Years ago, I cleaned out my room. Then a few years later, I did it again. And a few years after that, the same process. Nearly every year now I make it a habit to go through old things and decide what I don’t want or need anymore. And what I’ve discovered over the course of all these cleaning bursts is that the answer to what I must keep with me is simple: very, very little.
I swore the last time I cleaned out my things that I wouldn’t ever be able to go further than that. I had gotten rid of everything I could stand to part with, and I was done. So, despite now having an iPod, a computer that plays DVDs, and the world available to me through the internet, I still held onto the CDs, the VHS tapes, and the heavy and dusty stacks of books and magazines.
Why? Because I had once loved them. Because they held sentimental value to me. Because every time I picked up an old NSYNC CD case, I remembered being eleven years old and dancing with my friends along to their songs. They brought me back in time.
So when we finally got and accepted an offer on our house and got ready to move, we began some serious de-cluttering. And I thought about my own personal items, and about how much space they would take up in the new closet. I thought about how long I had held onto them. But most of all, I thought of what it would be like to carry boxes and boxes of late 90’s and early 2000’s paraphernalia up the stairs of our new two-story house.
So I dragged everything out of the closet once again. After all, there were a few items I wanted to get rid of. But the more I cleaned out I realized, as I had numerous times before, just how good it feels to get rid of things. So I began to take good, hard looks at the items I no longer used, and the things that were doing absolutely no good shoved into the back of the closet in a box.
And yes, it was a little sad to get rid of things that had a lot of memories attached to them. But only a little. I realized that the sadness wasn’t really sadness, but of fond memories surfacing out of the layers of my mind. Picking up a stuffed animal I bought at Disney World as a nine year old did bring back memories of that week, but after putting it into a box in the garage with the others, I realized I still had those feelings, despite not having the toy.
But of course we all know that. We all understand that it’s the memories that are the most important, and that things don’t matter. We’ve heard it all before. But sometimes, it isn’t about parting with items to feel good about the extra room you now have in your closet. Sometimes, it’s about realizing the hold that these items had on you, and recognizing how much else there is besides them.
When I gathered box after box of things for our moving sale, I didn’t just glorify in the newfound space in my room. I felt different inside. I felt ready to get up and do things, to go out and experience something I hadn’t before. I hadn’t realized just how much my objects were weighing me down.
Think about the time you spend each week cleaning your house. Think about the effort you put into an object when it breaks or doesn’t work right. Picture the money spent on an electronic device, and then picture that same amount of money being spent on a vacation. Or a concert or show. Or even just a night out with friends.
Now, I know that to function in our society today, some possessions are necessary. And others we keep because no matter our willpower, the pull of sentimentality is simply too strong. And all of that is just fine, as long as you know what’s really important to you.
So as we get ready to move into our new house, I can say I’ve gotten rid of at least half of the things I swore I couldn’t live without. And what’s more is that I don’t even miss them. Because there’s no power in holding on. There’s no win when your possessions are stuffed in the back of a closet, when they possess you more than you do them.
So take a look at all of the things around you and imagine what it would be like if the surface were clean, the cabinet organized, and the drawer only half full. And imagine a happier, brighter you in all of it, feeling the liveliness and energy that only comes along with no longer giving power to something in your life that doesn’t deserve it.