The sentimental layer of minimizing has been the most agonizing for me. I associate things with people and memories from the past, and it just feels so wrong to let the associated thing go. Somehow, I feel like I am betraying my precious parents if I dare to donate the gifts Mom bought for me or all the decoupage pictures Dad took so much time to make for me. After all, there will be no more gifts from them. I miss them so much and holding on to the things they gave me during their time on earth brings a great deal of comfort.
Or does it?
Sometimes, it all starts to feel heavy and seeing certain things seems to accentuate the blatancy of their absence more than make me feel the sense of comfort I felt the day they were given to me. Because it is not that day anymore. Many moons have passed, and a lot of water has flowed under the bridge during the 19 years since Dad went to Heaven and the 7 years since Mom followed him there.
Due to circumstances beyond our control and completely against our will, we recently had to move again. As we packed and prepared for the move, I was completely dumbfounded as to how we could STILL have so much stuff! We began downsizing in earnest four years ago, sold our 4-bedroom home with the over-sized garage, and released about 90% of our physical possessions. We moved into a 2 bedroom, furnished rental that provided very little storage, have continued downsizing the entire time we lived there being intentional about not bringing new things into our home, and yet, when we got ready to move again, I was completely overwhelmed by all we still own.
How could this be?
As I unpack boxes and crates in our new place, it occurs to me that a lot of what I am unpacking is sentimental in nature. Oh, there are the things that we actually use, need, and want to keep, but there are a lot of other things I am still clinging to simply because I feel guilty letting them go. As I contemplated all of this today, the light of these epiphanies dawned on me.
1. Sentimental things are tethering me to the past.
They are beginning to feel like an anchor holding me back from fully embracing the now and what is to come. I cling to them because I want to maintain a bridge to yesterday, but that bridge is an uncrossable, unrealistic fantasy. Holding on to the things that belonged to or were given to me by departed loved ones will never bring them back or transport us back in time.
2. When an item evokes more sadness than happiness, it no longer deserves a place in my life.
3. I no longer want to be reminded of what used to be but will never be again because I want to enjoy today and the memories still to be made.
4. These sentimental things are no longer making me feel joyful. They bring pangs of heartache when I look at them, and as I watch my husband and son lug these crates around, I cringe thinking about how my sentimentality is the cause of their sore muscles and backs.
5. I am not betraying my parents (or anyone else) by not keeping every greeting card they ever gave me or holding on to every, single thing they ever bought for me. I don’t have to give up everything, but I don’t need to keep everything, either. It is unhealthy and unfair to the loved ones who remain and mean the world to me. Thankfully, I have the option of keeping choice, meaningful reminders of my time with them and still feel okay about not clinging to the rest. I can almost hear my very practical, sensible parents telling me it is not only okay, but it is high time to let go.
6. One day, when our son has the unpleasant job of sorting through our things after we are gone, the memories associated with the things we leave behind will not be attached. These are our memories, not his. It won’t make sense to him why I kept a restaurant receipt from a meal Mom, Dad, and I shared when I was a teenager. He wasn’t there, nor will he understand its purpose. So, why burden him with it?
7. Most of the sentimental stuff hasn’t seen the light of day in years. I just keep it stashed away in crates that are never opened and keep moving it from place to place kind of like dragging a ball and chain behind me. Opening it now feels like reopening an old, painful wound. I don’t want to do that anymore.
8. As I purge the sentimental, I start to realize these same truths apply to relationships that may have at one time been healthy but have become toxic. Clinging to a detrimental relationship out of sheer guilt is counter-productive to my new forward-looking life. As I am assessing every single thing I take out of boxes and crates before finding it a place in our new home, I am analyzing each relationship to see if it still brings benefit, joy, and enrichment to my current life.
It feels good to shed what is no longer healthy. From now on, I want to live life looking forward. I feel excited about changing my perspective from mourning for yesterday to anticipation for tomorrow. After having gone through some scary medical stuff lately, I have been freshly reminded just how fragile life is, and I don’t want to waste any more time longing for what has already been lived. Deeply thankful for more time, I want to embrace this moment and live it to the full with an outlook of eagerness and gratitude. I want to trade in the old for what is new and still to come.
About the Author: Cheryl Smith is the author of the book “Biblical Minimalism,” the story of her family’s journey from a life of abundance to a more abundant life. She is the author of the blogs Biblical Minimalism and Homespun Devotions.