As we go through life, we accumulate stuff. Most of us save things just in case we may need them sometime, even though the sometime never arrives. Sentimental items are hard to part with, though we know we should.
Nine years ago, we moved my mother from her Bountiful condo to a lovely extended care facility aptly named “Welcome Home.” As we finished the arduous task of sorting which items the family wanted and what would be given away, we were left with a closet containing photo albums, genealogy records and other stuff.
We didn’t want to take the time to sort through it for fear that, in our hurry, we would throw something valuable away. My brother Bob said, “Let’s just take the boxes to my garage, and we’ll get together soon to sort through it all.”
Nine years later, his wife Peggy teasingly threatened to send it all to the dump. Who would blame her? We guilty procrastinators agreed on a day to meet at my brother Val’s home where we finally sorted the stored treasure.
It didn’t take that many hours. We all went home with assignments, which were mainly scanning pictures and documents one by one and figuring out how to share them. Let’s hope we all have another nine years to finish.
Because of my experience with clearing out my mother’s important things, I determined to also tackle my own so my children won’t need to.
Our home in Connecticut had an attic and a basement. These were both easy spaces to shove boxes into and then quickly forget or not care about what was in them. Why not put off until tomorrow what you really don’t want to do today.
When we moved, I got rid of a lot of stuff, but I still brought plenty of it along to Utah where I found new spaces to stash it. I was in my early 60s then, and felt I still had all the time in the world. Now, 13 years later, it’s time to “fish or cut bait.”
If we take the advice of Marie Kondo in her book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” it really is quite simple. She says “Tidying in the end is just a physical act.”
Tidying (her favorite word) involves two things. First, to look at each item one time, then decide whether to dispose or save it. Second, decide where to put it. She advises trying for perfection just once, which essentially means a place for everything and everything in its place. After that, don’t buy things you don’t need or have a place for, and keep tidying to avoid rebound.
Sounds so easy. So why didn’t I do this years ago? Why did I leave it all for a rainy day, especially when it rarely rains in Utah?
I’ll tell you why. Because I’d rather play tennis or be outside gardening than sort through stuff. And because throwing away things with sentimental meaning feels like throwing away a memory as well.
But it is time, so now I’m looking through the boxes full of reminders of why I got myself in this mess in the first place. I’m surprised to find it enjoyable reading through old letters and seeing pictures while throwing out the chaff.
There are reminders of love, laughter, hard times where we struggled, others where we succeeded, and evidence of some good times, showing that it's been a satisfying life indeed.