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SAYING GOODBYE TO A FRIDGE: THE “STUFF” OF GRIEF


It had to happen. It was time. But I was still completely unprepared for the wave of grief that washed over me as I “helped” my dad roll that old beat up fridge to the curb. I literally burst into sobbing tears.


It caught me off guard. How could parting with one unsightly rusty old refrigerator inspire so much emotion in me?


But as I reflected on my memories of that refrigerator, it became clear. My tears were remembering how for year after year we loaded that fridge with beers, sodas, juices, and sparkling waters to share with friends and neighbors on a weekly basis — such dear and happy memories! My tears were from grieving the loss of relationship with some of those friends, and wondering exactly where we might have gone wrong. As I cried I was reminded of how we brought that beat up old fridge to this new house, with every intention to install it in a prime spot to continue the weekly “party night” tradition, and how instead COVID and a nightmarish renovation process did grave injury to that dream. I sobbed for my brother who died just over a year ago and who contributed many of the stickers pasted to front and sides of the fridge. And as my sobs turned into shudders and I began breath more deeply, a gentle peace blanketed me and I knew that was ok, and it really was time to let the fridge go.


As a home organizer, I have been privileged to walk with clients through the vulnerable process of letting go. I have sat with mothers of school age children who are finally ready to hand on their nursing pillows and bumbo chairs. I have born witness to widows and widowers, divorcees and unwed mothers sorting through their remaining possessions in light of moments that have turned their lives upside down. And I have walked with many ordinary clients who in the process of day-to-day living, have accumulated more “stuff” than they can easily manage, and who are ready to clear the clutter, so they can focus on what is most important in this current moment of their lives. In every case I have heard their stories: “Oh, that box? That’s from when my husband was a champion wrestler in high school.” “Wow, I loved those shoes! They took me months to save up for”. “This chair belonged to my grandmother, I can still picture her knitting away in it.”

The “stuff” in our lives tells our story. There is no doubt that we can and should own things that, though they’ve lost their usefulness in our daily lives, simply must be held on to in order to pay honor to the people who gave them to us, or time when they did serve us well. However, often we’re holding on to much more than we’re conscious of when we surround ourselves with things that have lost their relevancy to our current day to day living.


We at Control The Chaos Organizing consider it a great privilege to accompany our clients as they demonstrate the vulnerability and courage it takes to let go of whatever they need to part with, in order to enter more deeply into their lives right now.


As for the old fridge, my husband put it best as we watched it drive off in the back of a truck headed to the scrap metal yard, “there goes my young adulthood!”. We’re older now. The past few years have certainly aged us! We plan to acquire another fridge when the time comes to finally finish remodeling the space it was intended for. I’m certainly glad I have a photo of the old refrigerator. But I’m also very glad that I have some prime storage real estate back on the north side of my garage because it’s baseball season now, and I really needed a better place to store our folding chairs in between little league games.


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