Some time ago I read an article, or it could have been a book, a tweet or a Facebook post…or maybe it was from a movie or a television show…nevertheless, this stuck in my mind. They posed the question, “What is on the nightstand beside your bed”?

Apparently, what is placed on (or inside) your bedside table, is a reflection of who you are…

I vaguely remember an episode of Sex in The City, where one of the characters hires a house keeper who turns out to be too inquisitive; she finds a vibrator in a drawer of the women’s bedside table and replaces it with a bible or something of the sort.

Since this question was posed, I have curiously visited the idea that, should I suddenly pass away, what would people find on or inside my nightstand?

I have no doubt that this train of thought follows a string of deaths in my family. Clearing out the contents of someone’s entire life, all while under a timeline, makes one recognize the sobering truth that you can not, indeed, take it with you.

When my father passed away he had already downsized many times, moving from a large home on a sprawling property to a much smaller garden flat. Eventually he ended up in a one bedroom apartment in an assisted living facility. He had sold off or given away most of his possessions, and his apartment was immaculate. But what did his bedside table reveal?

I was charged with the job of clearing out his bedroom. Just before his passing, he had installed a safety bar onto the side of his bed, so that he wouldn’t roll off and break another bone, as he had a tendency to do. This must have made it difficult when lying in bed to reach beside and pick up a book or a glass of water. Maybe that was why the top of his side table was uncluttered. A small, clean handkerchief was folded and placed at one corner. That was all. I pulled out the drawer.

I picked up two smooth rocks. Upon inspection, one rock had the name ‘Sing’ written on it with a black sharpie marker. On the other side of the rock was a crudely drawn picture of a cat. The next rock was the same, except the name ‘Sheba’ was written. These were mementos of my Dad’s two Siamese cats, whom he loved dearly. The sentimentality of those rocks was so unlike my father that I sat there for a long while holding them and thinking about how little we sometimes know about our loved ones.

But then, at the back of the drawer I found some things that didn’t surprise me in the least. A few condoms, a vibrator and one or two other sex related items. Oh, and a pack of viagra. The drawer wasn’t locked and they sat unabashedly inside, next to his rocks. Yes. That was my father to the end. I smiled and closed the drawer. I called to my brother in the other room to come have a look. When he glanced into the drawer, the look on his face was enough to have me burst out laughing. Getting on with business, I only found a book or two on the table’s bottom shelf. That was all.

When my mother passed away I already knew what I would find on her bedside table, simply because I was the one to organize and clean her bedroom when I would come to visit a few times a year. A small, glass lamp painted with tiny flowers sat on top of the table. Beside it was a note book with a knitted cover laying on a doily her mother had made. Inside the drawer were knick knacks, Kleenex, pens and pencils, a few special photographs, a postcard, a pack of expired Nicorette gum and an old Happy Meal toy from McDonalds from when her grandkids were small. No vibrator.

I came home from packing up my Mother’s house with a renewed sense of decluttering my own. I started with my bedside table and soon recognized that I was anything but organized. As a matter of fact, at that time, if anyone had walked into my bedroom and glanced over at my bedside table, they would have thought an invalid slept there, given the state of chaos it reflected.

I was fully well aware that my friends and acquaintances would not be traipsing through my bedroom after my time was done, but it did give me a certain motivation to tidy.

My side table has a large cupboard underneath with a door. Inside the cupboard is a shelf. The table itself is (in inches) 24wx20dx28h.

When I began the task of decluttering this table, I gave myself an hour. Three hours later I was sitting on the floor surrounded by ‘my stuff’ and wondering how it all could have possibly fit inside!

Pile #1 included birthday and Mother’s Day cards. When I receive these cards I’m not going to throw them in the recycle bin that day (thanks for the card…tossing card in bin)! So I keep them, thinking that I will toss them when a reasonable amount of time has passed…(ie: obviously years). If the card had a letter or at the very least, a paragraph of a sweet sentiment, I keep it my ‘things to keep because they are special to me’ box (or boxes as it is).

Pile #2 included special tokens from when the children were small, a collar from our 23 year old cat who had passed away 9 years before, and an assortment of journals, all of which had a few entries and then were tucked away for future musings. There was a large bag of scotch mints (guesstimating around 7 years old), 2 chocolate caramels (I don’t even eat chocolate..?), four books that I had started but never finished and a bottle of hand lotion (1/8th full, kept on the premise that if I ever ran out of lotion, I would always have at least a squirt).

Pile #3 were letters. Letters I had written to myself. Letters I had received from my children, parents, brother and a few close friends. Of course I had to re-read them all…

Pile #4 was a ‘I don’t know where to put these things’ sort of jumble. There was a carved, ornate wooden friendship box that I received 18 years ago. According to the instructions inside, the receiver (me) was to write a thoughtful note and include a small gift, then send the box away to a friend who would then send it to one of their friends, and so on. Obviously I am a shitty friend. I thought the box was lovely and for a time had it sitting out in order to admire it’s beauty. I would often think about sending it to one person or another, but that thought would pass. After a few years, the guilt of not sharing it set in, and I for some reason or another, popped it into the nightstand where my procrastination wouldn’t haunt me.

There was a box of old coins that my father had saved. A plastic jar decorated with Winnie the Pooh stickers and filled with tiny notes from my daughter about happy memories and why she loves me. A zippered pouch, which, upon unzipping it, contained a bracelet filled with 20 or so silver charms, given to me after my father’s wife passed away.

It took me four, maybe five hours to sort through everything. Keep in mind, there was a lot to read. I couldn’t possibly throw out a good letter…I sorted everything back into the nightstand and walked out with a bag of garbage along with a packet of letters to store in my ‘things to keep because they are special to me’ box(es).

So, what is on top of my night stand at present? Four different pillow sprays-because one never knows what pillow spray you would like to smell while drifting off to sleep (and because if I put them in the cupboard underneath I will forget about them). A small table lamp with a crystal hanging from it; in the morning light it casts a rainbow against the wall reminding me of the gift of a new day, everyday. A tiny, colourful crocheted bag of mystic rocks…for when I need to be mystic I guess. A re-usable water bottle. Two ceramic coasters, handmade by a longtime friend. A full bottle of lotion. A 3”x3” metal prayer box with a tiny pencil inside to write a prayer, when I feel ‘talking it out’ with God isn’t enough. And crackers. Always need to have crackers…

The inside cupboard of my nightstand is now somewhat organized. I think it would take my kids maybe a 1/2 an hour to go through. That is, of course, if they didn’t dilly dally about as I did. And why would they?

It will be a relief for them to know that there is no vibrator…in my nightstand. There are no longer old scotch mints, or excessive papers…well, maybe a few more than most. There is still a cat collar along with a small ball one of my dogs loved to hold inside her mouth and fall asleep with. There is a small wooden block with the letter N on it…I used it to teach my daughter how to spell her name when she was three years old. 

Yes, they will find odds and ends and they may never understand why I have saved certain items. They may not know where I got them or what memories are buried within these inanimate objects. But I do. And for now, these are a few things that bring me joy, not meant for anyone but me. And for now, that’s perfectly alright. 

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