The Stuff We Leave Behind

My Dad was a pack rat and we always knew that he had a lot of stuff.  However, it was organized so well that sometimes it was hard to tell his life was overflowing with stuff.

He had a tool for anything that needed fixing and he was always the one to call when I needed help with fixing anything. After his death it took me months to stop saying “We should just call my Dad, he can fix it.”

One year for Father’s Day I went to the mall and I had this hat made for him. When he died I made sure to ask my Mom if I could have it.

Bill Winston's Hat


The months after his death were filled with heartbreak. Having to go through his stuff was the worst feeling. I felt guilty, like I was doing something wrong.

It was weird standing in his office without him there; it was like he just disappeared. Sticky notes remained on his desk reminding him of upcoming appointments and website passwords.

His office was full of knickknacks and memories.

The whole time I was helping my mom clean it out I expected him to come walking in and get mad at us.

In the garage he had a workshop set up with tools that ranged from being antique to fancy new ones that he bought before his death.  He had four Craftsman tool chest and workbench full of tools as well as countless tool boxes, jars of nails, cans of paint and so many screwdrivers that I lost count.

We gave out some of his treasure to family members and held garage sales to find new owners for his tools.

Bill Winston Garage

In addition to his collection of tools in the garage he also had an office full of technological memories. I think that he kept the majority of it because it was neat to be able to look back on it and remember when you had to use thirty-five 3 1/2″ floppy disks to install Microsoft Word.

My Dad saw a lot of advancements in technology during his lifetime and he seemed to keep a little reminder of each advancement in his office. While cleaning out his office we found blank floppy disks, CD Roms, tape cassettes, VHS tapes and records.

Bill Winston Office


One of the most treasured items from my Dad’s collection is a still in perfect working condition reel to reel player. Along with it we found numerous home movies that were actually my grandfather’s.

There were many home movies in the collection of family gatherings during the 1960’s. But for me, the most cherished footage is from Disneyland during the 1960’s.

When I found it, I cried and cried.

My Dad and I shared an intense love for Disneyland and I feel like this was a present that he left behind for me. I had no idea that these films even existed while he was alive. I am sure that if he had shown them to me when he was alive I would have appreciated seeing the footage.  However, finding it after his death somehow makes it a wonderful treasure.

Reel to Reel Bill Winston

Disneyland 1964

When I showed this footage to my 9-year old, she wanted to know why everyone at Disneyland was dressed up in fancy clothes.  It looks like it is Dapper day at Disneyland in this clip.  =D


While cleaning out his office and garage I was thinking about my own life and what will happen to my collection of stuff when I die? I know it’s morbid but that is how my mind works now. For a split second I thought that I should go home and clean up my office a bit and toss out any unnecessary paperwork.

Then I started thinking about everything else I own, what about my clothes, makeup and my personal belongings. What will happen to all of that stuff? My girls will no doubt keep some of it for themselves but I am sure the rest of it will be donated.

Death has taken my brain on a wild trip these past six months. It has me up at night, unable to sleep and thinking about stupid things like – what will happen to my Disney treasures or my books? Will anyone in my family keep them, will they trash them?

Have you ever wondered what will happen to your stuff when you die? This certainly wasn’t a thought that crossed my mind before; but now that I have experienced a death like this my mind wanders.

What suggestions do you have for people who have loved ones that have passed, what can they do with the stuff that is left behind? One great suggestion I read about was to turn a loved ones t-shirts into a blanket or quilt. I wish I would have read that before my dad’s clothes were donated to Goodwill.

I’d love to hear your suggestions, just put a comment below in the box.

About Dawn

Dawn is a social influencer and has been writing about her nerdy side since 2004. She enjoys writing about Entertainment, Travel, Disney, Star Wars and life with two little girls. Her advice is to keep on dreaming, do what you love and life will lead you a path to your happiness. Dawn also writes for 5 Minutes for Mom.


  1. Aunesty Janssen says:

    What an amazing find! I can’t imagine how this post was to write for you, but you can feel the love for your father in it. Thank you for sharing your new treasure with us.

  2. Julie Bigboy says:

    My mom dealt with quite a few of my dad’s things before he passed, donating them as needed. After a while he didn’t need many clothes or even his shoes. I love the idea of a quilt but we didn’t think about that either. I think a collage box (they sell them at the craft stores) with treasured mementos would be a good idea to keep small things that remind you of him.

  3. Anna Swartz Burch says:

    Dawn, that was great to read. As my parents get older (Dad turns 70 tomorrow) I wonder what will happen when they pass and I have to deal with all their “stuff”. Mom is a hoarder of sorts and my dad has a similar shop, full of wood-working tools and OLD tools, bolts, etc. that my grandfather brought here from Maine. I try to listen to every story about every nut and bolt, but there is so much. Slowly, Dad is giving me things already that seem important to our family history (things he doesn’t plan on using anytime soon) and that have special stories attached. He gave me my grandfather’s lunch basket he carried to the paper mill every day. Tons of old family photos and my grandparents wallets. I try to write things down, but it gets very overwhelming. My great-aunt passed away a couple years ago. She would have been 100 this past August. She was the keeper of the family knowledge on that side. I wish I’d had more time to record HER stories. Mom won’t relinquish anything from her side of the family. The hoarder side of her doesn’t allow that. I dread dealing with her “stuff”. Most of it is craft and office supplies. Dad is having her clean things out in doses she can handle, but oy!
    My husband’s great aunt passed away two years ago. She had kept a lot of his great-uncle’s things. He was famous in the computer world (the Hamming Code) and taught at the local Naval Academy there in Monterey. When my mother-in-law had to go through their estate (their only heir), she had to decide what to do with many of their things. Much of it was donated to the school – books, papers, photos, etc. They even took his horrible plaid jacket that he was so well known for and put it up in a display. Not everyone can be honored like that, in a museum of sorts, but it would be nice to know that someone other than myself appreciated all the things I found interesting and collected in my life.
    Mostly, for myself, I worry about people having to go through my underwear drawer. I must remember to throw out the pairs that are a bit too worn. What would people think? 😉

  4. Anna Swartz Burch says:

    Also! LOVED that clip of Disneyland! Dapper Day, every day back then. 🙂

  5. There is never one right answer. My father’s one request was to give me his most prized possession, his service medals. They are still in the same frame he used and displayed in our house. When my mother-in-law died her children took what they wanted and then I was offered to take anything. A few pieces of her precious jewelry were saved to pass down to my boys when they get older. The rest was sold or given away. It is a part of life, even as difficult as it is. Your father left you an amazing gift with the video. From your words it is easy to see you cherish what he focused his attention on and continue to honor him now.

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