Mark Twain

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do ...
Explore. Dream. Discover." Mark Twain

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Lesson Learned #5 - Attachments

  I've spent many precious life hours over the last 10 years moving stuff out of my house.  
In the last year, the highway of departing clutter has become an absolute speedway.  
Here is a lesson I have learned in the process.

Lesson Learned #5

Attachments to stuff - does it love you back?

I get attached to things.

I attach to people and animals as well, but I have a history of loving things ... attaching to them like they have feelings.  Once you start attaching to things, there is a slippery slope you must manage.

Here is my slippery slope.

Like most people,  I save bits and pieces of things that hold memories for me.  Children's art work, old school papers, a first communion veil, the small worry-stone my son gave me on entering the military, a beautiful greeting card from my daughter with cherished sentiments - just to name a few.  I am fairly successful at managing stuff in this category.  For example, I finally discarded my 56 year old girl scout sash with achievement badges last week.  I wasn't a scout for long, and it wasn't a special time. To this day, "camping" or roughing it for me is staying at a Days Inn.  :-)  The sash went out the door las week.  The stuff I own in this category is down to a reasonable quantity.

Managing attachments in other areas of my life result in limited success.

I give cars names.  My last car was a Maxima.  Her name was Maxie.  I was in tears when I traded her in.  Maxie and I were buds for 10 years.  We got through a lot of bad weather together, but her high-heeled attitude made her designed for speed.   She had a passion for it (notice I didn't say I had a passion for speed - just Maxie!)  At her 10th birthday when she started to burn oil, our trusted mechanic of 35 years could not find the problem.  A fix would have been hard and very expensive. My new car is a Subaru. It (not she, not he) handles the road great in all weather.  It is reliable.  It is transportation.  It does not have a name.  I learned my lesson with Maxie.  And more importantly, I believe the Subaru doesn't care one little bit.  :-)

I have a tough time I throwing away pictures.  I am sad when I see old family albums abandoned in thrift or antique shops.  I have many old family albums myself and boxes of pictures, many are duplicates. I also have old family documents - birth and death certificates, military papers, baptismal documents, certificates of achievement, an old driver's license from the 1930s. Not sure what I will do with all of that - right now they are all in one closet.  But these images are staring at me from the end of the long de-cluttering road.  They know I have a soft spot for family history.  They are keeping their collective fingers crossed that they will make the next de-clutter cut in a few weeks.  We shall see.

The attachment to my townhouse is strong.  Although I yearn for a smaller place - one with less steps, less extra costs, less upkeep, this home holds all my memories of the last 30 years.  I have lived here longer than anywhere else.  I raised children here.  My mother-in-law died of cancer in my living room.  I remember my son stepping out my front door to enter the military and coming in that same door when he returned.  My daughter recovered here from one of life's black clouds.  My husband stood in the kitchen and told me he would one day go blind.  The house has seen parties for birthdays, anniversaries, weddings.  My mother lived here for 5 years and I watched her decline here. I cried at my kitchen sink the day I knew she would need to move to assisted living.  There were joy filled Christmases - and a few sad ones too, like last Christmas when mom died.   This house is tattooed with my life.  I can't imagine letting another family put their marks on it.  And yet ...

How do you avoid attachments to an inanimate building when it feels like more than that?  I will continue to live in and nurture this house for now - and deal with the fall out that will inevitably come later.

The topic of minimalism is cluttered with the principles of letting go and living small.    But minimalism discussions sometimes miss the point that stuff can make your life "more."  Yes, less is more, but sometimes things are also more.

I think the trick is to pick and choose carefully!  And if you pick and choose everything, then that is when problems start.

Keep only what you love ... and what loves you back.

I believe my house loves me back!  


  1. I can so relate to things you write! When my 100-year-old grandma died a few years ago, I was able to go back to KS for her funeral. Afterwards, my aunt and step-mom were going through her things. Neither had any interest in most of her papers, trinkets, and clothes. Some I could ignore, some I couldn't, and some my aunt or step-mom urged upon me. Now I have all this stuff of hers and some of my grandpa's who had gone before, and to purge any of it feels like purging my beloved grandparents and their history. Who will hold the candle illuminating their many years on this earth, and sometimes that of their family before them, if I don't? Who will hold it when I no longer can? I'm a believer, so I know I will see them again and this earthly history is not so important, but it is HARD.

    1. You know, I have gotten rid of so many of my mom's things, but for some reason I have trouble getting rid of her furniture. There are only a few pieces left, and they are not valuable in any significant way, except they trigger memories for me. And they are a visible representation of her time on this earth. If they were gone - I would be sad that all of who she was would only exist in my mind. It is like pieces of her still reside with me if her furniture is here.

  2. I feel your pain. Pictures are really hard for me and I have boxes and boxes and boxes of them. I am going to have to get busy and be ruthless soon. No one will want them when I pass. Maybe one granddaughter if she knows who is in the picture. And I feel the same about my house. It has seen and heard so much. But I want to downsize too so I will let it go!

    1. I hold on to too much in the picture area, but I have valued these items all my life so many of the albums of my relatives reside with me. Not sure if there is anyone in my family (after I am gone) who will see the value in them. We can only hope.

  3. When my mother died we found pictures of my grandparents when they were missionaries in
    Africa over a century ago. They were fascinating, and of historical interest, I think. Other things, too. Very many very old letters. When do things go from being junk to being historical documents or rare and valuable things? Like that Apple computer worth $200,000 that the lady recently gave away in California....



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