The Big Clean

by Jennifer Tolle Whiteside

I am excited that my mom is moving nearby.

She’s lived many places in her life, but now is the right time to sell her house and move to Raleigh where she can be closer to family and her favorite daughter… OK, one of her daughters. It’s just the right time.

What that means in practice is the difficult process of downsizing and letting go. I have spent a couple of weekends with her deciding what to keep, what to sell and what to give away. Going through this process brought both laughter and tears and has been filled with stories and memories. I am so grateful for the opportunity to do this with her.

There was a perfume bottle I recalled being on my grandmother’s dresser growing up, the china I was always afraid of breaking, the quilts my great grandmother stitched, countless old family photos and books and clothes and so much more to make decisions about.

Do you keep it? Do you sell it? Why would you keep it? On the other hand, why wouldn’t you?  I tried to invoke the Marie Kondo mantra. Does it spark joy?

Those decisions are especially challenging when the thing you’re holding is full of memories and feelings and history. The question quickly became: Why is this important?

Every decision we made truly came down to figuring out what’s important. Those decisions are a blend of our history and feelings today.

It left me thinking about legacy and family history and how it shapes us. How do we each create our story of where we have been and who we are? How do we use this to shape our decisions today? What it is that we hope to pass on? What is important and why it is important?

Sometimes those things are important to articulate, to reflect on and share. Sometimes those things are quiet moments of reflection.

The why is important.

I see philanthropy in all of this. Sometimes, it is helpful to reflect on the why behind our giving.  It is not just the what, but rather the why, that can guide our decisions about giving back. Sometimes the why is found in our own history and family and sometimes the why can be found in today.

I am grateful for the opportunity to recognize and honor the many ripples memories play in my life.

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