Keeping The Memories



KonMari Insight Blog Series.

Yesterday a friend asked how I was able to let go of my family stuff. She couldn’t understand how I could let go of the family photos and keepsakes from my mom, dad, and sister.  And she really didn’t understand why I was so happy about it.

“I’d be worried that I would forget them,” she said with this rather distressed look on her face.

I once felt like that. When my family passed, I held on to box after box of their possessions. There were trinkets, and small stuff, jewelry, and collectibles. I kept it all.  I didn’t want to forget them. I surrounded myself with their things. Everywhere I looked there were pieces of their lives. These things belonged to them, so I figured keeping them was the next best thing to them being there.

But it wasn’t.  The longer I kept that stuff, the more I resented it. I felt angry. I felt guilty for being alive. I felt trapped and smothered. Those “treasures” weren’t mine, but still they took over my home and my life.  I would think about their stuff constantly.  Should I sell it? Should I re-box it and store it for my nephew, so he can carry on the family legacy? Where can I put it, so it’s not in my way. Maybe I should get another shed. I was stuck in a “stuff” loop.

What I didn’t think about was time spent with my family.  I didn’t think about trips we took, or games we played.  And I didn’t think about THEM. I thought about their stuff. Their stuff wasn’t helping me to  remember them. It was getting in the way of me remembering them. And not only wasn’t I having fond memories, I also wasn’t living, either.

It took awhile, but I finally realized that I was missing out. I gradually let it all go. While letting it go, I embraced the memories, the good and the painful. I let myself grieve.  Grief is an essential part of life.  For me, I couldn’t fully grieve for my family while I was surrounded by the stuff.  As I went though the photographs, I kept the best of the best; the ones that elicited the happy times.  I scanned them, so I now have everyday access to my favorites digitally.  I also made backup copies and sent one set to my nephew.  I did keep a few things.  There was a carved mahogany box, an antique folding game table, a rocking horse, a few pieces of jewelry and the photos. Those were the only things I kept from two full houses of stuff.

Those few things make me smile, when I see them now. There is no sadness or guilt. I remember the things we did, the fun we shared.   Those things bring me back to family, ground me, and let me go forward with joy.

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