I am in the process of going through old letters, photographs, drawings, books, old birthday cards from my teens and early 20s. My mom cleaned out her storage shed and dropped these boxes off in my garage while I wasn't there to protest.
Each time I open up a box, I am bombarded with sentlmental memories. I really did have letters in the hundreds to get rid of. That's such a lost art now. I still receive hundreds of letters, but now they are in the form of email, that seems more painless to trash, than the ones written in pen with a stamp on the envelope and little sayings on the envelope that say "Hurry Mr Postman and send-- 'cause I'm sending this letter to my very best friend!"
This "letting go" has been an experience comparable to throwing up. It's so miserable while it's happening, yet the relief that follows almost passes for joy. I feel more lighter. More free. I have always admired those who have the sense to know what is important to keep and what is not. They are not bogged down by the weight of (seemingly) unimportant matters.
So far, I've emptied eight boxes. The recyling bin was filled to the brim. But when the garbage men emptied it, a box trapped half of my treasures of being thrown away, so they are still in there. Of course, I worry it's a sign for me to look through them again. Perhaps I've been given a second chance to look through my treasures. My mom says, "If you haven't seen these in this many years, you're not going to miss it".
It's hard for me to let go.
Later today, I will tackle a few more boxes. I will continue to have a separate pile where I'm not ready to trash and will repack them in boxes to go through again at a later date. I found a birthday card from Nana who died in 1981. The corner of it was eaten by a rat and it smells like an old attic. She signed the card, "love, Nana". I'd have to be completely heartless to part with such a treasure.
I still have a long, long way to go. But now I'm committed to keeping only the essentials, only those very few things that I absolutely can't live without. Like my green 4-H hat from when I was 10. A box full of old Tigerbeat magazines where Tony Defranco, Donny Osmond and David Cassidy graced the covers. A few untitled audio cassettes that might be worth listening to again. A Get Well card where an entire unknown 4th grade class signed their names, a huge box full of my childhood artwork, a Willie McCovey autograph and old newspapers with history making headlines such as ELVIS PRESSLEY DEAD on the cover.
My garage is never going to look like one of those perfect, organized garages seen in Home & Garden magazine. But for now, the clean folded clothes that were on top of my dryer in the garage have been taken inside.
I have Happy Meal toys I collected in the 90s in several see-through plastic containers along with a few ebay purchases that I have no clue as to why I bought, except the knowing that "the chase and not the purchase was most important".
There is the scrapbook I made when I was in the 4th grade, complete with a piece of skin I taped with masking tape onto the page titled: "My skin from my finger that got ripped out from the car ashtray". And a half-chewed photo of me in my brown and cream uniform, standing in the backyard, holding onto a kitchen spachela, just before my parents drove me to my first job, a hopeful rewarding career at McDonalds that only lasted eight hours.
But, that's not clutter - that's the good life.