February 15th, 2017 by Jan

Marsha Zuest suggested I read They Left Us Everything by Plum Johnson. A book set in her hometown/region of Oakville, ON.

At first I thought I could put it on my list of reads as a Memoir, but I got pretty excited when one of the characters in the book was named Jan. So, I can check, “read a book with a character who has your name,” off my reading list!

I recommend this book.

It’s a mother/daughter book, a memoir, a book about de-cluttering a house, and the untangling of family relationships after death.

I related to the story, even though my experience is very different.

After the death of her parents, Ms. Johnson was charged with clearing out her family home. It was a 10,000 square foot house packed full of memories, and artifacts — some personal, but most historical.

Her parents weren’t hoarders. They didn’t save trash, but like parents of the war generation, they didn’t throw much out either. And even with 4 siblings to help, it was Johnson, (the only daughter in the family) who took on the task of clearing the house.

After reading this book, I can say I’ve changed my mind about something I thought I was quite sure about.

I came to believe that parents need to clear their own clutter. Especially after the ordeal of clearing my moms stuff, I thought It was cruel to leave your shit for others to deal with.

But, after reading this book I realize, had I not cleared my mom stuff – I would not know her as well as I do today.

I learned a lot of things I didn’t know about my mom through her things. This was same experience Plum Johnson had.

It was in touching and sorting the stuff left behind, that both Johnson and I were able to heal a rocky relationship.

“We all have a secret life.” If I had not gone through my mom’s stuff, I never would have known the truth about her. She only showed me what she wanted me to see.

Years ago, I heard someone say, “We are the same person today as yesterday, except for the people we meet and the books we read.”

I am changed by this book.

I changed my mind when she wrote “I used to think parents should clean up their own mess before they depart this world; now I think just the opposite. Don’t die early. Wait till your children are old enough to appreciate it, and then leave them everything.”

This book made me realize that the real cutter I had to deal with wasn’t mom’s hoard; it was and always will be, the clutter that accumulates in my head and heart.

Thanks Alice!

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