When I was young, I anthropomorphized everything, and I mean EVERYTHING. I cried when we moved because our old house would think we didn’t like it anymore. I couldn’t get a new dresser or my old one would be mad at me. Dolls and teddy bears would get jealous if I picked others to play with instead. I spend a portion of my childhood apologising to the toys I didn’t pick and cycling through which ones got to sleep with me in bed at night. Yes I was a mildly strange and overly sensitive child, its ok, I admit it. But this attachment followed me into my adult years. Small insignificant things that someone had passed on to me became monumental and I was well on my way to becoming a hoarder.
When X24 planned on moving in I knew things had to change but I didn’t have a clue on how bad they had really gotten. It was when I called my Dad, in absolute tears about my decision to throw away a 30yr old snow globe that had only millimeters of water left and no paint left on the images, that I realized how serious this attachment had become. Sure, he and my late mom had brought it back from Germany for me, but it was old, ugly and useless. My Dad wasn’t going to think any less of me for not keeping it. It wasn’t in some way going to lessen my memory of my mom. It wasn’t even something that you could fix or sell at a garage sale. It was junk. What a realization! Junk. . . It was such a foreign concept to me that something I once considered to have its own set of feelings and attachments was just a piece of faded plastic.
For the next few weeks I was on fire. I went through drawers, closets, shelves, and under beds. Every item was placed under extreme scrutiny. Do I want it/need it? Do I even like it?! My 900sq ft, 2 bedroom condo with its ample storage space was becoming . . . liveable. I even got to a point where I could open the door to the second bedroom without fear of becoming buried and it didn’t stop there!! I eventually shed so much junk that I could not only fit X24 and his things but he actually got a whole bedroom “man cave” all to himself!! Our living situation was a miracle. I made it work and never slipped back into my old cluttered ways . . . until moving out to the island.
Now I claim this is not my fault. Truly! My Dad has decided to sell his house and finally downsize which meant that when we (x24 and I) moved, we needed to take anything of my Moms or family heirlooms that I would ever want or get. Books, China, even furniture! So now we’re in a 3 bedroom house with no storage to speak of and boxes . . . sooooo many boxes. Knowing that we’re not going to be in this house for much longer, I am hesitant to unpack them and sort through them. So they sit, taking up valuable space in my “craft room”. The books line every shelf available and DVDs, CDs, video games and the like are shoved under couches and behind the tv. I am finding myself stuck back where I was 5 years ago, having the same internal monologue. . . “Yes I’m sure I’ll read those Latin books. . . I could learn Latin”, “I know those ones are falling apart and the pages are too brittle to read, but they’re antiques”, and “I know those 40 Royal Daulton figurines don’t fit with my décor and take up piles of space, but they were my Moms” or the worst “But what If I want to pass those 3 full sets of china down to my kids . . . that I don’t have”. Now don’t get me wrong some of the things have realistic personal value that I wouldn’t part with for the world but I am again struggling with where to draw the line.
More and more I’m reading about people who have thrown off the shackles of “stuff” and lead happy healthy lives clutter free. We are learning about the value of time over the value of things. Friends of ours have a 15yr old God daughter that instead of buying gifts for, take her skiing or hiking or any number of other activities that create memories instead of clutter. Plus, she is creating a bond and a relationship with them that will last far longer than that piece of kitsch. X24 is another prime example. When he decided to move in with me he got rid of anything that he didn’t use on a regular basis, oddly this also included plates and cutlery but who am I to judge. For my 30th birthday instead of boxes and bows he took me on an amusement park and waterslides weekend. An emotional attachment to stuff is not his thing. We often find that he can go too far in the opposite direction though, throwing out things that he may have wanted after all, but even that is met with a shrug and then it’s forgotten.
So knowing the cost of stuff in everyday life, why is it so hard to let go? I don’t have any answers yet. It’s a slow process but for now I’ll just curl up on my 1960’s green velvet chaise with a cup of tea made in a 50yr old tea pot while reading a hardcover copy of Anne of Green Gables. . . but you can take the Wedgewood ashtray.