Friday, October 4, 2013

The Great Possession Debate

Sometimes you find help in the most unpredictable places.

Yesterday morning I was reading a column in The Washington Post called Home Front and came across a question from a reader that I thought was timely, on point and more importantly, one that we all probably will have to face at some point or another in our lives.

The questioner wanted to know what to do with the possessions that once belonged to a loved one.  Specifically, the things that belonged to her father, who had recently died.  Inheriting a lifetime of someone else's possessions can be overwhelming and increase the sadness and stress everyone is already feeling.

They may just be things, but they are also your loved one's things and since that person is no longer here, it feels as if the possessions will help maintain an emotional bond.  It feels wrong and disrespectful to toss it all away.
Do you have to keep everything?

It's up to you.  But keeping everything at some point can become an emotional burden so you might want to pick and choose the things that you do keep.  You can do it little by little when you feel ready.

While preparing yourself to make a decision about a loved one's possessions, here is a wise point of view from Sheila Bridges, an author and New York-based designer who was named "America's Best Interior Designer' by CNN and Time magazine.

Bridges has a common sense answer we all can easily follow.  Here is the unedited question from Home Front and Sheila Bridges' answer:

Q: My mom is coming to live with me in a 1,500-square-foot townhouse.  She has boxes of things she has collected over the years, many associated with my father, who passed away a year ago.  How do I incorporate some of these things in our soon-to-be-shared living spaces?  She collects Hummel figurines and things like that, and I also have one small case of cat-related items.  What is the best way to showcase items such as these without overwhelming the house and still making my mom feel welcome?
A: I understand, having just lost my own father nearly a year ago.  I think it is more about incorporating a few of the things that are really meaningful than a ton of items.  Maybe you could put a cabinet with open shelves on top and drawers below in your mom's bedroom and she could put some of the things on the shelves that remind her of your dad.  I incorporated a couple of my father's lamps and his favorite chair into my home, but that was it.  I think anything more than that would have been too much to live with.  They are reminders of him that I love living with, without going overboard and turning my own home into a shrine to him.

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