Last week, I wrote about losing something or someone we care about which leaves empty space. The empty space cannot be filled with a replacement. When you lose a parent, a step-parent does not replace the parent. When you lose a child, another child does not replace the first. When you lose a pet, a new pet can never replace the pet who is gone.
It’s important for me to keep the idea of an empty space in my mind out of reverence: reverence for whomever or whatever is gone, reverence for my own thoughts and feelings of attachment.
Over the past 13 months, I have let go of a significant amount of possessions. This purging of belongings wasn’t just about the physical stuff; it was also about what all of it represented to me. I had tried to fill the empty spaces of my childhood and failed miserably. All of the things with which I tried to fill the empty spaces, including the fantasies held in my imagination, were preventing me from truly living.
I am not saying that the answer for everyone is to get rid of his or her possessions, and I’m certainly not saying I have gotten rid of most of my possessions. (Just come over, and see for yourself.) What I am saying is that it has been a necessary step in my healing and maturation to let go of physical items to truly be able to move forward.
Listed below are some of the criteria I have used for deciding what stays and what goes:
The very first question I ask myself is, have I used this item in the past year?
If the answer to that question is no, there are 3 additional criteria I use:
1. Is it something necessary to keep such as old tax papers, mortgage and insurance papers, warranties, etc?
2. Is it something to save for maintaining a kind of family heritage? This includes things like wedding photo albums, 12th grade yearbooks, childhood report cards, college diplomas, family heirlooms, etc. I have found this category to be more difficult in discerning my own idea of what’s important, versus what my child and potential grandchildren will actually care about.
3. Is it something essential that I anticipate using in the next couple of years? This is important now that I have a son because most of his clothes have been hand-me-downs, and I have them up to two sizes ahead of his current size. I also have educational items and toys for him for when he reaches school age.
There have been a few items I’ve come across that didn’t meet any of the criteria, but I still didn’t want to part ways with them. In order to keep them, I forced myself to “use” them to make them meet the criteria.
This has been a fun exercise.
- I wore my one-and-only hoodie.
- I gave myself a foot bath in my foot spa.
- I opened that unopened, hot pink nail polish and painted my toenails after the foot bath.
- I’ve been using a lot more great-smelling lotion, burning a lot more candles, and playing old CD’s.
- I’ve been using my husband’s decade old George Foreman grill.
- And, I rolled some coins and used the money to pay our babysitter this weekend. (Don’t worry; I didn’t pay her with the rolled coins.)
In the midst of all of this, my son has been loving preschool, and on the off days, he’ll beg me to take him to preschool. In response to my three year old, I’ve tried to explain (for example, on a Sunday afternoon) that he can go to preschool tomorrow. His immediate response is often, “Is it tomorrow?” I tell him, “No.” He says, “I want it to be tomorrow.” I tell him, “I know, but it can’t be.” He’ll ask, “Why”, and I’ll say, “Today is today.”
That simple phrase, thankfully, appeases his inquisitive mind at least for the moment as he tries to figure out the concept of time. He still asks me if we can go to preschool when there is no preschool, but when I tell him we can’t go because it’s Sunday, he will say to me “Today is today.”
After several weeks of contemplating what in my house has enough value to keep, the phrase “Today is today” has taken on new meaning.
Why do we save so much stuff for tomorrow when tomorrow so often turns into 2 years, then 5 years, and 10 years?
Use the good dishes, burn the candles, wear the clothes you like, and pamper your feet.
Otherwise, what is the point in having all of the stuff?
We are never guaranteed tomorrow, and our tomorrow may actually be worse than our today.
Instead of saving for tomorrow the things you think you can’t conceivably part with,
make today the day you choose to value.