Hanging on to things is easy to do. You may want to reuse an item, save it for a later date, make a craft project with it, or pass it on to someone else to use. All noble causes, but sometimes all of our stuff can be more of a hindrance than a help in our lives. And sometimes it is difficult to tell what to keep and what to give away.
I will never forget how an afternoon of shopping turned into an emotional purge for a close friend of mine. We were out shopping around for bargains one day when she found a lovely set of drinking glasses for her kitchen. She mentioned on the way home that it may be difficult to find room for the new glasses in her kitchen cabinets, but I told her that I would be glad to help. When we opened her kitchen cabinets, I knew that we had a challenge ahead of us . . . but that wasn't the whole story!
We decided to take everything out of one cabinet. Now granted, she does have a large family of six, but there were a lot of glasses in that cabinet. As we started taking out each glass I noticed that none of them matched. We tried matching up two or three of them, but it was really more of a collection than a set of glassware. After we got everything out onto the countertop, we started looking at the glasses one at a time. There seemed to be a story for each one. I suggested that we get a box, and my friend chimed in that she knew a college kid who could use some glasses, so we had a goal.
The culling was going pretty well, until I picked up a tiny juice glass that looked like it may have started life as a jelly jar. My friend became still, and said that it was one of her mother’s glasses. Her mother had died a few years earlier. As my friend spoke, tears were coming to her eyes and with a hug I suggested that this one was a “keeper” for sure. There is always room for memories.
We finished up, got the new glasses in place, and added the small juice glass to the juice glass collection on the first shelf. Admiring our work, I could tell that my friend was lighter, more cheerful and happy to have tackled that task.
It may not seem like a very large task but my friend has struggled with managing “stuff” in her home for a long time. She has a dumpster diving father, and brothers who follow along with the tradition as they believe there can be a use for EVERYTHING. Over the past year however, I have seen a real change in my friend. As her children are flying from the nest, she has moved to a smaller home. The habit of culling her collection has really taken hold, and I think the biggest result for her has been the lightness that comes from cleaning out the clutter and organizing your home.
There are studies that show how the things we own eventually become “to do” items in our brain, as we keep a running inventory in our heads. As we age, this inventory task can push out the productive thoughts we want to hang onto. I have seen this with my mother, particularly over the past three to four years as she struggles with memory issues. She often talks about all of the “work” that she has to get done each day, when in fact she is 86 and retired. It appears that mom perceives the items in her life as a burden, as things to keep up with and maintain. Her perception probably explains why she finds such joy in giving things away to others!
I’m not suggesting that we donate or throw away everything that we are not using, but I think we have an opportunity to decide which juice glasses we should cherish, and which ones we need to give to a new home.