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Saying Goodbye to the Familiar: A Daughter’s View

Moving is listed right up there as one of life’s most stressful events – and having been witness to my parents’ relocation, I wholeheartedly agree. None of us thought it would be a daunting experience. My parents weren’t hoarders and were simply moving to their already-furnished holiday home, so the planning seemed straightforward. Sounds simple, right? Wrong.

No matter how decluttered you believe your life to be, moving is never straightforward and demands detailed planning. While the larger items were accounted for, it was the little things that took the most time. Here is what I learned in the process:

The Challenge of Letting Go: Sentimental Treasures and a Lifetime of Memories

You’d be surprised at how much you can accumulate over the years, even when you think you’re living simply. My seemingly uncluttered parents had shelves overflowing with outdated medical textbooks, endless photo albums, and keepsakes like my dad’s graduation and wedding suits. Each item held a memory, a story from the past. My husband couldn’t fathom why, as a non-smoker, I insisted on bringing home the ashtrays that were scattered around the house in my youth. Eventually, he wisely let it go. However, he drew the line when I wanted to pack the enormous puncher I loved using during countless hours of playing school-school. Packing forces ruthless efficiency. Deciding what to keep and what to let go of is a challenging but necessary part of the process. That’s the reality of moving – sometimes, sentimentality, however painful, has to take a backseat.

The Myth of the Helpful Child

I naively thought I could jump in and make decisions, but that plan fell flat pretty quickly. As much as I wanted to help, it was really up to my mom to face each item, revisit their memories, and decide whether to keep, let go or rehome them. My job was to support her, not take control.

Planning is Key: A Lesson Learned (the Hard Way)

Hindsight is 20/20. Here’s what I wish we’d done differently: planned ahead. Discussing what to keep, donate, or sell well before the moving date would’ve saved a lot of stress. We ended up with limited time, leading to a whirlwind of last-minute decisions. “Donate to Hospice” piles grew rapidly, but we could have sold more with better planning and more time.

Saying Goodbye: Leaving Hometown Roots

Sure, my parents were moving to a beautiful seaside haven, but leaving the town they’d called home for decades was a wrenching experience. Vereeniging, or “VTown” as it’s affectionately known, had been their home for their entire married life. My father practised there as a GP and my mother as a psychologist. Their three daughters were born there, and it was even where I met and married my husband. Our roots run deep, and saying goodbye to the familiar was incredibly hard.

Perhaps the most emotional moment for my mom was when Lizzie, who had worked for our family for over 50 years, came to say goodbye to my parents. These goodbyes made the move seem that much more difficult.

Embrace the Help (Yes, Even When You Think You Don’t Need It)

In hindsight, getting professional help would’ve been a lifesaver. The emotional weight of going through a lifetime of belongings was overwhelming. We also realised the benefit of having experts who specialise in decluttering and facilitating the sale of items. The medical textbooks were a prime example. We thought about donating them to a medical library but fortunately, a doctor friend visited to say goodbye, saw the books, and showed interest. It was comforting to know that these symbols of my father’s love for his profession wouldn’t just end up in a landfill.

The Underestimated Physical Toll

Don’t underestimate the physical toll of moving, either. In the days leading up to the move, my mom’s fitness tracker clocked an average of 16,000 steps a day – and that’s not including the lifting, sorting, and manoeuvring.

On a more positive note, my parents have now settled into their home, surrounded only by physical things that really mattered. It’s a beautiful and inspiring new beginning.

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