Wednesday, December 12, 2012

875. Long-Distance Hoarding

“What about the dolls?” 

It should be an easy question, right?  When your sister asks you about your deceased mother’s dolls and you have no daughters and no real attachment to porcelain dolls in wrinkled satin dresses from the 1940s. 
“We should keep the dolls,” you hear a voice say, and you realize it is your own voice into the phone. 

“Really, MOV?” your sister asks quietly, tenderness in her tone.  “There are probably five dozen dolls.” 
What are you planning to do with five dozen dolls?  Or even two dolls, or one? 

Where will you put them?  Your brain spins, like a child’s toy top, which come to think of it your mom might have collected, too.  You have no room for dolls.  You also have no room for rocks, but your sister just sent you your mom’s collection of geodes and crystals for your sons.  You have no space for extra Christmas ornaments, but a similar phone call last week produced two boxes full of vintage ornaments from your childhood. 
“I said, do you want me to mail them?” 
Your aesthetic could best be described as “Virgo Zen.”  You have a couch, two chairs, and some paintings.  Your whole house would be paintings if you could help it.  You would like to live in an art gallery or museum and lose yourself in the paintings. 

“Dolls are like art, right, Oakley?” you whisper. 
“MOV, I don’t have time for this, I’m exhausted.”  The words float away from you.  She does not sound impatient, just tired.  “The estate guy will be here this weekend to sell everything.  I went on eBay to compare prices and get an idea of their value based on their condition.  All together, we can probably get around $300 for the dolls.” 

What did you expect her to say?  Three thousand?  Three million?  And yet …
“Can you email me a picture of some of the dolls?  Can I have a few?” 

A few minutes later, your phone beeps and you see a Native American doll peering up at you.  She stands next to a broken china doll in roller skates and a Dutch doll with long blond braids and wearing wooden clogs.  There are twenty more photos like this.  Your phone cannot load the photos fast enough.           

You call your sister back.  She answers on the first ring. 

“Well, what did you decide?” 

You want them all. 

You want none of them. 

“I’m sorry, Oakley, I don’t know why this is so hard for me.” 
You choke back tears, you sitting at home in your pristine Virgo living room with your art, while your sister goes through 70 years of someone else’s possessions. 

“MOV, it’s okay.  I will box them up for you.” 
You are paralyzed by indecision.  Why do the dolls affect you so much?  They are not your mother.  But they belonged to her.  You struggle to untangle the emotions from the dolls or the Christmas ornaments.  None of it matters, really.  In the end, they are just things.    

“Oakley, wait—can I think about it and tell you tomorrow?” 



  1. Oh dearest MOV. I so completely get this. Truly I do. A wise friend told me once (with regard to the cleaning out of her own husband's things after his passing) that if it gives you pain, don't do it. Wait. Right now your grief is so very raw. Take the dolls. Keep them for awhile. Maybe next year take another look and make a decision. Don't rush yourself. Even though they are just "things" they meant something to your mother and your mother meant something to you. Don't be hard on yourself. This is a big deal. It is difficult. Be kind to your heart.

  2. I think thescousewife gave great advice on what to do with you mom's things. I think sometimes people rush to get it done sooner than later and then may regret giving away something that they wished they kept. Conversely, you might not have that option if you are trying to clear out the house to sell, etc., but I do agree to be gentle and kind to your heart during this time.


  3. I have my father's cowboy hat in my closet in a box that has not been opened in nearly 10 years. I have my grandmother's muumuu in a box. My grandmother, who died 32 years ago. Grief makes no damned sense. Don't feel like it has to. A MUUMUU, for Pete's sake.

  4. Loss is tough. Don't rush into anything. Hell, take everything she owned and put it in a storage unit until you are ready...

  5. I can only say don't rush into anything yet I know your sisters place and the pieces that need to be done right away but her belongings can be in storage and do it slowly. My heart hurts for you and having to think thru it all. ~Janice~

  6. MOV, everyone grieves differently and there just isn't a road map for how you feel. If you are feeling sentimental about the dolls, hang on to them. Maybe down the road you will feel like letting them go but for now don't put pressure on yourself to make any snap decisions. Your other family members might feel very differently but on feeling is better or worse than the other.

  7. I was given some of my mother's things, and although I wanted them because they were hers, I had no place for them. Two of the dolls were on display for a short period of time, but they were dust collectors. So the dolls joined the other items in a box in my closet, and eventually I sent almost everything to various sisters. I discovered that "things" did me no good. I still miss my parents. But perhaps you will find comfort in your mother's belongings. It's different for everyone.


  8. Keep it, store it, wait on it. I have drawer of letters and photos that I open and yet only fondle the corners and push close. It has been 3 years and now I can finally use her antique pitcher, or wear her favorite ring. But many things still make me wish she was here.
    xoxoxo Dawn

  9. There are so many things at my grandmother's house that I want to get rid of every time I am there. I have a feeling that someday when she is gone, I will feel compelled to keep everything. Hoping you find a decision that gives you some bit of comfort.

  10. I can definitely understand this. It is hard enough for me to throw my own things out. I can't imagine trying to determine how important things were to other people.

    I say hang on to them.


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