Packing away my husband’s things (or trying to)

Piles of books belonging to my husband

Piles of books belonging to my husband

It’s been a few weeks since I wrote about my plans to move house and try to find somewhere to live nearer my family in my hometown. Well since then, quite a lot has happened as just when I was starting to wonder if I’d ever see a house I liked in my price range, the perfect one came along and on the same day I accepted an offer on my own.

And then, wahh! What I knew I had to do had suddenly become real. I’ve begun to think about the practicalities of packing the house up and transporting them from Wirral to Yorkshire. I know it will be hard work, and very, very tiring, but it’s not that that worries me.

My biggest challenge will be having to sort through Roger’s things and decide what to keep and what to do with the rest. The job that I’ve been putting to the back of my mind for the past ten months is now rising to the top of my to do list, and there’s no getting away from it.

So when is the right time to do this sort of thing? After all, there is no guidebook for widows, no signposts in grief. I suppose some people do it right away, others I imagine could leave their spouse’s things where they were for years before having to do anything about them. People have offered their advice but few really know what the experience will be like. After all, I need to pack away a life I was so happy in, part with things that belonged to my husband and although of course I know he’s not here, I still can’t accept he won’t be coming back for his things.

Those times when I’ve moved things around in our wardrobes and found clothes of his which need an iron or a wash, I’ve put them in the laundry basket and sorted them as I would have done, before hanging them back up in case he feels the need to come back for them.

Clothes in the wardrobe

It’s like I know he isn’t coming back but it just feels so wring moving his things out of the way. It’s comforting to look at his clothes lined up; each shirt brings back memories, and looking at them makes me smile. Well sometimes they make me smile, other times they make me cry, especially when I hold them to me and remember what they smell like, remember what it felt like to have those sweatshirts pressed to my face when we hugged.

I’ve come to realise though that I don’t need to get rid of them all just because we’re moving. I can sort out my favourites and pack them up to either deal with later or more likely just keep them forever! I know you can have things made from your loved one’s clothes like blankets and teddy bears, but I’m not sure I want to see them transformed into something else just yet. For now, they will remain Roger’s shirts and they will move with the rest of our things to our new house.

It helps to think about what Rog would have done if he were here, if I had been the one to go and he was the one sorting out my clothes. He wasn’t sentimental about material things really and loved a good clear out. He always used to tease me about his ‘one in, one out’ rule when it came to clothes and the things I stashed away. Enter the bright red flared French Connection trousers, a size 10 which fit me perfectly when I’m at the bottom end of my weight range, if you know what I mean. If I fit into those babies, things are good. The red trousers must stay!

When it comes to sorting out Roger’s books it’s a little harder, but at least we had the foresight to plan for these before he passed away. I had forgotten about it until the other day but in the last weeks of his life I asked him to write a list of his favourite books so we could read them and feel close to him when he’d gone.

Books on the shelf

You can kind of get an idea from the photos that he liked fiction, but also read a lot of books about war. When I texted a photo of some of these books to a friend she quite rightly pointed out that ‘Soldaten – On Fighting, Killing and Dying: The Secret Second World War Tapes of German POWs’ looked a bit heavy, and there is kind of a theme!

There are so many books about war – generally the Second World War – which I don’t think I will ever read, but Sam has already said he’d like to have them when he’s older, so they are going in the loft.I did read Birdsong on Roger’s recommendation though and loved it, so maybe I’ll progress to Soldaten.

The books on the list will be set aside but I don’t think they’ll be packed away as I want to keep those out and on hand to read. The book list was an idea borrowed from a friend who lost his mother as a child. He told me he only knew of one book which his mum liked, and had read it several times to get some clue as to what she might have been like if he’d known her as an adult, a woman rather than a mum seen through a child’s eyes. I’m so glad we have this list and if you’re curious to know what’s on it, here are some of the titles. I’ve just looked it up and seen it was written on 29 May last year, just over a year ago.

I won’t write it all out, I’ll just make a briefer list but I particularly like the line he’s written that says: “I also enjoy reading a lot of non-fiction, though most of that would be about war or murderers, so it’s not to everyone’s taste.” Just what I was saying!

On the fiction list are:

Emile Zola – Germinal, La Terre, La Bete Humaine, L’Assomoir and La Debacle.

Ernest Hemingway – For Whom the Bell Tolls.

George Orwell – Homage to Catalonia, Animal Farm and 1984.

Irvine Welsh – Most of them!

Also Birdy by William Wharton, The Line of Duty by Alan Hollinghurst, Rushdie’s Midnight Children, and The Remains of The Day by Ishiguro.

Some of his non-fiction favourites are Forgotten Soldier by Guy Sajer and Evil Angels by John Bryson (no relation!).

