Monday, February 11, 2013

They Didn't Say it Was Going to be Easy

Warning:  this post isn't about green meetings, but it is a personal story about making sustainable choices.

During the holidays, my 82 year old father passed away.  He left us with a lot of stories, fond memories and a big house.  This five bedroom, three story house was filled (and I mean filled) with all sorts of items he gathered over the 45 years he raised his family there.  None of the items were "collectable" and all had to be removed to sell the house.

It took weeks and weeks to sort through all of the drawers full of papers finding everything from my grandmother's elementary school graduation certificate from 1907 to cancelled checks all the way back to 1966 to engineering maps from the Southern Pacific Railroad.  As we sorted through the paperwork, some would be saved, some donated, some needed to be shredded, and all kept from the landfill.  We filled up his recycling bin every week and ours too.

We sold a few pieces of the furniture and looked for places to donate the rest.  It wasn't possible to find one organization to take the all the household contents.  Many calls and referrals later, we boxed up different parts of the house and donated them to a variety of programs which serve our community.  Items went to the Community Warehouse, to ARC and to the Veteran's Administration.  Each of these donations took time and energy of family members who found it very difficult at times to deal with Dad's things and the memories they evoked.

Just like when you move, it is always the last few things that seem the hardest to get rid of:  old brooms, an open box of birdseed, a plastic garbage can, to name just a few.  Finally, the house was empty after six weeks of sheer tenacity and hard work.

Would it have been easier to order a huge dumpster to arrive at the house and just start throwing?  Absolutely!
Would we have saved time and energy?  Absolutely!
Would it have been out of sight and out of mind faster?  Sure.

Were there times when I personally wanted to go against my recycle/reuse mantra, get a dumpster and toss everything?  You bet!

We didn't though, knowing fellow citizens would make good use of his household items.  For instance, the Community Warehouse makes donated items available to foster children, who at the age of 18 are no longer in the system and usually start their adult lives with virtually nothing.   The VA program was also dear to him as a proud Korean War Vet.

The saying, "They didn't say it was going to be easy, they said it was going to be worthwhile," kept running through my mind.  Honestly, it wasn't just my sustainability principals which kept me from adding to the landfill, but a small legacy for the man who taught us to love and care for nature and each other.


Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing this, Nancy. I'm so sorry for your loss. I fear the same process will come all too soon with my Dad, and the house is enormous. I really appreciate your describing how you handled it.

Sally Braley

Nancy Zavada said...

Thanks for your comment, Sarah. Several people have contacted me expressing their own concerns about the process. I don't feel so alone in this responsibility.