As I dive into radically simplifying my life to create more true freedom, I decided my next step was to tackle my storage area downstairs. We pretty much live upstairs in our two-story house, and use the downstairs only to visit the laundry room or to prepare the guest rooms for visitors.
There is a lovely large living-room-sized area that most would use as an entertainment room, but we don’t watch TV and only rarely have time for movies these days, so it goes largely unused by us…except for the space I take up with storage.
There are boxes and boxes of books down there (and more in the small storage-cottage in the backyard that needs to be fixed up still). There are also bottles of potions and herbs and tinctures. Tubes of lotions and creams and samples I’ve received over the years. Layers and layers of clothes that I haven’t used in months, maybe years…All tucked away for “just in case” moments, or to “maybe give someone to use when they’re visiting.”
There’s old mixed tapes given to me by high school boyfriends, exquisitely written love letters that I received in my 20s, photos of when I thought I looked particularly hot when I was 13 and had big hair. Birthday cards, ticket stubs from trips to Paris and Istanbul, notes from my father who passed away in 2008.
And in my process of simplifying, I admit that it is very, very hard to decide what to let go of. Isn’t an exquisite love letter worth holding on to? But what am I really holding on to? Am I holding onto the idea that someone actually loved me that way, just in case I feel unloved – or worse, unlovable – someday?
What about the memory of the person that wrote me the birthday card, or the images that ticket stub from my first Turkish bath experience brings up?
And my books…I LOVE books. When I moved up to Alaska, so much of my U-Haul was filled with books. That was probably dumb, as I likely could have bought all those books again for the same price it cost me to create room for them in a larger U-Haul. But the reality is, I have a connection to those books. I held them. I took notes in them and dog-eared the pages. I had major ah-has and joys and new ideas and adventures that came from them. It was worth bringing them up. And the scent…ahhhh the scent of my books…
But check out the mess all these “memories” creates. And this is just my downstairs storage area after I’d already been at it a few hours! I was so caught up in getting going, I forgot to take a true “before” photo, when the boxes where stacked 4-5 boxes high and I was trying ti “hide” them with a Guatemalan cloth draped over the top. Grant it, it is a bit more messy because I unpacked several of the boxes, but you can get an idea of the amount of “stuff” down there. Zoiks!
There are even more boxes out back. They stack 4 high as well, some super heavy with books, others with pillows and picture frames and potpourri sachets…
I was able to sift through about half this stuff in an afternoon and set aside a bunch of things for the thrift shop or consignment or the garbage can. But it’s the small things – the letters, the ticket stubs, the cards – that I struggle with letting go of.
One thing I have to remember is this: letting go of the thing doesn’t mean letting go of the memory. I think at times we worry that if we let go of something, we may even forget the memory of how good it felt, or the joy.
But the reality is, that memory is always there. The “thing” can be a trigger for the memory, but if we held onto things for each memory we wanted to have, our lives would look way messier than even my downstairs storage area.
Of course, there are some things worth holding onto for the memory it jogs – like the notes from my father that bring a sweet tenderness to my heart.
But the old love letters? I don’t really need those anymore. I wish there was a place we could send good love letters when we were ready to let go of them, so that they can be appreciated by others, though…
There’s also a lot of other things I am ready to release, even though they make me feel good when I think of the memories they bring up.
I am learning that letting go involves a deep sense of confidence and courage. In order to let go, I need to trust and know that I would be able to create that once again in my life, if and when I should need it again.
When I let go of an old love letter, I have the confidence that I can call in love like that into my life again should I need to. When I let go of a ticket stub up the Eiffel Tower, I have the confidence I can go back there whenever I would like. When I let go of a sweet birthday card, I have the confidence that there will be many more of those to come.
Ultimately, in order to let go, I need to believe that I am lovable, worthy, and capable of manifesting whatever I wish.
No wonder this shit is so hard to do!
I’ve come up with a few questions I’ll ask myself as I make these decisions:
1) Is the energy I receive from this thing received on a regular basis? If not, how often?
2) Is the energy I receive more than the energy I put into holding onto this thing – whether energy in the form of physical space in my life, mental or spiritual energy, money, or time?
3) Am I holding onto this because I am afraid I would not be able to manifest the type of memory it creates in me again? If so, I need to seriously consider letting go and instead working on my confidence, courage, and manifesting the feelings and life I want in the present moment.
4) Am I holding onto this because I am afraid I will forget the memory it stirs? This alone is not a reason to let go of something, but it is a point of reflection to begin an honest discussion with yourself about the reasons behind holding onto it.
I’m hoping these questions will continue to help me clear out the clutter. They have been super helpful so far!
Do you have other questions to add to this list? Do you have similar experiences to share? Please let me know below – I’d love to hear it!
Note: This is one post in a year-long series about me committing to radically simplifying my life over the next year. To see where it began, click here. You can read additional Simplify 365 posts by heading to the Blog.