In one way or another, most of us are influenced by, carried by, identified by, hindered by, or inspired by our past. It is amazing how big a hold it can have on us. This is evidenced by collections, albums, closets, basements, shelving, cabinets, garages, storage units, and even a compartment in our brain full of stuff! We are attached to our stuff because it is all we have of our past OR because it might be needed in the future. Neither past nor future exists. Think about that for a moment. We are living in this moment, and we have this moment ONLY; yet we conduct ourselves as if the past and future are who and what we are.
It seems that with each place I have lived, I have brought there from the last place, all of my stuff. Then, I continue to collect more. If I don’t know what to do with something, I, literally, « shelve it »…why? Because I have space and, I think, time, to put it away for some later date when I can decide what to do with it. Often, it is our children who end up having to do something with it, because we run out of time – the time we always think we have…until we don’t.
The decision of mine to go live in France has brought this issue of stuff front and center. Going to live in a foreign country means that you either get rid of everything, or put it in storage in case you come back, and it is a rare person who moves their stuff across an ocean. This has forced me to purge, purge, and purge some more. I am moving from a 3-4 bedroom home to a small furnished apartment in France. How much do I want to keep IF I might need it, and IF my children might want it? And how much do I want to pay to store it, especially if I don’t come back?
It’s been over a year since I began the process of « letting go. » The fun part has been finding homes for things I thought someone else might want. I have met many wonderful people through Facebook’s « Marketplace »; I have found a gallery that would love to have a piece of artwork that had belonged to my mother; and I took my father’s McDonogh school uniform to the alumni office who will use it during tours of the school to parents and prospective students, to name a few examples. I have sent dozens and dozens of boxes of clothing, bric-a-brac, kitchen things, books, etc., to charities who have picked up from my front porch. I will be selling or having auctioned most of my furniture, and farming out my mother’s art to friends and family who will keep it for me.
While I have not read the now famous book by Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I think I could write my own. That might be a good post for another time. Let me say, though, that it has been a part of this life change I am making, to embrace the letting go, to experience the grief of it, and then to recognize that in the letting go of something, we re-experience, or maybe experience for the first time, the true value of that thing, or memory, or memento. We acknowledge the value that it held for us at one time, how it served our life in some way. If it still serves, or as Marie Kondo suggests still brings us joy, then by all means keep it. And if its service to us is done, then we can take a deep breath, make a deep bow to what was, and let it go.