My name is Abby. I am an intern with LOSS as I work towards a Masters in Social Work at Case-Western. I am also a suicide loss survivor, having lost my husband, Kevin, in September, 2015.
For a relatively messy person, I hate clutter and I hate things. Not all things, just the pointless physical objects with no sentimental or practical value. I grew up in a cluttered, messy house. Our kitchen table was often covered in mail, books, papers, and literally everything that would fit. My room was always the cleanest, most organized in the house. It wasn’t even that tidy; that’s just how bad the rest of the house was. I’m not even that neat now, but my car fits in my garage and I avoid letting new objects into my home unless they are useful or sentimental. Marie Kondo and the Minimalists were fads I was happy to jump on board with.
The Gear Room
When Kevin and I got our first place together- a three-bedroom apartment- I happily kept it tidy; everything had its place… except for what I dubbed the “gear room.” There was our bedroom, the guest bedroom (without an actual bed, because we were 20 and broke), and the gear room. It was piled from wall to wall with Kevin’s military gear (and occasionally a friend’s junk who was deployed and living in the barracks), which seemed like a cluttered, disorganized mess to me, but must have made sense to him. Or, at least, he never seemed to mind.
After Kevin got out of the military, we moved twice. Since there wasn’t a need for a “gear room,” or even gear for that matter, it all ended up in boxes. We had only been living in our house for three months when he died. A lot of things were still in boxes. A lot of things stayed in boxes for a while after he died. If he had lived long enough to completely set up the house, what would he have done with these things? Would he have thrown them away? Kept them and looked at them occasionally while reminiscing? Sold them? I don’t know. I didn’t even know what most of it was.
To Keep or Not to Keep?
When I was finally ready to go through these things (after many discussions with my therapist), it was daunting. Not only because of the emotional toll looking through your loved ones’ items takes on you, but because I didn’t know what anything was. Was this gadget important? When did he wear this? What is this? If only he could have done this for me… but, he couldn’t. I was suddenly the keeper of all this shit.
There are things I still haven’t completely organized; a foot locker, covered with butterfly stickers as it once belonged to a Marine with a daughter before it became Kevin’s, tucked away in the crawl space in my basement. Mostly, it’s just stuff messily thrown in because I couldn’t decide if I should get rid of it. To be honest, I don’t really have a desire to go through any of it, but I like that it’s there. I like thinking about it… maybe I should go through it, even though I know I won’t. I suppose it’s the same feeling I get when I look at my water bill, which still is under Kevin’s name. “Maybe I should call and change that…” Even though I know I won’t. At least not today.
All this to say… with the new fads of decluttering with Marie Kondo and minimalism, coupled with my affliction for clutter, I’m perfectly happy not decluttering these items. I haven’t even opened this box in years, but I know where it is and it lives in the home we shared. So, while I love decluttering and not letting new plastic, useless crap into my home, there are some cluttered boxes that can stay for a while. Or forever.