April 28, 2019: Decluttering: The Fine Art of Letting Go and Holding On
“All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.”-– Havelock Ellis
We made a commitment in January, to begin the process of decluttering and organizing our household. When we sold the home we had lived in for 17 years in 2014, our intention was to only bring things to the new house that had meaning, practicality and of value to us. It was going to be a fresh start to have an organized and functional home.
But there was a glitch in the sale. Our buyer sold his house and had to move in three weeks, which meant we had to move as well. As a result, we literally piled our belongings into boxes and moved into our new home. Add the fact that both my husband and I are creative beings who have a hard time letting go of things, after five years, the basement and spacious garage were overfull. Our boxes stayed unpacked and as new things were brought in, the spaces became over-cluttered and a disaster zone waiting to happen.
While we were able to organize the main parts of our home, the basement and garage were a daunting task. The biggest obstacle in getting rid of an object was the “what if” dilemma. What if I: will need something? What if I will miss it? What if can use it in a future project., etc. All these questions turned into roadblocks for the process of letting go. We’d begin to get started and then get easily dismayed and distracted. It was too easy give up. We were stuck in a mess of our own making and knew we needed help.
This past week, we brought in the reserves, in the shape of a friend Mary, who is super organized, practical minded and a whirlwind of activity. Her time was valuable, and it meant we had to be committed and focused.
It wasn’t easy, eliciting a variety of emotions from frustration (too much stuff), nostalgia (memories) to remorse (pieces ruined). Some decisions to let go were emotionally difficult. For me, it was the materials and resources I had created over 25 years in the classroom. Even though I’ve been out of public school six years, I had kept artifacts and materials from teaching units to research for my Master’s degree. My collection of children’s books alone filled three bins but had sat forgotten and unread.
But as Mary reminded me, I’m in a new chapter in my life. What do I want or need now? That question helped both us to focus and make critical choices. We sorted and chose four options: donate, throw out, repurpose or save.
After two days, we have carted out two van loads to the dump and donation centers. There are 20 empty tubs stacked in the garage and you can walk through both the places without worry of some type of physical injury. I feel as if I can breathe again.
The children’s books? I’ve kept the ones I cherish and love, moved them out of the dark basement and now they are displayed on a bookshelf to read and share with my grandchildren.
We still have a ways to go; boxes of photographs, children toys, etc., but are motivated by the results we see. We’re letting go of things we no longer need or want, and holding on to the ones that have meaning, purpose or value in current chapter of our lives..