My Lenten commitment to throw one item away and donate one, every day, is going well! I cannot honestly say that I have paced myself and made a daily effort. It’s just not in my nature. I’ve always been a ‘go big or go home’ kind of gal, more likely to purge an entire closet or room in a day. But, there is a large trash bag in the kitchen that’s almost full and an impressive pile by the basement door, awaiting a trip to Sal’s.
What I struggle with, however, is parting with objects that have sentimental value. For example, I still have a tee shirt from my alma mater that I purchased at the college bookstore, some 40 years ago. It’s too small to wear, so it sits in a plastic bin in the basement. While cleaning out a kitchen cabinet this week, I came across a mug that my son, now 28, made for me when he was 4 or 5. And my grandson’s favorite sippy cup. The list goes on….
My compulsion to collect sentimental items was compounded early last year, when my mother passed away unexpectedly and my dad sold their home. I was in charge of cleaning the place out – Quite a treasure trove of nostalgic artifacts from my childhood, not to mention precious memories of Mom. As hard as I tried to be practical, I felt bound by some unspoken rule to uphold her desire to keep certain things. My cup runneth over… And now, so does my basement!
But the experience caused me to look at my own sentimental collection in a new way. I saw my ‘stuff’ through the eyes of my children, in the event of my untimely demise. There is just no way that they would painstakingly sort thru everything – it just isn’t a reasonable expectation. Even if they did, the value of much of what I have squirreled would be lost on them.
So, I purge. Despite my best effort, genuine intentions and actual success, my stuff just doesn’t seem to diminish. At least, not enough to satisfy me. I must be doing something wrong! Some deep thinking has gone into this dilemma recently.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
1. Material things can hold powerful memories. But, the memories will remain, even after the item is discarded or given a chance to be reused somewhere else.
2. Sentimental items that are stored away in a basement or attic have little chance of bringing joy or stimulating warm fuzzy feelings: Out of sight / Out of mind.
3. A digital photograph of an object lasts longer than I will and takes up very little room. A scrapbook, for example, fits nicely on a shelf or coffee table and can hold the memories that previously filled several boxes. They can be labeled, so even the great grandkids will know why each item is special!
Some things, of course, are worth saving. I have two beautiful quilts that my friend, Gloria, made for me, using my mother’s favorite sweaters, blouses and sweatshirts. They provide comfort as well as warm memories. My own, very first pair of booties, lovingly handmade by my Nana, will not be going anywhere. I prefer to keep them close and imagine them on the tiny feet of a member of the next generation.