I spent the weekend trying to get rid of stuff I don’t need. If it had been a movie or a situation comedy, it would have been funny. Since it’s my life, it’s safe to say I am not all that amused. It appears I have some real issues with letting go of things, whether I need them or not.
I hadn’t planned to spend the weekend in this way. I actually had thought seriously about going shopping for eye shadow (I’m all about glamour), having lunch downtown (and food), and then perhaps seeing a movie (and Johnny Depp). When I started going through the folded stuff in the laundry area of our garage, I figured it would only take me about an hour.
Let’s just say if Mickey’s little hand had been on the 10 and his big hand had been on the 3, by the time I got through just a fraction of my task, he’d have grown a beard.
Part way through my project I realized that I needed to clean out my armoire too, since I needed a place to put the objects I absolutely had to keep. This is the sort of behavior that drives my loved ones, co-workers, and probably innocent bystanders nuts – you know, I start one thing and then wander off to begin another before the first task is complete. I’m the original multi-tasker, it’s just that I tend to do the "multi" part in my head.
On this particular day I was pretty peeved at myself because I realized not only do I have way too much stuff, but I seem unable to determine what is practical, necessary, and sensible rather than ridiculous, outdated, and irresponsible. I suppose I should have taken the hint when I realized we have a one-car garage so full of boxes we park in the driveway. And it was that very thought that made me seriously wonder if I’m becoming a hoarder.
If you haven’t seen the show "Hoarders" on A & E, let me just say, I had no idea there are people who think it’s okay to collect something as perishable as food (and those are some of the more normal ones). Hoarders is one of those train wrecks of a show where it sometimes feels good to watch just to reassure yourself your collection of Sponge Bob paraphernalia isn’t that crazy. Unfortunately, it’s also one of those shows where you realize there is a fine line between what starts out innocently as simple collecting and ends up taking over a person’s life.
It has the same chilling affect on me as seeing someone sitting on the curb drinking out of a paper bag. I realize that life presents us with many slippery slopes, and none of us should ever look at another’s predicament and feel superior or safe. Most of us have had a friend or relative who was once the life of the party, but just didn’t know how to stop when the party ended. So I fully appreciate that I’m not immune to the dilemmas others face.
For some reason I think I believe that my stuff keeps me safer... If I have stuff, I have to be here to take care of it.
I packed away my stuffed animals and collection of porcelain bunnies years ago. You will notice I said packed away – not gave away – or threw away. Something tells me they are probably in the garage where my car should be parked. I tell myself I kept these because I thought I would give them to my grandchildren. If I’m honest, it’s because I couldn’t bear to part with them. There, I’ve said it. No amount of rationalization can justify keeping something stored in a box for years on end. I love my friends who say, “If you haven’t used it in a year, throw it away!” Of course, in my case that might include my vacuum cleaner and dust mop.
I began holding onto things while I was dealing with breast cancer. Certainly, before that time, I had items I cherished and wanted to keep, but my life wasn’t bogged down with so much stuff I felt overwhelmed. What’s ironic to me is that breast cancer made me realize everything changes, that we are foolish to think we are in control, and that we need to appreciate the important things, not get so caught up in the material world.
Why then, I ask you, do I find it necessary to keep the fortunes from my fortune cookies, or the wrapping paper from a gift?! Obviously, the wrapping paper has sentimental value, but it really does just take up space, and after a bit of time has passed it’s difficult to remember where it came from and what made it so special. I justified the fortunes by thinking that at some time I would use them as chapter headings in a book. I may still, but just how many chapters does a book need?
So last weekend I began in earnest to really start getting rid of stuff. I took a deep breath and began throwing things away. I went through my closets and separated the suits with shoulder pads that reach to the next block, from the items I might actually wear. I parted with the outfits that are either so small they will never fit – or so old they will never come back in style. I evaluated the items on shelves and decided it’s high time to let go of anything that is just gathering dust. It felt remarkable. Sort of like I was saying goodbye to things that are weighing me down both mentally and physically.
For some reason I think I believe that my stuff keeps me safer. You know, like if I have stuff, I exist. If I have stuff, I have to be here to take care of it. If I have stuff, my life is normal and nothing bad will happen.
I’ve decided I’m going to try to collect intangible things from now on. Every time someone tells me they love me, I’m going to hoard the warm feeling it gives me. When I look at a beautiful sunset, I’m going to hoard the emotion it elicits. When someone makes me laugh, I’ll be sure to hoard how happy having my cheeks ache makes me feel.
And last but not least, the next time I go to a Chinese restaurant, I’m going to pass on the fortune cookies and see if they have any of those yummy almond cookies instead, because to date, even though I am pretty squirrelly, I’ve never had the urge to collect nuts!