Downsizing—the opportunity to review lots of bad decisions. Clothing: What was I thinking? Tin bunny: Why have I kept this? And the most common combo: What was I thinking and why didn’t I get rid of this years ago?
I can handle the What-was-I-thinking part. All I need to do is look at photos of myself from the 1980’s to remember that at one time, all sorts of hideous clothing and hairdos were appealing. The difficult question is, “Why didn’t I get rid of this years ago?” or, even sadder, “Why can’t I get rid of this now?” There are so many memories attached to possessions that throwing them away feels like discarding parts of my life.
A story from my childhood: My father is standing the garage of our post World War II tract house. It is 1972 and he and my mother are moving to a new, larger house—three bedrooms, two bathrooms (what luxury!) and a family room, even though the “kids” have grown up and live in their own places. Dad is trying to clear out the accumulation of thirty years, trying to move on. But he can’t. Instead, my brother finds him holding a jar of nails, crying. He is crying for the 37-year-old who first moved to that house, full of hope and frugality, the kind of guy who would save twenty nails in a jar, just in case.
Now I am trying to clear out our basement, trying to get rid of the unnecessary items we have collected in 39 years. It’s really hard. Those blankets might be useful to my daughter, Sara, I think, except I know she already has all the blankets she needs. I choose a box of school papers from Nathaniel’s third grade class. Of course I must keep his list of “Favorite Things” that has me as Number Three, right after his favorite cousin and his dad; at least I fared better than his teacher, who came in Number Five, right behind his pet rat. [Ben, Nat’s wily older brother, would have listed the teacher as Number One in order to ensure a good grade.]
Maybe the real question is not to do with the stuff but how to handle the memories.
What do you do with your memories? Is it easy for you to downsize? Add a comment at the end of this post that I can share with others.