A friend was telling me about how she’d visited the apartment of her godmother, who had recently died. “It was strange,” she told me. “While my godmother was alive, her apartment looked beautiful to me—it was a little shabby, but it felt well-kept, it was an inviting place. But once she died, everything seemed to fall apart. It felt grimy and dilapidated.”
This observation reminded me of something similar that I’d experienced after my grandmother died. Suddenly, all the value seemed to drain away from her possessions; useful household objects such as clothes, dish towels, and personal papers become little more than trash.
We project ourselves into our surroundings, and during our lives, we infuse our possessions with our spirit. When we die, this animating force evaporates.
Many of our possessions are valuable not because of their cost or prestige, but because of the meanings or usefulness they contain. Modest trinkets, homemade objects, worn books, old photographs, whimsical collections, the items handled every day—when the owner vanishes, we’re left with mere husks.
It’s a mysterious, startling, and transcendent transformation to experience.
If you want to read more of what I’ve written on this subject, check out my book Happier at Home.