Letting go

by Rebecca Bricker on January 15, 2012

As New Year’s resolutions loom large, so do the storage bins at Target – have you noticed? Come January, storage bin makers bank on the resolutions we make to clean closets and get organized.

But before you stock up on bins, ask yourself two questions: Will I remember what’s in that plastic tub a year from now? Will I care?

I’ve become hard-hearted when it comes to saving STUFF.

When I sold my lovely home in 2008, I had stacks of STUFF. Closets, cupboards and cabinets filled with STUFF. I had lived in that house for 22 years. When you haven’t moved in more than 20 years – even 10 – there’s a lot of STUFF to deal with.

By the time I moved to Italy the following year, I had gotten rid of more than half of everything I owned. I can’t tell you how good that felt.

I admit there were moments during my purge when I felt my heart catch in my throat.

Before I left for Italy, I decided to scale down from two storage units to one. That meant getting rid of most of my furniture. The heart-catching moment was when I saw four chairs on a dolly about to be loaded on a truck headed for a charity consignment shop. Those four chairs represented chapters of my life: the rocking chair that my parents had rocked me to sleep in as a baby and where I had rocked my own son to sleep; the oak press-back chair I sat on as a young girl while doing my homework at my desk (which was already on the truck); a bentwood Amish rocker I had purchased on a trip to Pennsylvania; and a French-made reclining patio chair where I used to relax in my garden.

Letting Go

After I took this cell-phone photo of the four chairs, I walked over to the rocker from my childhood and gave it one last gentle push.

Let go, move on, I told myself. It’s just STUFF.

In all this purging, I sensed the risk of donor’s regret, of realizing in a year that I’d tossed out a precious keepsake – like my Paul McCartney doll. So I filled a tote bag with small treasures – each with a memory of a special person, place or phase of my life. Inside:

  • my beloved Paul
  • a 1910 Baby Ben alarm clock
  • three hand-painted cigales from Provence
  • a silver teaspoon set from New Zealand
  • an elegant Persian pencil box
  • a blue-glass vase that belonged to my mother’s mother
  • a blown-glass paperweight that belonged to my father’s mother
  • my son’s furry best friend from childhood – a pink Walrus named “Wally”

I should mention that Wally escaped the tote bag before it went into storage and showed up in one of my duffel bags when I arrived in Italy. He’s now writing his own book. 😉










Viki Noe January 15, 2012 at 12:19 pm

OMG, I had that doll, too! God only knows what happened to it, because my Dad was big on getting rid of stuff (even if it wasn’t his). Some stuff does have meaning and non-monetary value (although my ticket stub from seeing the Beatles in 1966 is worth at least $1,000 – go figure). Most of my stuff is photographic, so I’ve scanned much of it and put it online. Otherthings belonged to people I love, most of whom are long dead. It’s tough, this de-cluttering thing, isn’t it?

Rebecca Bricker January 15, 2012 at 12:46 pm

You saw the Beatles? WOW! Put that ticket stub in the tote bag!

Kathleen Pooler January 15, 2012 at 12:51 pm

Rebecca, This post really gives me pause to consider how I would handle getting rid of most of my “stuff”. I think letting go happens in stages and when I do sift and sort in my attempts to declutter, I do feel less burdened. But to do what you did, let go of so many “things”, seems an act of true grit!

Rebecca Bricker January 15, 2012 at 12:59 pm

That rocking chair appeared in my dreams after I moved to Italy. Letting go isn’t easy!

Sarah McKee January 15, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Ha! Once I finish with the Library Board — Wednesday, 4 April, at approximately 5:10 p.m., the moment they elect a new President — that’s what I’ll be doing. Am no photographer. Plan to start giving some family things to the younger ones in the family. Then, there are those souvenirs that I bought in Russia in about 1982 and haven’t looked at since, and goodness knows what else.

Thanks, Becky, for the inspiration!

Rebecca Bricker January 15, 2012 at 11:55 pm

I think you could have fun with this. When you don’t have the pressure of moving or selling a house, you can take your time and enjoy the process. Every day will be a new adventure – sort of like time traveling. When you open those souvenirs, you’ll be back in Russia, 1982. Let me know what you unearth.

Thom Parrott-Sheffer January 20, 2012 at 7:51 pm

I think I would need a three-way system. Tubs for valuables (things of worth – monetary or memory), tubs for things that I want to keep for now, and throw away tubs for things I should have gotten rid of years ago. Then there are the tubs in my mind and heart, the keepsakes of things long gone in reality, but so vivid in remembrances. Thanks for offering me the occasion to visit those tubs.

Pat January 22, 2012 at 5:43 am

Oh Becca I used to moved about every 2 years, so I was forced to get rid of junk. Now that I have been living in the same house in Switzerland for over a decade, stuff is piling up. I know I just have to get started, but every object triggers a memory and then I become lost in time!

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