I'd started a blog post on Death a few months ago, but said no...that's too dark, don't go there on a public forum.
Then July happened.
Uncle Phil, gone.
Kelly, a high school friend, gone.
Uncle John, gone.
So we're talking about death, decluttering and our past. I promise they are related.
A few months ago I started going through the last of the sentimental stuff I'd been holding on to, snug in my parent's shed for 18 years, not bothering anyone. Except me. It was always on my mind, taunting me, calling my a hypocrite. I mean, how can I tell you to downsize your sentimentality when mine loomed large?
Oh man, you guys. This was hard. So hard. I sorted and cried, cried and sorted, and called an organizer friend to come hold my hand (yes, we ALL need help sometimes). And then I cried some more and let some more go.
Why these tears?
Why do any of us get upset over letting this stuff go?
Why do we hang on so tightly?
Why is it so damn hard?
What do we gain by boxing up our past selves and putting them on a shelf?
This is what I came up with:
We hang on so tightly, I hang on so tightly, because the future is unknown. Because the past has been cast in the rosy glow of perfection. Because it served me to box up some feelings and not look at them for a long while. Because if I let go of my past stuff, I'm letting go of my past self. Letting go of the people who gave and saved this stuff for me. Letting go of me.
Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong!!!!!
Of course we can't erase the past. It's sewn into our cells like a million little diamonds of remembrance. It's in our laughs and our sighs. It's in the wrinkles on our skin and the smile on our face. Or maybe the tears on our face. It's there, always.
But I think our past self that lives within is us is begging us to let down our load. Our boxes. Our storage units. Our piles. Begging to be remembered, not with exhaustion and anger from dragging it with us, but with truth. It was what it was, no less, no more. It's not coming back, it can't be recreated. Our past is what made us, but that past doesn't reside in the stuff, it resides in us.
Even so, I couldn't get rid of all of it and that brings me to....death.
Because here's the thing, I wanted some of this stuff as a record that I existed and achieved, saw and conquered. Why else do we really keep things other than to keep ourselves and our loved ones alive. But at what cost? The angst and overwhelm of keeping, sorting, cleaning, preserving started to cost more than the emotional cost of letting go. I fantasized about torching the lot of it.
Death is the final declutterer. It doesn't care that I kept everything. It doesn't care about my past. It doesn't care about your storage unit or my shed. We really can't take it with us. Uncle Phil had very little, yet we kept even less, a few items each to remember him by. Kelly's husband is planning the garage sale and Uncle John's husband is planning to downsize. They will each keep their favorite items of remembrance, but no one wants the bulk of our stuff.
With that in mind, I'm working on a "highlights reel". A small box or two that may actually bring my loved ones a smile through their tears, rather than a garage full that will just exhaust and overwhelm them, should I depart this mortal coil. Hell, it might even bring me a smile or two when I'm 80 and forgetful, sitting on the front porch, reminiscing.
What about you? Do you want to live in the past? Constantly upset and exhausted? Sorting and organizing and trying to keep up some facade of what your life should look like? Hanging on to a past that overwhelms you (and your loved ones)?
Or do you want to join me, make a highlights reel and let the rest go. See what our life actually is? Today. Now. To spend our time on our passions and joys, not on our pasts and regrets, our legacy of mere stuff?
I choose less.
I choose now.