Asked by my mother-in-law to help take some trash out to the dumpster sitting beside her driveway, I did not expect to spend several hours picking through the dusty, spider-web coated workshop of my father-in-law. My father-in-law died in July of this year. My wife and I traveled to Iowa three months after his death to spend some time with my mother-in-law. She has been gradually cleaning out the house, not only to get rid of accumulated clutter, but also to eventually put the house on the market. She is considering entering an assisted living apartment in town.
My father-in-law had a workshop in the basement of his home that he had not used for at least 3 years, 5 or more if you are looking for regular use of the workshop. It is pretty well-equipped. He had a band saw, jig saw, drill press, belt sander, table saw and plenty of portable tools. He was a woodcarver, and the tools were used to support that hobby.
It is odd going through the accumulated tools and equipment of another person. This was his private domain. This was the part of the house my mother-in-law rarely entered. Family and friends knew that you only enter this room with his permission. It is a small room, with the clutter of someone who rarely threw any scrap of wood away (because it can be used) and who had his own system for tucking away the tools and the accumulation of “things I might need later”. We found wood carving patterns, lamp parts, oil filters for automobiles he no longer owned at his death, and everywhere a coating of dust that lay thickly blanketing the tools and gadgets that he accumulated because they were tools and inexpensive. I was given the task of deciding what would be kept and what would be discarded.
Often, the decision was easy for me, because I didn’t have the emotional attachment to the item that he did. There were three separate radios in the workshop. They were old enough that they had no residual value. Scraps of wood don’t mean the same to me as they do to a woodcarver. There were plenty of usable items, but the effort to keep them and eventually sell them in a garage sale or auction would not be worth the effort. Do I really need to keep a partial card of thumbtacks?
I needed to remind myself and my mother-in-law that the items in the workshop had not been used for over 5 years. Most of the non-tool items could be replaced for under $2 each if or when they are needed. She does not anticipate being in the home for another year, and so, many usable items made their way to the dumpster. That’s not easy for me either. It seems like a waste.
Which got me thinking about my clutter. What will I leave behind for someone to pick through? I’m afraid it will be a lot like this, and I’m not really wanting my son-in-law to have to pick through and make these decisions. Maybe this week will be enough to encourage me to end some of my clutter. I’m not very optimistic … but maybe.