I’m pretty organized and I love to dive into a project when it has the satisfying result of a clean closet, a newly organized cabinet or junk drawer. I help my parents every time I visit them; both my parents save things just in case they might one day need them (for dad, it’s an endless amount of electronics, cords, cables, flashlights, files. For mom, it’s memorabilia, decorative items and craft supplies - lots and lots of craft supplies). They are not alone; we save items for “one day” when there’s free time to do that “project,” or to just sit and go through and reminisce; free time to look back and hold tangible things that had meaning. But why do we have so many things that have to be put away in boxes only to be brought out once a year or to be saved for special occasions or saved to give to a loved one “someday?” Why do we save things that have to be unboxed and looked at to jog memories that are with us regardless of whether or not we have that “thing?” We save, store, move, and every once in awhile unbox the things we have gathered and then we box them back up again.
I was faced with my own challenge two weekends ago. I decided it was time to “unbox” an entire storage unit filled with half a household worth of items. Items I had saved from my married life – items I hastily boxed up when moving from a larger house to a smaller one. This full unit sat for three years – the exact three years it apparently took for me to get to a point where I could no longer ignore the things from my old life. The theory is that if I ignored it, I wouldn’t have to face the facts that (a) I saved too many things and (b) I’d have to go through items that represented the dreams I had from the life I had to let go.
Before I went to the unit, I did not think I saved too many things. I fooled myself because I was organized about the things I saved. I neatly stored them in labeled bins. No clutter … but way too many bins! The reality of how much stuff I had smacked me in the head when the U-Haul I rented was full and the movers had to use their truck to finish loading. How could this be? I had lived perfectly fine for THREE YEARS WITHUT ANY OF THOSE THINGS! I thought I had saved things that were important. The Radio Flyer red wagon I pulled my boys in when they were toddlers (now 17 and 14) and boxes of their drawings, Cub Scout books, baby clothes, baby books, blocks, and so much more! I had boxes filled with decorative items and glasses, old dishes, files from work 20 years ago and files from homes four homes ago! While some stuff was and is sentimental, I was able to see that it was just that – stuff. My boys did not want their Radio Flyer red wagon, nor did they want their handprint artwork adorned with feathers that looked like a turkey. I took pictures of some favorites and threw away the boxes. I had a garage sale and saw joy when a new aunt bought the red wagon for her nephew and how happy a mother was to buy the little step stool I had saved that would now help her daughter reach the sink to brush her teeth. I got rid of the ice cream maker I no longer used and the bins and bins of holiday decorations. I knew it was ok to let those things go. I don’t need things to bring me joy. I need my people, my memories, my experiences and connections to bring me joy. I know that I most definitely have enough.
I kept the photos and a few other items but I let go of the things that did not need to take up physical or mental space. It feels good to move on without a storage unit full of “stuff” I don’t need and to know that it’s not the things that make me happy, it’s the people I thought I was saving those things for. Often times, holding on is easer than letting go, but letting go makes room for new dreams and it feels so good!
Just don’t ask me about my shoes….