My family and I have been on yet another downsizing purge, and the process has been a mixture of highs and lows. I have cried as we have pulled out crates that haven’t been opened in a long time and memories of what used to be spilled out along with the contents of the crates.
Whew! No one could ever prepare you for the side of parenting that involves coming to a point of being able to embrace the reality that your child(ren) is/are no longer little. The thing that is finally sinking into me is that keeping our son, Zachary’s younger clothes will not magically take us back to those childhood days. Clinging to every homeschool workbook will not offer a bridge to step back in time and relive those moments side by side, studying, teaching, and learning together.
I have cherished every single moment of the journey, and I will forever be grateful to God for allowing it to happen but keeping the physical items that remind me of those long days that turned into such short years will never take us back.
We have to live life moving forward.
As hard as it is, we must let the past go, and a big part of that is the release of stuff we have accumulated along the way. Stuff becomes heavy. It weighs us down. It causes us to worry. It takes up space, and far too often, it can make us sad as it reminds us of what used to be.
As I sorted through some things recently, the inward struggle was real. Long-buried feelings and emotions steadily rose to the surface, as I felt a sense of loss over the speed at which Zach has grown up. How did we get here so quickly? Where did the time go? I don’t feel ready for him to already be 18, but here we are, ready or not. I look at our dear boy, and it seems like only yesterday that we were praying for God to send us a baby of our own.
After many years of infertility struggles and 12 1/2 years of marriage, we were finally granted the deep desire of our hearts. I still remember the overwhelming feeling of love and devotion I felt that first moment they placed him in my arms. It feels like such a short time ago.
As I wrestled with such deep, raw emotions, I took out the little camera I carry in my purse, and I began to take pictures of the things I decided to give up. Around this time, I also took a much-needed break and spent some time on Pinterest browsing through photos of primitive décor- heartwarming homey scenes with quilts, and old farmhouses. As I snapped away with my camera, then enjoyed the Pinterest boards, an epiphany began to dawn on me.
Looking at an item can bring the same amount of joy as being able to physically touch or own it. I can take out the little camera anytime I choose to look at the things that have meant so much to me through the years and seeing them on a camera screen evokes the same emotions as taking them out of a heavy-laden crate and holding them in my hands. I don’t have to own everything I see in Pinterest pictures in order to find the joy of looking at them. Whether I am looking at pictures on my camera and computer screen or actually holding them in my hands and claiming ownership to them, the same comforting, good feelings are there.
Pictures stored on digital cameras or an electronic device take up no additional physical space. The little camera is no more cumbersome than it was before I snapped those photos. It still fits neatly in the side pocket of the inside of my purse. Keeping all those memory-packed crates, on the other hand, takes up a lot of space and creates an enormous challenge for my husband and son when they have to be moved because they are so heavy.
When I choose to let go, good things happen. Someone else can make use of the things I insist on hoarding. There are children who can wear the gently-used clothing and play with the like-new toys that I so carefully stowed away all those years ago. Homeschool curriculum that I have clung to so tightly can come alive again in the hands of another homeschool mama and mold the mind of her learning child.
The lighter feeling I have after letting go is a great reward. Lugging this stuff around is cumbersome. I may shed tears while dropping it, item by item, into a cardboard box headed for Goodwill, but once it’s gone, I seldom think of it again. Instead of mourning it, I almost always feel a sense of relief to know that I have less stuff to be concerned about.
In the midst of all of this, it is okay to keep the things that mean the most. Sometimes, it comes down to the simple act of making a choice. For example, instead of keeping every single childhood toy, I am choosing to keep a few small ones that hold the strongest and happiest memories.
My dear husband always tells me to do the thing that brings peace. I am learning the depth of wisdom in his advice. I am finding that it brings more peace to keep particular, special things and to let the rest go, and while I am deeply thankful for the memories attached to those things, giving them away will not take away the happy times we’ve shared or remove their memory. Having the pictures will make sure of that, and the peace that comes from no longer having to deal with their weightiness is worth the pain of letting go.