Until this past weekend, I had pockets of memorabilia throughout my house. All of it was contained, nothing I considered out of hand, but I hadn’t looked at some of it in years. I decided I wanted to pull it all into one place and go through it to see what still had meaning. Key concept here: Still had meaning, not meaningful years ago.
So what did I find? I found the very first real, store-bought -from-Hallmark valentine I got from a boy in 4th grade. It gave me loads of smiles then. And I’m sure the basketball tournament ticket stub from 8th grade was once very meaningful. I’m guessing someone significant made meaningful eye contact with me at one, or maybe two, games.
What did I feel for both things now? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Why did I still have them (and more of their brothers and sisters)? Because I hadn’t looked through the spiral-bound School Record pockets since… I honestly can’t remember. Or the jewelry boxes in deep storage. Or the baby clothes I thought I had already given away.
It was great fun to do this with a friend. She brought bins of cards, letters, pictures, and we hooted with each other over some really funny stuff. We lit a roaring fire and burned some things, recycled, pitched, and packed other things for goodwill.
It wasn't easy. Some things were very sticky. When in doubt I kept some things and got rid of others. There are no right answers.
At the end of the night as we were sipping gin and tonics in front of the mound of burning ash, we thought these things were worth keeping in mind:
Of all the things we keep, I think memorabilia is the most ripe for feelings of guilt. I truly believe that we are most restored and at peace in our homes when we are surrounded by things we use or love, and we cannot be if we are keeping things out of obligation. The more we release and let go of these things, the more free we will feel, and the less sticky everything becomes.
My husband and I both enjoy cooking, so it’s easy for condiments to accumulate, hot sauces, oils, Thai flavors, you name it. I decided to go through them yet again not long ago, thinking I could make a pretty quick job of it since it hadn’t been very long. “Very” is quite subjective though, is it not? I think it had been about six months, which didn’t seem that long to me.
Once I got started it didn’t take long to find things to clear out. I was actually quite surprised that I found as much as I did (six or seven things, or so). As I shut the frig, after clearing and wiping down the door shelves, I wondered why I still had so many that either we didn’t use or had expired.
I realized that I was living in “just in case.” What if we need or want______(fill in the blank)? Also, so many of us have been taught that it’s a shame to waste food. That gets in the way, too. When I was growing up, and we were putting leftovers away, my dad would say, “Shall I throw it now or later?”
But throwing it now or later – what’s the difference? We sometimes use the crutch of wanting something to be spoiled beyond use before we give ourselves permission to get rid of it. Let’s save ourselves the guilt and energy drain and deal with it now. And maybe not buy any more condiments (or, fill in the blank) for awhile.
I opened that frig right back up and threw out three more things, things I just felt guilty I wasn’t using, and things that I was just going to throw out six months from now. Who knew what oyster sauce could teach us?