Downsizing is painful. It’s no wonder people sometimes put it off until it becomes someone else’s responsibility.
Following the loss of both parents last year, I got inspired to downsize – to simplify my lifestyle by beginning the process of letting go of as much of my stuff as I could bear to so that getting rid of the whole of it would never become someone else’s responsibility. I don’t have my own children to pass my things down to; and though my step-children might like a few things, this collection of stuff that I’ve made sacred in the collecting of through the years shouldn’t have to be theirs to dispose of one day.
More painful than letting go of my own stuff is Mom’s. As much as I love her, I can’t keep holding on to her childhood tea sets, for instance. I’ve had moments of overwhelm going through her various collections, art work, craft work, clothes, jewelry, pots and pans, trying to decide what I want to hold onto, what can be given away, and what needs to be thrown away. Sometimes it feels as though I’m throwing away and giving away pieces of her. And with what I choose to keep, the choice for those things doesn’t adequately express her value in my life – the woman who gave me life.
And then there’s my own stuff. This downsizing of the things I’ve collected – much of which she contributed to through the years on birthdays and at Christmas – represent the various decades (epochs) of my life. I really don’t need to continue to hold onto everything but letting go of any of it feels like a stripping away of identity. If this collection of books, that collection of prints, and countless knick knacks go out the door – even if they might bring pleasure to someone else – won’t part of me, part of my heart, expressions of me and who I believe myself to be and to have been exit with those things?
I’d love to procrastinate this job, never actually getting it done, except that the thought of leaving it for someone else to handle bothers me. And my modus operandi is to not be a burden on others.
I will admit I sat down to write this essay in order to take a break from packing up a certain amount of my stuff. (A “certain amount” that is – I’m not giving everything away!).
It is true that there is a plus side to reducing the amount of stuff in my life – something for which to be grateful and that is making life simpler – emptier of stuff but fuller with living.
Between beginning this essay and editing it, I took a load of stuff to a local charity and while there chose to bring back one of the things I was going to give away. (For clarity’s sake, the thing I brought back would neither feed nor clothe anyone. It is something of sheer sentimental value.) I told myself, “I can do this in stages. It does not have to happen all at once.”
In other words, I don’t have to prepare right this very minute for my eventual demise…I can tackle it in stages, every stage making it easier for whoever comes after me to undo what remains.
Perhaps with each successive stage I will unravel less and less as I get used to this shedding of self, of ego, of the things outside myself that I have made sacred.
Why put myself through the pain and hurt of getting rid of any of it? Because I know how it feels to be left with a loved one’s countless belongings to make decisions about and because with the spiritual path I’m on, why not? Why not embrace another and an especially large opportunity to allow the ego’s hold on me to soften and weaken. And finally, I never did need the number of things I’ve collected, held onto, and made sacred. It’s time. If not now, when?