I'm still here, underneath my pile of stuff. What I've learned.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

It's been a month since I've blogged or visited any of my blog friends. I'm still here. Actually not underneath my pile of stuff anymore, but emerging from it. We've donated three huge loads of stuff, not including furniture, and thrown out even more.

We've been shredding papers like fiends, emptying out one whole file cabinet and a dozen or so boxes of papers that were stored in the basement. Old cross country skis, sports equipment, lamps, china and linens, 80s decor, clocks, baskets, clothes, framed art, you name it . . . they've also been given the boot. If it doesn't spark joy or serve a useful purpose, out it goes. I've had to grit my teeth and override my all-too-present feelings of guilt over and over again. 

But the more I let go, the easier it becomes, and the better I feel. There's a lot more to do, but I'm burned out at this point. I'll come back at it again in a couple weeks with a fresher perspective. 

In the meantime, I present to you some of the things I've been learning during this process.

1. I am not responsible for everyone's stuff.

How did I get to be the caretaker of all this stuff? Loved ones have passed on or moved, and I somehow got all the stuff nobody wanted to deal with. Why? And how did I manage to save every. single. paper. my children ever scribbled/wrote/drew on?

I either agreed to take these things on because I felt that it was my "duty" or because I genuinely wanted to keep them.

But there comes a point when all this becomes a burden and I start to feel resentment at the weight of responsibility. How can I make the decision to save or throw out photos of people I'm not even related to? How do I know if someone else might want this handmade item? Do I have the right to just make the call, and throw it out? Do I need to check with others first, even if they've shown no interest in all this stuff?

I have come to the conclusion gradually that I do not have to sort through every thing myself. Other people can take the responsibility. I can ask them if they want to sort through the stuff, or if not, tell them I'm getting rid of it. 

In the case of my children, I can box up all their stuff and allow them to decide. I don't know what they want to keep or not. I've been afraid they'll just end up throwing it all out, but it's really up to them.

2. Things are not the same as people.

I've held onto so much stuff because it's felt disloyal to give it away. Gifts, handmade items, items handed down. Like if I get rid of them, I'm throwing the person out, or disrespecting them. No. It's just stuff. It is not them. Now, of course, we do want to save some things that remind us of people we love, but we don't need to save everything; how much we save depends on us. But letting go of something doesn't mean letting go of our memories.

This was a gift from a neighbor after the birth of our second child.  I've held onto it all these years because I associated it with my son sleeping as a baby. I realized that letting go of it doesn't mean I'm letting go of those memories. And, to be honest, I never was too fond of Precious Moments stuff anyway.
3. I can make new choices and do things differently.

I have a rare opportunity to start over in terms of decor as we have been redecorating our living room, dining room, and foyer.

I am no longer tied to a certain color/style/decor. I had a very large mural painted on the foyer wall. It was here when we moved in, and has stayed for the almost 20 years that we've been here. The colors and style of it dictated the entire downstairs decor.

Some time ago I asked you all to vote for whether I should paint over this or not. Most of you thought I should keep it, my husband included. But I have to say, I've been very happy to say goodbye.
 All of a sudden, with this gone, all kinds of possibilities have opened up. Instead of being tied to blue and sage and burgundy and yellow, I can do fuchsia and turquoise if I want! 

I also realized I didn't have to keep the art on my walls. Why did I feel guilty about donating it? I've looked at some of it for over 30 years. It wasn't expensive. It's okay to let it go and do something different, even if it takes a while to figure that out. 

So now what? Modern abstract art? Am I a modern abstract art person? I never thought so, but I could be if I wanted.

With some of the older furniture gone, I can do something different as far as style, not just color. I could do farmhouse, French country, mid-century modern, anything. I could do glam, with gold and mirrors and animal print. 

I didn't choose many of the things in my house. They were hand-me-downs, appreciated and loved, but like the mural, I didn't pick them out. Now I have a chance to think about what I like.

It's actually been a good time for thinking outside of the box about a lot of things, letting go of not only things, but of guilt and unrealistic expectations, and old, unhealthy ways of thinking.

*****

I hope to be around to visit my blog friends soon. Thanks for stopping by! xo
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