“Much of what we acquire in life isn’t worth dragging to the next leg of our journey. Travel light. You will be better equipped to travel far.”Gina Greenlee, Postcards and Pearls: Life Lessons for Solo Moment
Twice this week I encountered friends who were crying softly as they sorted through the accumulation of their lives. Each of them was preparing to move from their long-time home to something smaller. One was moving across town and the other halfway across the country. The distance in miles was really inconsequential. It was the emotional distance that was making the journey…even though chosen and happily anticipated…challenging.
Many in my generation of Baby Boomers are beginning to pitch unwanted and unneeded feathers from our nests. We spent years gathering those feathers to create a soft, comfortable place for our chicks, but while we were busy building a life and tending to their needs, they grew up. Now that they have fledged we are left with more room and more everything else than we need. Ah, but there’s the rub. Our children want none of the beautiful plumes we’ve accumulated and we struggle to rid ourselves of them, because they link us to another place and time. It’s not really the feather it’s the memory of the flight that is so hard to give up.
Following the death of my husband and after helping to empty my mother’s condo and then her assisted living apartment, I find myself eagerly wanting to simplify my life and…in my opinion…ruthlessly purging the flotsam and jetsam of my existence. Sending the bits and pieces that hold the memories of my childhood to the Restore hasn’t been easy, but then it occurred to me that I’m also holding on to the memories of others as well. I have child size Depression Glass plates that were my mothers, a collection of report cards and boy scout badges that were my husband’s, and my father’s fraternity paddle from college in the 1940s . Each of those is now destined for some form of recycling. I will still carry my memories of my parents and spouse, but I realize I am not required to continue to provide safe harbor for their memorabilia.
Tidying is the act of confronting yourself. The process of discarding and organizing confronts your emotions about the past, as well as your fears about the future. Your stuff (things that bring you joy and things that don’t) will show you what you value most in life.Marie Kondo The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up
During the process of assessing, sorting, and purging, we often find ourselves confronting people and places from our past that we had forgotten. Memories rise to the surface bringing with them the joy of remembrance as well as the reminder of pain and regret. It’s not an easy process. In the end, we realize that things are only things. Freeing ourselves from the physical debris that no longer fits into the life we have or serve us as the people we have become, though challenging, is a very liberating experience. Once we pare down our possessions we find that assessing and sorting our activities, relationships, and obligations and purging those that no longer bring us pleasure, joy or meaning expands our options and provides the space and time in which to enjoy and develop those that enrich us. Keeping those negative memories also serves no purpose. Let’s ditch them too while we’re at it.
Find what you truly cherish in life. Cherish who you are and what brings you the most joy and fulfillment. Don’t let stuff, or worries, get in the way or distract you from the life you wantMarie Kondo The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up
With less feathers in our nest we can use this time to hunker down and luxuriate in peace and simplicity or perch on the edge, take a deep breath, flex our wings, and fly.