So back to the packing away, and my progress so far has been slow. I’ve sorted a few things from the loft, tidied out the outhouse (finding many cans of out of date beer in the process. I know!), dug out my summer clothes (most of which don’t fit, sob), but have I sifted through Roger’s things? Not really. I have managed to part with a dressing gown, some shoes, a golf jacket, a few old jumpers but not much else.

It will come in time I’m sure, and if I end up moving with all of it, well that’s just what I’ll have to do. It’s a long game, after all.

x Julia

More books

My kitchen and packing up to move

Linking this post to Marvellous Mondays with Hello Archie and My Petit Canard.

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  • Reply
    Claire Barnard
    June 10, 2016 at 9:31 pm

    It was so nice catching up with you this week, (I love a ‘train chat’ makes the journey so much more special and less mundane). After we parted I thought about how many things you’ve achieved since Rog passed and hiw i hoped you took pride in that. Alongside daily life with 2 kids (which is achievement enough) Holidays, Geronimo, putting the house on the market and finding a new one, researching new schools, transferring your job. They are all major achievements x take stock and feel proud x (I certainly would if I’d managed any of those things!)

    • Reply
      June 10, 2016 at 10:07 pm

      Yes it really was lovely to see you for a train chat! Thanks for saying that – I suppose I should think more like that, I have a permanent guilt that the kids have only me, it’s exhausting being two parents! I think a bit of reflection is in order! 🙂 xx

  • Reply
    Tessa Roberts
    June 10, 2016 at 10:32 pm

    Take everything with you. Not ready yet to not have it. Carolyn’s things are still where she left them. Xxx

  • Reply
    June 10, 2016 at 10:59 pm

    Slow and steady wins the race. As you say, if it all has to go with you then so be it xxx
    Colette recently posted…Caring for the first tooth with Nelsons® Teetha®My Profile

  • Reply
    June 10, 2016 at 11:58 pm

    My husband and I were having a conversation today about things like this. We lost my auntie this week suddenly, and we were talking about how some things are just things and we react differently. For example was I to die, theres not a lot he would hold onto sentimentally where I know if he was to go, I wouldnt be able to let go of any of his tshirts because since we got together I have always bought him tshirts for pretty much every birthday and christmas.

    Your doing great though, I am sure sharing your story is helping people everywhere
    Charlotte recently posted…Sometimes You End Up In The Dark …My Profile

  • Reply
    June 11, 2016 at 12:56 am

    You are doing an amazing job and I agree, I think there is no need to let things go, I personally couldn’t let go of my husbands things and would take them with me.
    RachelSwirl recently posted…#LittleLoves – Someones Twiddling With Time!My Profile

  • Reply
    June 11, 2016 at 7:44 am

    You’re doing brilliantly. Leaving a home you’ve created is very emotional for everyone without dealing with the huge loss of your husband too. Go easy on yourself. Take everything of your husbands, pack it up like you are packing your own stuff, he needs to be with you in your new home. X

  • Reply
    Flossy and Jim
    June 11, 2016 at 11:38 am

    Hey lovely lady! Ooooof! A big job ahead, but you will do it, as you have done everything so well these last ten months. Sending you all the good vibes in the land. Keep strong (you have no choice – haha!). Make sure you take time out where you can to do something nice for yourself. Look forward to seeing photos of the new place – an exciting new chapter for you all! X

  • Reply
    Steph Curtis
    June 11, 2016 at 3:46 pm

    Must be incredibly difficult. I try not to be sentimental about things myself generally, but of course this is a whole different ball game. I think you’re right to keep the things which bring you comfort. Maybe in time the amount can be reduced, but if not, there’s no law against it. Hugs x
    Steph Curtis recently posted…TEP portable wireless unit for easy WiFi access (review)My Profile

  • Reply
    Katie @mummydaddyme
    June 11, 2016 at 9:57 pm

    Ah Julia a very hard job ahead for you- just do what feels right. Take it all if thats what you want. Exciting but emotional news about moving too, I hope it goes well for you when the time comes. xx

  • Reply
    June 13, 2016 at 12:34 pm

    What a difficult job it must be, but you seem to have it sorted how you are going to get through it. I think it’s a great idea to leave some of his books out and have a read to feel closer to him. What a strong lady you are #marvmondays

  • Reply
    Sharon Parry
    June 13, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    This must be incredibly hard but I’m sure you are doing the right thing, going at your own pace. My father passed away ten years ago and all of his things are still around my Mum’s home. You will know when the time is right and if the time is never right then that is fine as well. XX #MarvMondays

