All things must come to an end. Even if you determine along the way that despite your best efforts, you may never see the light at the end of the tunnel of some projects. I’m thinking of one project in particular – clearing out 60+ years of shared lives under one roof – the family home.

Story continues below

For what feels like eons now, my family members and I have been working to clear out the various belongings my mother had to leave behind when she moved into an assisted living facility. I sometimes wonder if, before she was approved for residency, one of the admissions team visited her in our family home, noticed the sheer quantity of possessions, and hastened to craft a limit to what could be moved to her new home. That may have been necessitated by him trying to desperately conceal his wide eyes and raised eyebrows, unaware that the force of that process propelled his toupee into a nearby La-Z-Boy.

As a lifelong collector, my mother was a bit inclusive in what she hoarded – umm, I mean gathered, over many decades. We have a wide variety of belongings we are going to try selling, discovered in long-forgotten pockets of that humble old residence.

Books, for example, were stored much like squirrels stuff acorns into a tree pocket. But even an over-achieving squirrel on steroids would have to be impressed by the places my mother found to jam paperbacks. Like carbon-dating, we’ve come across various decades in the attic, in the basement furnace room and behind sliding doors built into a staircase.

They were shoved into the base of a china cabinet, slid under couches and easy chairs and hidden behind boxes of cereal in the pantry. I stopped short of knocking on walls looking for a hidden panel – I have my own toupee to keep in place, for Pete’s sake!

Second to the used bookstore she was passively maintaining, there were dishes and cups of every conceivable variety. Some that used to come free in laundry detergent boxes, plus some that she collected as part of a weekly promotion at the local grocery store. Dish and cup sets won at church bazaars, dish and cup sets inherited from departed aunts and/or snapped up from tables at yard sales. Trying to tally up a total, I picked up a nasty sliver from my abacus, so that is yet to be determined…but Walmart hasn’t even stocked close to our amount in their distribution hub.

Without getting into specifics, many drawers around the house were like prolific clown cars, items pouring forth beyond any conceivable expectation, some taking hours to empty just on their own. I may have uncovered the legendary resting place of missing socks, at least for one family’s feet. In junk drawers, rather than back into our bedrooms. Why not?

Of course, my dad was hardly innocent in the collection of questionable keepers himself. We’ve found camping supplies that have petrified over time, glass jars of preserves that have similarly mummified beyond recognition, and while I’m in this vein of sharing, I’ve also come across more mummified spiders than you might ever expect to see in a lifetime. Or ever want to. I will try donating them to my old high school science lab, or maybe there is some current craze to cover them in batter and have them as a movie snack? Ugh!

The common denominator appears to be that anything worth keeping was kept and stored somewhere in the home or garage, and anything that wasn’t keepable was also stashed in a dark corner, only to be unearthed eventually by family members hoping desperately to clear out the house so as to sell it.

I will admit, this process has inspired me to have all of my own collections much easier to spot and group together for when my surviving family members get to tackle my own estate. Or as one family member recently muttered under their breath about our old family home, the living landfill.


  1. Hello Dan – a great article and one that touches a soft spot. I too have had to clear out my mother’s apartment when she went into an assisted living facility; my brother’s apartment after he passed away and most recently my dad’s apartment after he passed on. It is fascinating to go through people’s possessions and discover what they held near and dear. My dad, although 90, still had our artwork from kindergarden. My brother was a lifetime subscriber to National Geographic magazine and he kept every single issue. They were all clutterbugs and so I come by it honestly. I feel for whoever has to clear out my stuff – lol!

    • Hey Sharon!

      Thanks for your wonderful comments – yes, I know that I have inherited my parents’ treasure collecting gene, I can only hope that whoever takes on the task after I’m gone has equal dollops of patience and humour!

      happy selling!


  2. Hey Brian!

    Ha! I think that toupee cream is some dried-up old Brylcreem? They just don’t make it like that anymore! And I really have considered the Ghia-Pet kit, although one of my old work buddies had limited success with a spray paint hair replacement system, so I have held back on that for the time being.

    If you can’t find your old hammer, I always keep mine close by my desk, but I haven’t used it since Windows Vista OS – although there have been a few tempting moments, given technology.

    Keep cool out there!

  3. Hi Dan:

    I have some special, super-duper toupee’ stick-um for your toupee’ stashed out back in my own personal storage space for things that I might need someday—but likely won’t. You’re welcome to it—if I can find it. For you, only $50.00 a hit. A little dab’ll do ya. Not guaranteed to hold fast in wind storms above six miles per hour. Not suitable for underwater use…or if your mortgage is under water…unless you’re in a yellow submarine. No peeing allowed outside the sub, or in sub-surface wayward snowbanks.

    I have a better idea for your glistening gourd; how about a Ghia-Pet kit with seeds that sprout brown stuff? Just add water, and two birds will be got with one shot: a new rug, and a shower to boot. If you get hungry, you could always shave your head and eat your heavenly-created brain-rooted growth as a hair pie!

    Well, that’s it for now. Gotta go find that old ball and pene hammer I put away last decade. My old computer needs a tune-up. It keeps on auto-correcting stuff I want to send to Jim the-editor-guy, messing up the true intent of my thoughts. A couple a’ whacks on the old mother board outta do the trick. Where’s that effin’ hammer anyway? I feel a wrangy episode commin’ on. BTW, my head-scratcher super-glue will stop you from flippin’ your lid every time you can’t find something you squirreled away so no one else would find it.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here