The one question I have had to field constantly since Michele died is have you sold the other condo yet? The answer is no. After 25,000 why nots and a few oh it must be so hard for yous….I decided to make this a page in the book that my sister wanted me to write. One of her other wishes was the I get rid of her clothes immediately. Well, here is the story of packing her things up.
When I first started going through Michele’s things in January of 2021, it was overwhelming, and not because I was desperately sad, which I was. It was the sheer volume of the task. My sister, though I love her dearly, was a pack rat and couldn’t pass up a sale if she tried. I decided to start with her closet first. I opened it, then quickly closed it, then opened it again. What I saw in front of me was clothing Jenga. I feared if I pulled out, that I would be buried under a mountain of clothes. I gamely had garbage bags to stuff the clothes in and had a strategy of threes. Donate, keep or toss. Value Village will take things like orphan socks so that they don’t end up in land fills so I kept that in mind.
I took out the first piece of clothing and then worked for three hours straight. As I started sorting, I found so many clothes that still had tags. I put those on Michele’s bed. I continued to look at items for donation. After the first day, I had five bags ready to donate and half a bag ready for the garbage. This was when we were going through another lockdown so I couldn’t have anyone come and help.
Week after week, I would sort. I could only go once a week, and I couldn’t stay for more than a few hours. After concentrating on her closet for weeks, I decided to pack up the book case in her room using the same keep, toss and donate model. I was able to get through that in one day. I just didn’t have enough boxes to pack all of them up. They went into the living room to continue to clear out Michele’s room. If it wasn’t for the empty book case, it would have looked like I really did nothing – there was the aforementioned volume. I also had to contend with clothing at my now condo that my sister had there – and it too was plentiful.
I started just going through her makeup and threw out 11 kitchen catchers full of cosmetics. I kept numerous bottles of shampoo, toothpaste and body wash for myself and put together some packages for donation to the homeless. At one point, my cousin came over and helped me bring 28 bags of clothing to Value Village along with ten boxes of assorted other stuff like her old tapes, some records and knick knacks.
I had 1-800 Got Junk come and take out all of the old bathroom fixtures (there was a leak in one of the bathrooms and it had to be gutted). I also had them take a box of old blank video cassettes that had to be disposed of properly, a few pieces of Michele’s treasured furniture (my grandmother’s ottoman that had a holes and a little chair), old tiles and some other garbage. It ended up being a half a truck. Yet the condo still looked full.
I gave our Frousin, who is like a little sister, Michele’s nicest (and biggest) bag so that she would have something nice to remember Michele by. I gave my dear friend 11 pairs of Michele’s shoes (from both condos) and a bag that I thought that she would like. I gave my cleaning lady a bag of clothes, another gym bag packed with clothes, 10 pairs of shoes and a bag. I gave another friend another bag. I gave another one of Michele’s friends one of her bags. Four bags of clothes and toiletries went to the homeless. And still I packed.
I decided to keep all of the clothes that still had tags and put those, along with some of Michele’s remaining shoes and bags that I didn’t want on Poshmark and decided to donate the funds to the North York General Hospital Foundation in Michele’s memory and in honour of her oncologist and the nurses who cared for her. To date, I’ve sold 111 of her clothes, makeup, shoes and bags there with another 5 of my mother’s bags that Michele wouldn’t let me get rid up when we were cleaning out the closet. Last year, I was more diligent and donated $1,500 through selling 29 pairs of her shoes, 21 bags, assorted clothes and makeup. This year, I’ll only donated $500 + whatever I sell before the end of the year….I’m keeping only a handful of Michele’s bags and clothes for myself. and still I’m packing.
I packed up 55 clowns – Michele’s favourite and my least favourite. I gave away 4 and still, I pack. I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I gave away a huge bag of knitting wool and knitting needles. I packed up boxes of crafts. I gave away scrapbooking materials. My cousins, who are only in Canada for two years, took furniture and that really helped me see progress. The dining room table is gone, along with two book cases, two small tables, Michele’s mirror, highboy and dresser, two table lamps and one floor lamp. I threw out 3 large boxes of garbage, 2 garbage bags, a lamp, a medicine cabinet and assorted other goodies, and I’m still working. I have about 25 boxes that need to be donated and yes, I’m still packing. And yes, I will finish this soon, get that condo renovated and sold. I will be getting rid of most of my mother’s antiques too.
So when people ask why it’s taking so long…well, you didn’t know Michele. My cousins who took the furniture asked if it bothered me packing up her things. I answered truthfully, because I could tell that they genuinely wanted to know. They are just things, so generally no, I said. It’s the weirdest things that bring a lump to my throat. A dress that would have looked so nice on her that she never had the chance to wear – partly because she died and partly because it was buried so deeply in her closet that she never would have found it. It’s the birthday cards that she kept. It’s photos of family birthdays, photos of my mother and Michele together, forever frozen in that one moment in time….
So no, they are just things and they can be replaced. People and memories are not replaceable. And my sister was definitely not replaceable, although I would love to have a word or two with her about how I could have opened a thrift store and would have still had inventory with just her things.