Getting rid of stuff is rarely a matter of simply getting rid of stuff.
There is always more going on beneath the surface than meets the eye. The physical act of letting go is often not nearly as hard as the mental process of letting go. The things we own carry a history--ties to past people, places, and memories. That vase represents an argument with your mom, that letter a lost love, that sweatshirt an absent friend, that spoon the day your child ate their first food. Some of these associations bring joy. Some carry pain. Some a complex mixture of both.
Recently I had the honor of helping a dear friend purge her attic. Because of our friendship, I was aware on a personal level of the significance of clearing this space and setting it into order. There were boxes and boxes of old things, papers, notes, books, gifts, and mementos from decades gone by, some of them hard and painful seasons. But now she was ready to recognize and embrace a new season and break some ties with the past that were weighing her down. I literally watched her countenance lighten as we worked. The joy in her eyes and her voice was contagious and made me even more excited to complete the project.
Watching her also challenged me and gave me courage to go home and get rid of some things I had been hoarding too.
So a few days ago I went through my home and collected a box full of papers, notes, and books associated with a painful season from my life. I have wanted to leave that season behind, and yet I have found it hard to let go of the physical reminders of that time, as if I wanted to keep them as reference points for how much pain I suffered. As I was sifting through the papers I was tempted to turn it into a show and tell for my husband. I was also fearful that I might somehow throw something good away with all the bad and regret not having that information later. Lots of factors made this process complex. But I finally realized that if I wanted to move on and embrace I new season, I really did need to let these things go. I needed to act on what I wanted.
My husband helped me carry the box to a friend's backyard where they let us borrow their fire pit. They even helped me tear up the books and throw them bit by bit into the flames. I shed a few tears as I watched the papers curl up, turn red, and subside into ash among the hot coals. And now they are gone. I have more room in my cabinets and shelves for things that really matter to me. And more importantly these painful reminders are gone from my home, and therefore more cleared from my mind as well. I feel more released, more ready to move on.
Letting go of things can be scary.
You may think if you let go of that one item (or roomful of items) that you will no longer be allowed to grieve someone's absence, or you won't be able to remember that beautiful memory associated with that thing. But the truth is that nothing can take away our memories. We can keep those even if we let go of the stuff. And maybe, if you need to let go of a memory, letting go of the stuff will allow that memory to settle down in peace and almost be forgotten. If you need a little help with that process, I would love to be the coach, the friend, the moral support, and the lifting power behind making that happen.