Oh The Places You’ll Go (and the Stuff You’ll Lug Around)

July 10, 2016

I’ve always been a keeper of things, sentimental and guilt-prone. Here’s a brief tour of how it’s manifested itself:

Kid years:

Each summer my mom would load us 4 kids up in the family car (for much of my childhood that was a station wagon – yay for rear-facing seats!) and head toward her hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She would pack food and camping gear enough for the 3-5 days we might take to make the 16 hour drive, exploring Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota along the way. My sister and I were marveling recently at her pluck to do so. She would set up a campsite by herself (at best we might’ve helped a little bit), cook dinner and breakfast over the camp stove, plan out the day’s adventures, then load the car inside AND OUT [using a tarp, not a fancy roof storage doohicky], and repeat the next night. On these vacations we were often at visitor’s centers, KOA’s, and tourist attractions which = free brochures and pamphlets. Because we didn’t have a lot of money for souvenirs we collected these printed materials as trip keepsakes. And I kept all of them. I kid you not. Even the commercial ones advertising expensive tours and things we hadn’t done. I kept every Sunday School handout (shout out to Betty Barrett, the world’s most dedicated Sunday School teacher), and every card, letter and note I ever received. I kept signs friends made for my locker, ticket stubs of all kinds, notes from church, every class, all my school and homeschool projects. I kept sentimental gifts even after their use or likeage (word? No? Too bad) ran out. Oh, and I accumulated things for my “hope chest” anticipating marrying and keeping my house much sooner than I have (he and I still haven’t found each other).

Fast forward to the 20’s:

I still kept pretty much all handouts from school and church. I still kept every card including polite thank you’s and cards with just signatures. Shoot, I think I even kept the birthday cards that State Farm sends to their customers. Not joking! I still collected ticket stubs and event programs, and every notebook that had any sort of class notes in it. I developed a love of thrift shopping and bought too many clothes (new and used) that I shouldn’t have afforded AND didn’t look great on me and ended up in boxes under my various cinderblock-raised beds – at BYU, even my post-college houses. I had a hard time passing up books I wanted to someday read or get rid of books in the same category and amassed pounds and pounds of books. When I’d return to my Montana home and the parent’s house for school vacations or summers I would occasionally stay up way too late poring over childhood and high school memorabilia, glad I’d kept it.

Then sometime in my early 30’s:

My mom let me know she was going to send my boxes of keepsakes and memorabilia and hope chest items. I was officially being kicked out of the nest, so to speak:) I ended up with 6 or so large and heavy cardboard boxes with lots of my… stuff. I did pare it down a bit but then stashed the rest of it in the storage (aka Black Hole) area of my basement apartment. When I took off on my Grand Tour of the Western States I had to decide what to do with such things. A lot of them came with me, crammed in my CRV whilst a box or two stayed in the storage closet I rented. Five moves later I approached these boxes and a lot of my other previously important stuff with merciless vengeance. The keepsakes and possessions had very literally been items to be lugged around and I’d done very little interacting with them in that year. It seemed to take reaching a point of “enough is enough” to be able to go thru these and purge mercilessly. I still have plenty of “stuff” in my life and have sentimental notes and objects, I just have much fewer of them. And the practicality of getting rid of the ones that were either donated, recycled or thrown away somehow alleviated the guilt and sentimentality that motivated me to pack them up and pack them around for so long.

So, what are you hanging on to out of guilt or sentimentality that has long since served its purpose? I double-dog dare you to have a weekend of having the best kind of good-bye party and give yourself permission to get rid of even (gasp!) potentially useful items. You might want to fortify yourself by reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. While I don’t abide by all her suggestions it’s good stuff and can only help you on your way to loving living with less stuff.