My grandmother recently passed away. She lived a very long life, filled with much love and adventure.
In the past fifteen years or so, she moved from her large single-family home into a seniors’ retirement building, then twice more into smaller, assisted-living facilities.
Each move was a challenge, especially when it came to her belongings. Furniture had to be minimized; collectibles thinned.
After my grandmother passed, we had to clean out her final apartment. We knew which pieces of furniture or nick-knacks her children and grandchildren wanted to take. We knew we wanted to donate her clothes. We knew her bed would have to be thrown away — understandably, most reuse centres are unwilling to accept beds due to potential concerns about bed bugs.
Now, my grandmother did have a couch. It was yellow and gold, and covered in images of large pheasants. For most of my life, it sat in her formal living room. It continued with her to each of her apartments. And now it was time to get rid of it.
After 30 odd years of use, moves, encounters with walkers, wheelchairs and wanderers, this couch was slightly worn on the arms, the cushions sagged a bit, and the yellow and gold weren’t as vibrant as they once were.
We took the couch to a reuse centre, hoping to donate it. They were unwilling to take it, saying that the wear and tear would make it unsellable.
And so we had to throw away my grandmother’s couch.
My dad and I lifted that yellow and gold couch over the rails of the waste drop-off centre and heaved the couch into the large garbage dumpster below.
To me, seeing the couch at the bottom of the garbage dumpster was one of the most lump-in-your-throat experiences associated with my grandmother’s passing.
It wasn’t my favourite couch. I didn’t have any particularly strong feelings about it. It wasn’t the orange floral couch we watched movies from. It was formal and stately; not my personal style at all.
But seeing it tossed away was simply sad.
My grandmother cared a lot about the appearance of her belongings. I suspect she would have been appalled to learn her couch was considered garbage.
As we drove away from my grandmother’s old couch, I was reminded of that old phrase “you come into the world with nothing, and you leave with nothing.”
So very true. We spend a lifetime amassing stuff — furniture, clothing, books, odds and ends. But in the end, it all has to go somewhere. Someone will have to move it, store it, reuse it, dispose of it.
Clutter expert Peter Walsh says, “We believe if we let go of the object, we’ll lose the memory.” He goes on to point out, “That person wants you to be happy before they want you to hold on to all of this stuff.”
My grandmother is not a yellow and gold couch. My grandmother was an adventurer, a storyteller. My memories of her mean so much more to me than an old, discarded couch. And those memories are something I won’t ever throw away.
If you’re going through a similar situation, here are some great tips and resources: