Thursday, February 23, 2012

perspective driven purging

When we moved two years after Jeff died, I was forced to go through many of his things. At first, it truly saddened me. I stared at the mass of accumulated items that he had kept for sentimental reasons....sometimes I scratched my head. Sometimes I cried. Often times, I was furious. Why the hell did he keep this collection of bottle caps and an assortment of baseball caps from seemingly every godforsaken place he had ever visited. I was appalled by the amount of "life dandruff" he had accrued that had no meaning to anyone who would be left behind. This "stuff" certainly wouldn't have told a stranger anything interesting about Jeff aside from the fact that he liked hockey and drank a lot of beer. I told myself that he was a bit of a pack-rat and that I would never have so much "junk".

Last week a friend of mine dropped off a trunk of mine that had been stored in her basement since a move five years ago. We hadn't been able to fit it on the moving truck or in our little house (I can't totally remember why now) and had planned to retrieve it soon-ish. Life has gone on. Our son, Briar, was born. We have since moved twice. Jeff died. The trunk was essentially forgotten.

When my wonderful and funny friend dropped off the trunk, I was at work. She left a note saying, "Jeff was not the pack-rat. You were!" I scoffed thinking, "All the stuff in that trunk is IMPORTANT! She just doesn't know...." But then I took a look inside. Sweet love of all that is good and holy. I was a pack-rat. A bad one.

That night, I removed every item from that trunk. Sorted every letter, toy, item of clothing, and set of seagull wings (yes, sea gull wings. I don't get it either). What I found was a realization that not only had I changed over the years since Jeff's death but that my ideas of importance and sentimental significance have changed dramatically.

Since cursing and sorting Jeff's stuff and realizing that much of the "stuff" has no relevance to who he was and his journey as a least from a separate person's eyes, I realize that the majority of items I have retained over the years will have absolutely no significance to anyone after I die. It will be a pain in the heart and the ass to my family, children and friends to have to sort one-eyed dolls and broken clocks when I die. But the old journals and handwritten letters from friends were interesting and certainly chronicled my life and my being.

From now on, I will turf anything unimportant. A few letters, many photos and special cards can stay. Drawings from the kids and one or two special items can stay. But everything broken, unused, or forgotten for sometime will be sent to the secondhand store or the dump. I now know that just as Jeff left everything behind, I will as well. The detritus from his life is just stuff. And mine is too.

This week, I have let go of about 75% of the stuff in that trunk. And I feel better. Lighter. And more aware of what I will leave behind and the snapshot of the person it leaves.


  1. Right there, too. In my move, I got rid of 95% of our stuff. Started fresh with new furniture and a MUCH smaller place so I just HAD to get rid of things. I even donated all his clothes and shoes. I kept a few boxes of his things I couldn't yet let go of.
    I feel lighter too. It seems like every item from "before" just stabbed me in the heart. The new things don't remind me of how much I've lost. I know how much I lost. I don't need constant reminders.
    Most of the things I KNEW I wanted to keep were pictures and cards/letters. There were a few items that felt like a betrayal to ditch, like his diploma, but I also don't feel an extreme sentimental attachment to. Those were the hardest to deal with.
    I kept trying to imagine him saying "It's just stuff. I don't need it anymore. You don't need it anymore. Let it go."

  2. My husband was the pack rat, he saved things from his parents that I have since tossed or given away. It is hard at first to purge, but gets easier when you realize you don't need it in a closet or drawer, taking up space, and only being reminded of that life when you look upon it. I wonder what my trash hauler thinks each week, it's always an interesting mix going his way! I have not moved yet, but know that day is coming, so I continue to let go of stuff.
    I purged my in-laws house of 40 years, my parents house of 50 years, and now mine. I've resolved my children will not have to do the same for me. I better get back to work!

  3. My Danny was a pack rat too.. I remember saying to him, "You need to do something with that garage" Well he would go out there look at it for awhile and come back and say "well I did" He even took our daughter out there and told her mom said I need to clean some of this stuff they stayed out there for two hours and she played the game with hm..LOL I never knew that till he passed and she shared that with Well the joke became ours, hers and mine when we had to purge the garage. We found stuff and just laughter and threw away, saying what in the world did he want with this. Now the garage is totally empty and w care making it into a different kind of storage, mine..but Im purging too. He once told me, if u go out in my garage and throw anything out I will go to your sewing room...OH NO!!!! So, my next step is my sewing room, and I know I will find "what the heck was I thinking when Ibought this?" I will let it go...I too cleaned out my husbands' mother mobile, all her crap..I don't want my girls to have to do that for me.