What is the ultimate cure for spending? Ummm…cleaning. More specifically, de-cluttering. This long weekend we had, as usual, made no plans in advance. This left us wide open to come up with some great spur of the moment activities. Being that we have had a rough week, the two of us, short on sleep and high on stress, we couldn’t think of much. Sometimes what is needed is simply time at home.
Unfortunately, time at home means looking at things more closely, aka: the mess. So, it launched us into de-clutter mode. I have been saying for months that the next de-cluttering frontier is the garage. Oh, the garage. The bane of my hubby’s existence. When I moved to California, permanently, from Ontario Canada, I brought a lot of stuff with me. Stuff that I could not get rid of, you know, the paraphernalia of personal history. Memories, in other words. I look at those unopened boxes gathering dust and I wonder why I couldn’t face de-cluttering all of those years ago when I had a chance; when each box and the amount it contained equaled a really sizable chunk of money, all sent through the mail. The cost of memories. I had a literal cost for being unable to let go.
I’ve always been a collector, but these days I am starting to change my perspective on things. I imagine us getting old, passing away and leaving this burden of earthly possessions to the kids. Who needs that? I know for a fact that I cannot bring anything physical with me when I die. What is this need to posses? What will happen to me if I don’t have all this stuff? And most importantly, if I do get rid of something meaningful, and I do, in the future have a pang of regret…what does that do to me? Really. And what will I gain in terms of mental emotional/clarity when I don’t have all of this stuff lingering around, cluttering my life?
Ultimately, that pang of regret is a transient feeling. It will not affect who I am nor the life I am living, nor the memories I carry with me. The pangs we have for physical things, the nostalgia, it’s just that: nostalgic feelings that can be felt, observed and let go of.
I sound so confident and zen, don’t I? In actuality, this is the ultimate challenge for me. I managed to empty quite a few boxes and send some things off either to the dump or the thrift store, but there are boxes I have designated my “search my heart” boxes. I will have to tackle each and every item in them and really honestly answer the questions: do I need this? Will I use this? Is this necessary? And, most importantly, is this an item of joy or a burden? If it’s a burden, I need to let it go, no matter what it is, no matter how personally historical.
One of the hardest thing for me is photographs. What to do with this precious documentation. To destroy it seems to be sacrilege. Yet, of all the things I possess it seems to be the biggest burden. The burden of a reluctant archivist. I do not possess the interest, time, or ability to organize and store all of it properly, so it weighs on my mind. I have to ask the questions: For whom are these photos? Will these photos be viewed? Will they be of value to anyone other than myself? Do I simply need one photo or the negatives too? The negatives are the DNA of the photo, yet they are inherently set to decompose, break down which, if I’m honest, is a source of anxiety for me too (this is proof of my existence, when we are all dust, there will be no record). Until such time as they are no longer viable, what will I do with them, can I let them go?! Would the regret of letting them go eat me up inside?
When I was younger, I actually thought that perhaps, one day, I might really make something of myself. Enough so that someone might be interested in my personal history. My ego-self envisioned that all the stuff I’d collected was like my personal museum, my biography, some day, long from now, someone would find my stuff and think it was gold, would gleefully delve into it all and glean something of my personality and life, a museum could be set up dedicated to my creative life. I am laughing so hard. And I am also so sad. The death of dreaming and the onset of reality and the likelihood of a lovely yet unremarkable, decidedly non celebrity life. Don’t get me wrong:
I love my life. I am just, probably, not the stuff of legend.
So there will be soul searching and brutal honesty in my future…when I get a chance. With kids, those chances seem to be few and far between. Ultimately that might help me be more swiftly decisive and brutal.
I turn to you, my lovely community: how do you deal with your personal artifacts? What can you let go of? What do you find you must keep and why?