The Papers and the Trash

I confess that I love Peter Walsh, shows like Clean House and What Not to Wear, and any other reality TV that has to do with people getting rid of old or unnecessary crap and getting on with the business of being fully present in the now. And yet I find in my own life, as well as in the lives of people I love, that it is so very hard to throw away stuff. Take, for example, my shoes:

A fraction of the shoes I donated before moving

I count at least ten pairs there, all of which were either worn out, too big, or hadn’t been worn in at least a year. So why oh why did it take moving to Alaska before I pulled them out of my closet and got rid of them?

I could profess laziness, which is certainly part of the answer, but I actually think that some part of me thought I would eventually go back to wearing them again. A nonsensical idea, especially for the outsized shoes. I think that on a metaphorical level, all of us save things that we think we’re going to use again down the road. We can’t think of why we need it now because we haven’t been using it in a while. But just in case it may become useful again, we want to hang on to it for a little longer. Even writing that sentence frustrates me, because it doesn’t make sense. When we have outgrown something — physically, emotionally, spiritually — how can it be healthy to keep that something around? It only serves to remind us of what we once were or where we used to be instead of representing who or where we are NOW. Is it absolutely satisfying to look back and appreciate the ways we have matured and hopefully become better, healthier people? Yes. It also means that we have to shed our old skins, or molt (I love that word).

I say this to myself as if it’s an easy thing to do. I know it’s not. Frankly, it took moving to Alaska to start doing a real purge in our apartment. I joked to Husband that the only real things I needed to bring were him, me, the dog, and the computer. Everything else could stay or go without much consequence. While we move from temporary space to temporary space before settling into a future apartment or house, I find that my joke wasn’t really a joke. And I’m learning that even though “stuff” can be important because it represents memories or our individual tastes and styles, I still get to be me even when I don’t have all my books on the shelf. Even when I can’t wear any of my most favorite heels because it’s -40 degrees outside. Those things are part of me, but they are not all of me and never will be.

I wish for my parents in particular that they could shed all of the stuff from years past: old cardboard boxes from when their parents were moving; old clothes and stuffed animals from us kids when we were actually kids; anything that they — and we — have outgrown or no longer have use for. I wish that they could let all of that go with the full knowledge that it changes nothing about all of the memories we once shared in the house together. It would allow them to feel that much more fulfilled now as grandparents because the grandkids already love to play at the house, and it would welcome us now-adult kids home when we’re there to visit. For now, I feel the pain of their attachment to things past and continue to hope and pray that they will move forward into the fullness of the life they have now, which is just as beautiful than the one they had when they were raising us three kids day in and day out.

It’s still a struggle sometimes for me to purge, yet I find that I do not miss one single thing I have thrown away. In the end, the process of molting allows me to focus on the “stuff” that actually matters to me in this present.

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2 responses to “The Papers and the Trash

  • sillygooseinkansascity

    I agree wholeheartedly. I read an article once on buying/keeping things “just in case” and it all leads back to something you touched on in an earlier entry about making decisions from a place of fear or love. “Just in case” living is definitely fear, which is entirely different than being prepared. I got a little emotional about feeling mom and dad’s pain….

    • kcislander

      This was difficult to write, but it was something I was pondering when we made a run to the transfer station. Here in Fairbanks, there is no trash service, so you have to bring your own garbage there whenever needed, and often we grumble and gripe about this chore. And I was thinking, “But it’s TRASH. We should be so happy to get rid of it and not let it sit in the garage or wherever.” That idea started expanding…

      Thanks for reading. =)

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