so much for sharing the story about your Mom and the 5 years since she has been gone. Even though she is no longer on this Earth, it sounds like her spirit is and always will live on in your hearts and memories forever. Thank you for sharing, it is a wonderful tribute to your Mom and a great help for those who are in the horrible process of losing our Moms to this dreadful disease of dementia. Knowing so many others have been through it before is comforting in some way and your stories of finding joy with your Mom all the way to the end give us hope for our Moms. Thank you again and may God Bless you.

    1. Reply


      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and words of encouragement. I appreciate you taking the time to read the post about my mom. I am truly grateful you found some comfort from my words. I hope you continue to find moments of joy with your mom. While the future isn’t ours to predict, (it is as unpredictable as a journey through dementia can be) please remember you will never regret all of the time you are spending caring, loving and being there for her through every difficult stage of dementia. Take care and may God bless you too Shari!

  2. Reply

    Downsizing Help

    Wise words, especially “I can treasure the memories instead of the obligations to hold on to your stuff.” Also, since bears are such an important part of your memories, you may want to visit the blog “Memory Bears by Bonnie”. (Devoted to parents remembering their children.)

    1. Reply


      Thank you, I appreciate you reading and sharing your insights! I will check your blog post out!

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