It is pretty special to be able to post on the occasion of my birthday. I note that today, Saturday January 14, is also Organize Your Home Day, an Awareness Observances that encourages us to declutter our homes, lives and ultimately our minds.
Last year, on this very day, my family house in Hackensack, New Jersey, was officially sold to its new owners after serving as our beloved home for over 60 years. A year earlier, my late husband and I’d sold our own home at the Jersey Shore, a place in which we’d lovingly resided for twenty-five years. Tucked away in a small creekside community, its New England saltbox style exterior belied its cozy log cabin interior. Out back, Rich had created a Key West style setting complete with a Tiki Bar.
Over the course of less than two years, those two residences and their contents, were gone, however, I still experience strong waves of nostalgia whenever I see photos of that house on Longview Avenue. Located on one of the highest points of the city, if not Bergen County; each night, from my bedroom window, I was presented with a view of Manhattan in the distance; a vista filled with tiny points of light that grew brighter in the wake of urban sunsets and clear evening skies.
It is significant that the closing on our family home occurred on the occasion of my birthday. At that time, my mother was living with me after Rich’s passing. It was a bittersweet time, Rich and I had spent weeks up north in New Jersey emptying the seemingly endless contents of that home. Together with my surviving sibling, John, his wife Gigi, and my now late nephew Zac, and his girlfriend, Aleli, we watched decades worth of “stuff” being loaded in to dumpsters or disappear up in the flames of a continually burning fire pit in the backyard. After a time we’d grown numb from all the micro decisions that go into deciding what stays and what goes.
It was exhausting emotionally and physically, especially for Rich and I who’d just recently gone through the same process with our newly sold home at the Jersey Shore. We’d lived there for a little over two decades; those twenty-five years contained the happy memories of our marriage and the community we’d come to know and love together.
When Rich and I’d prepared to move from New Jersey to Georgia, I’dI interviewed several moving companies (something I highly recommend). We ultimately selected an independent local mover. I recall him advising us to think carefully about what we retained relaying that so many people paid him good money just to move “stuff” that they will probably never unpack.
That stuck with me, but not Rich who had a hard time of letting go of things. Now I look at those unopened boxes and his personal collections and begin my own process of “decluttering” as if I might be moving in the near future (for the record, this is merely a motivating device). There are Lionel Trains and a valuable decoy collection and his woodworking tools, for instance. Slowing I will make those micro-decisions as to what becomes of them all.
I recall not long after Rich’s passing that I decided to clean out his walk-in closet. I gave so many items to Goodwill, The Salvation Army and other local charities. Whenever I think I might’ve moved too quickly, I imagine someone in need happily wearing one of Rich’s Hawaiian shirts and enjoying life as he would have. But even with that thought, it took many agonizing days just to go through and gather up those items and it is still difficult to deal with the remainder.
So on this birthday morning, I take a moment to reflect and recall birthday pasts with Rich. I’m glad we had a chance to celebrate one of them in our new home down here in the South.
I hope the New Year is treating you well. Live day by day, but always keep an eye on the Long view, and watch for signs. They are always there!