  • Reply
    June 13, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    This is such a hard post to read and must have been so much harder to write. I have no experience but feel that you can keep it all – don’t rush – don’t feel pressurised just because you’re moving. I love the beautiful idea of the books so that you can always hold on to those that were his favourite – utterly beautiful. Thinking of you #MarvMondays x

  • Reply
    My Petit Canard
    June 13, 2016 at 11:57 pm

    It sounds like you are doing exactly the right thing for you lovely. I think if I were in your position I would be the same. I wouldnt be in any great rush to get rid of things, and why should you. There is no harm in taking some things or everything with you and storing them, or evening having some of them out if that feels like the right thing to do. You have nothing but time, and personally I think it is lovely to be able to have things to remember people by and reminisce. Especially if you have children. Its lovely to have things for you to be able to give them in the future that they can have and keep and remember people by. My husband lost his father when he was very young (around 5) and to this day we have pieces in our house that were his fathers that I like to look on as little trinkets of his personality and person. Good luck with the move lovely, thanks for sharing this on #MarvMondays. Emily

  • Reply
    June 14, 2016 at 7:17 am

    I have no advice to add but I wanted to send you love. When they say ‘take each day at a time’ they mean it don’t they – it helps a bit. You’re an amazing woman Julia. PS I would totally help you move if I wasn’t in Aus 🙂 x x

  • Reply
    Adrian Roberts
    June 14, 2016 at 9:27 am

    Instinct and no regrets.

  • Reply
    Jules Pondering Parenthood
    June 14, 2016 at 11:45 am

    I think it’s a huge enough step to be leaving the house you shared, without getting rid of all your late husband’s things too. If you’re not ready to part with things yet, then don’t. Take it all with you! I wish you luck with your move. #MarvMondays
    Jules Pondering Parenthood recently posted…Mummy GuiltMy Profile

  • Reply
    June 14, 2016 at 5:12 pm

    When you ask someone what their favourite books (or films for that matter) are, I think you get an amazing insight into their personality and actually, the heart of them as a person. What a wonderful idea Julia. But yes, some of them do seem a bit on the ‘heavy’ side. I can absolutely understand why you would want to take all of your husband’s things with you. One day at a time and you do it in whatever way feels right for you. You’re amazing. x
    Suzanne recently posted…School’s Out For This Mumma!My Profile

  • Reply
    Beth @ Twinderelmo
    June 14, 2016 at 6:52 pm

    It’s a tough one. It can feel like you’re just getting rid but like everything over time you do gradually reduce. I hope all the house move stuff is going well. It will be lovely to be back close to your family. Wishing you all the luck in the world xxx

  • Reply
    Complicated Gorgeousness
    June 14, 2016 at 7:54 pm

    My mum still has my Dad’s things in his wardrobe 15 years on. There are no rules to grief.. do whatever makes you feel most comfortable with. Glad things worked out with the houses.. sometimes fate lends a hand in those big decisions. Lots of gentle hugs xxx
    Complicated Gorgeousness recently posted…This boy does bounceMy Profile

  • Reply
    Nat Halfpenny
    June 14, 2016 at 8:14 pm

    I bet you don’t know where to start. My sister passed away suddenly and her house was rented, so we had to sort through her things in the next week after. So hard to accept you probably can’t keep everything, I am quite sentimental too so now have a lot of duplicate kitchen items, lots of knives!
    Take care and what an exciting prospect, a new home!

  • Reply
    Hayley Smith @hayleyfromhome
    June 14, 2016 at 8:24 pm

    I’d take it all Julia if you’re unsure, when you are in a new space it might be easier to see the things you definitely want to keep. When my Grandad died my Nana passed a lot of his clothes onto family and friends, I think they kind of felt like they have a little piece of him too, my brother still has a red jumper of his and it makes me think of him everytime I see it. I think it made her happy too to think of it going to somebody that it meant something to. What a fabulous idea to have the book list, that will mean so much to Sam and Flo when they’re older. I might try some of his recommendations too! You must be a riot of emotions at the moment, so much happening, I hope the move goes smoothly for you xxx
    Hayley Smith @hayleyfromhome recently posted…UnexpectedMy Profile

  • Reply
    Tracey Williams
    June 15, 2016 at 11:52 am

    Julie sending you lots of love and hugs to you, as just moving within the same town is stressful enough. I am sure you will know when the time is right with Rogers things, and what a lovely and heartfelt thing to do with his list of books. I hope the move is as stress free for you all as it can possibly be x
    Tracey Williams recently posted…Activities and Dining at Q Lodges Slaley HallMy Profile

  • Reply
    Fran Back With a Bump
    June 20, 2016 at 9:33 am

    Oh wow what a beautiful post and you’re so strong. Definitely keep what you need. It can all be sorted in time #marvmondays xxx

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