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What Do You Do With The ‘Stuff’?

What Do You Do With The ‘Stuff’? | After the Heartbreak
What Do You Do With The ‘Stuff’?
Me standing in workshop

Some people are hoarders, and some people just like to…well….hang onto stuff in case they need it one day. That was my husband Norbert. 😄 While he was in charge of his own ‘space’ he seemed to know where everything was and it wasn’t my problem. But then he was killed in a tragic accident and all of a sudden it became my problem….a BIG problem.

Read: The Day My Heart Broke

You can’t take it with you – it’s something trite that we say, however I wonder how many people think of the implications? Think about everything you’ve accumulated over the years….what would happen to all this stuff if you were to just suddenly disappear? Would your family know what is important? Do you have strong feelings about what you would like to happen with it?

Norbert never planned on leaving so suddenly and I often think that this is the difference compared to people who are grieving the loss of a partner after a long illness such as cancer. At least in this case there is the opportunity to talk through the practicalities and even pass on special items as per the dying partner’s requests. In comparison, Norbert and I never talked about what ‘should’ happen with his stuff because of course, we thought we had plenty of time. We ALL think we have plenty of time! 😏

Norbert building his workbench
Norbert building his workbench

The workshop and all it held was important to him though…that much I knew. We had relocated from Adelaide so he had packed up a shipping container with everything he needed, and brought it to our new home in Queensland. He then proceeded to build himself a new workbench in the empty space, and found homes for all his precious items.

In those horrific early days, I didn’t even think of the workshop but as kind friends offered to help me with various things around the house, they would often say “Do you have any spanners?” (Or…a drill, wall plugs, pliers, stanley knife, hammer or various watchimacallits etc etc) I could only wave vaguely at the workshop and hope they knew what they were looking for, and importantly…could find it!!


As the weeks turned into months I knew I had to do something about it. His dressing gown was still hanging behind the bedroom door…and that was fine….but the workshop quickly became an albatross around my neck as simply finding a hammer in there was nigh on impossible. Not only that, but Norbert had so much specialist engineering equipment (he was a mechanical engineer) and I would never use it. Good grief! I didn’t even know what most of it was!!!!

It was extremely important to me that Norbert’s wishes were honoured when it came to disposing of his ‘stuff’. This was problematic though as not only am I living in a regional area with limited market reach, but I have been left guessing about the ‘right’ thing to do. What would he have wanted? I knew he wouldn’t have wanted anything to go into landfill so all I could aim for was moving his tools and equipment into other workshops where they would be used and appreciated.

I was lucky that I have friends who helped by organising a garage sale. I really couldn’t have managed this by myself. On the day many people came up to me holding some obscure object and asking “What is this?” I had no idea! Because so much of it was specialist stuff even my (male) friends often needed to use Google to find an answer. 🙂

Garage Sale = Norbert’s precious ‘stuff’ spread everywhere and strangers going through it.

My message to everyone who reads this is that you should be having these conversations now with your family and those who will be left to sort things out should you suddenly ‘disappear’. I have already started making notes. For example I have some very special artworks…and some that I like but aren’t worth much. I am writing up the details including initial cost, where I purchased the artwork and some of the history and I’m pasting it on the backing board behind each of the paintings. In case I leave this world in a hurry, my family and friends will at least have some idea…and I feel assured that the items that I value will not end up in a rubbish bin behind the Op Shop.

Norbert’s workshop is now empty of all his tools and machines, and I hope he is happy with their new owners. I’ve done the best I can. I’ve saved the items which are useful to me, and also a few things which mean something to me….like his toolbelt as it brings back such lovely memories of him working on his many projects. The positive is that having a tidy space has encouraged me to use the workbench and buy a few things that are useful for my limited DIY skills.

I won’t be collecting any more ‘stuff’ as you can’t take it with you, and it is left to the grieving family to have to work out what to do. It’s so much better to collect memories and experiences. They keep you young, alive, happy and interesting…which is a much better investment.😁

Me in my tidy workshop area

Marlene is an Australian widow who has written about all the good, bad and ugly stuff that happened after her husband Norbert died tragically. Marlene responds to all comments.

  • Eunice Paschke says:

    It is so sad that so many people do not want to talk about death and grieving. They want to push this event aside as if it will never happen to them. Lothar and I talk about what we want for our funeral and have up to date wills. Our families will not talk about these events and in some cases actually walk away when the subject is brought up. This makes it very difficult and I really like your plan of writing down your wishes.
    We decided at the beginning of this year that we are going forward with our lives as if each day could be our last, making the most of every situation and not collecting things any longer. Many of the things we hold precious have no meaning to others and so collecting objects becomes less important and memories much more so.
    Thank you for your wonderful ideas, Marlene. You are a remarkable woman.

    • Marlene says:

      Its a good way to live your life….don’t collect junk, collect experiences. Thanks for your comment Eunice

  • Bruce Baehnisch says:

    Well done Marlene. It’s funny how we can get attached to “stuff” and it’s rarely got anything to do with its monetary value. BTW – I love the “before and after” photos of the workshop!

    • Marlene says:

      The workshop is quite different these days, but unfortunately I keep realising what I needed to keep as I need it now. 🙂 Oh well….I had no choice at the time because it all had to happen so quickly. Thanks for your comment.

  • Ron says:

    Hi Marlene, I was lucky enough to just be driving by and saw the sign for the garage sale. I didn’t even know it was yours until I walked in.
    I purchased a number of items of Norberts’ stuff, and when I used one of the mechanics tools to rebuild a starter-motor last week I said hello and thanked him.
    The tool did the job and made my life easier, and the memories made me smile.
    Thank you.

    • Marlene says:

      Thank you so much for sharing this! Your comment has made me smile and feel very good. Getting rid of Norbert’s stuff was a tough thing to do, and I’m so happy that the tools are not only useful, but you acknowledge who they came from. ❤

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