Friday, January 5, 2007

It's So Hard to Let Go

Decluttering and organizing puts you face to face with your flaws and mistakes. It is amazing what goes through your mind as you contemplate whether each item should stay or go. Rationalizations abound. You find yourself thinking:

It might come in handy someday.
I paid a lot of money for that, and it still might be useful.
I shouldn't give it away; I should sell it.
So-and-so could use that.

...and so on.

They are all ways to avoid looking at the past - and what might have been mistakes - square on. We packrat because we fear another Great Depression; why else would anyone hoard plastic bags and twist ties? We keep gifts that weren't quite right because not keeping them seems disrespectful to the giver. We keep silly things, like the half empty bag of corn pasta that no one liked, because there are starving children in this world. Keeping or tossing the pasta doesn't change that fact, however we feel more virtuous if we at least appear to not be wasting food.

Most of all, we keep things because we spent money on them. They represent time needed to earn the money. They represent ideas and dreams that we had. Giving them up feels like acknowledging failure, either in the buying or the non-use.

We live in a world of eBay and Craiglist. All of our possessions must have some value to someone. Selling the items makes us feel better about having bought them in the first place. At least we got something back. To me it means we are too attached to money. What if our house burned down and we had to start over? What would we miss the most? What couldn't be replaced? I'd be happy first of all to have my family safe, and my dog, and to be lucky enough to have saved pictures. Everything else - the Le Creuset pots, the guitars, the craft items, our clothing, CDs, our furniture - everything else could be replaced.

Honestly, I don't have much patience with eBay. Papa likes to list and sell things, but sometimes we don't even break even after fees, package costs, and shipping. At the same time, I have a hard time giving valuable items to thrift stores. I want to find someone I know to pass my junk to. I imagine that if someone I know can use it then the money wasn't ill spent.

The harsh reality is that I have spent too much money all my adult life. Luckily it is no longer tied to credit card debt, but we still have too much stuff. It isn't simple, and I need to get rid of it. Still, there is this nagging fear. What if I give away all of the Creative Memories stuff I don't use, and then decide that I could have used it after all. Why am I not a good tightwad, finding a use for all of the things I don't like? What if I give away the BOB books and the boys decide they like them (even if I don't)?

I try to imagine living with my family in a small cabin, with just a few possessions. I am sure I would be happy, because possessions aren't what I need. I need the man I love, and the two children I gave birth to and am raising with him.

The emotional baggage is what ties me down. The character flaw of overspending, of spending and not saving. The albums I thought I would create. The hundreds of dollars that I would be forfeiting if I give it all away. Dreams gone...yet dreams I don't dream anymore.

I am a different person. I still like to rubber stamp, but the designs are simplified and I will probably never use embossing powder again. I want to scrapbook, but I really doubt I'll ever make fancy corners or cut pictures into stars and hearts. I will never use an idea from a Creative Memories idea book. In truth, I never did, and I bought 3 of the damn books!

I will not throw a birthday party worthy of Meredith Brokaw of Penny Whistle fame. I don't need to look at the Breyer horses I collected when I was a young teenager. My life will not be incomplete if I never make another paper casting.

Somehow, I need to find peace, and to let it go. To acknowledge that I have changed; my interests are not the same, and I have learned not to spend quite so foolishly. To know that it was a journey, finding out who I am, and one that I am still on.

I need to let go of the idea that any of it is worth anything. Maybe it is. Maybe Papa will actually sell a few things, but most of it needs to be donated. Keeping something because it cost a lot of money never actually makes sense.

My MIL and I talked about this last night. She was saying that she burned the candles the boys made her rather than hanging onto them as relics. It seemed smart to me; Papa's grandmother always said not to give her a candle she wasn't supposed to burn. Likewise, we've started using the sterling silver at least once a week. I love it, and it is stupid to not use it because it is special, or even because it has to be washed by hand. How ridiculous to not use it; then to have someone inherit it and not use it because it was Mom's silver, or Grandma's silver, or Great Aunt Kimberly's silver. No one knowing, of course, that I bought it at an antique store for $300, which was less than it's melt value. It wasn't inherited, it wasn't a wedding gift. I wanted silver, and I exchanged money to get it. Perhaps someday someone will be happy to get it, but I want that to be because I used and loved it and not just because I owned it!

You see, that's the flip side of packratting and hoarding; having things we love and not using them because of fear. What if we use the china and a plate gets broken and then we only have 7? Heck, I know people who won't wear their jewelry for fear of being mugged; and what is the point of having it then?

Really, we should only have what we love and find useful and/or beautiful, and likewise we should use it. We should get rid of everything else. If only it were that easy....

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