How easy it is for us to ask others to do something that is difficult if not impossible for us to do ourselves. I'm in the process of trying to clear out some of the accumulated clutter of the past nineteen years. Prior to moving to Emporia, we moved at least every three or four years if not more often. Anyone who has ever moved knows how easy it is to throw away or sell things when you are facing the overwhelming task of packing; out it goes, into the trash, into a box to deliver to "Goodwill" or into the front yard for a garage sale. Suddenly, the pain of giving up is not nearly as painful as that of having to pack and move everything.
But, oh how difficult it is to sort things out when there is no pressing emergency. What to throw away and what to keep? The decision is easier in the business world than it is in our personal lives. One can access the AICPA's (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants) 21-page document which describes the prescribed process and requirements for record retention in American business today. When I was working, I had one rule for throwing out any business documents which did not fit the legal requirement. I asked myself one question, if I needed this in the future, would I know where to find it? If not, out it went. You would be surprised how many documents fit that criteria.
That is only talking about business documents which are very factual and come with no emotional attachment. It is even more difficult to determine what records and mementoes to keep for our personal lives. Not only do we have governmental and legal requirements to deal with, but we have memories which are much more difficult to put a price on.
Digging through the accumulation makes me think of my mother who died in 2014. As her remaining years wound down, she moved first from her large suburban home in Kansas City to a smaller house next door to us here in Emporia. Her next move was to an apartment in Presbyterian Manor and finally, she moved into a single room in the assisted living wing. How hard it must have been for her to let go of a lifetime of memories; how difficult to watch your life's possessions shrivel down to the point where everything could be kept in a single dresser and night stand.
Like most of her peers, experiencing prosperity after the great depression meant moving up into a better neighborhood and bigger house whenever possible. The bigger house meant there was more room for possessions, so my mother acquired more and kept more. While she had the ability to take care of everything, there was no reason to throw stuff out. Of course, separating oneself from one's possessions doesn't happen overnight. In my mother's case, it began when she was in her mid-eighties. When it became obvious that she could no longer stay in the home she had known for twenty some years, downsizing had to begin.
Paring down her possessions for her first move from her home in Kansas City with a full basement and attic to her much smaller home here in Emporia, was a daunting task. We spent weeks going through closets and cabinets, clearing out items that had been forgotten for years. In the end, after an enormous garage sale and donating almost a full truck load to the Salvation Army, we still had to call 800-Got-Junk to haul the remnants away.
When I think of all the possessions that we accumulate throughout our lives, I can't help but think about all the emotional and mental baggage that often loads us down. In addition to physical objects, we also hold on to grudges, hurt, bad habits and harmful relationships. I’m guessing most of us could stand a good internal house cleaning. The problem with holding on to our past is that it clutters up our mind and in a lot of cases, unless we take a real deep hard look at ourselves, we don’t realize that those issues are there. Nevertheless, our unresolved issues are occupying space in our minds and in many cases preventing us from moving on.
Just as I’m finding, while cleaning things out, a lot of the things that we hold on to are nothing but trash; junk that is long past it’s usefulness. My motivation to keep sorting through nineteen years of accumulation is that the more I sort through, the more I can envision how liberated and free I will be when I get rid of all this unnecessary stuff that I have been holding onto. Letting go of our emotional or mental clutter can be liberating as well.