What to Hold Onto, and What to Throw Away

I’m asking myself some questions this morning.

What do you hold onto?

What do you throw away?

I think stuff is easier to accumulate when you have a big house that you stay in for many many decades. 

I’m a nostalgic person, so that would have been dangerous for me.

Part of the danger is also the risk of holding onto too much, it becomes an impossible mountain. The task of dealing with it is delayed. Until one day, Something happens. 

Could be that you simply snap under the pressure of your accumulations and throw it all out. You destroy the mountain without looking at the pieces that make it up. Indiscernible. Get rid of it. It’s too much. 

Could be that quite slowly yet suddenly, your time is up. It’s no longer a task or question that you yourself will need to consider. That option is off the table. Someone else will step in and tackle the mountain. Will they place the same value on its contents that you would have, had you taken the opportunity to sift through it all yourself? 

Could be that a fire destroys it all. 

Sometimes I think about that. It terrifies me. I still have a lot I need to sift through. And I only live in a condo! I myself destroyed a lot of my personal writings when I moved back to my parents’ farm while Andrew and I planned our wedding. I knew the basement suite we’d be sharing wasn’t much bigger than my girlhood bedroom, so stuff needed to go. I attacked the task with clarity and force — making piles to be eliminated, hauling it all out into the middle of the yard, setting it on fire, watching the flames lick each page, each item, in a sort of solemn yet joyful ceremony. My father noticed my activity from the window of the house, and ventured out to take my picture. 

Shortly thereafter, my parents sold the farm and downsized to a country lot. I was not in a place to want to keep anything from that time. No room, no time, no attention. The most I could do was show up for the auction, to say goodbye. 

Just two years later, cancer found my father. He planned a move to a condo where he could recover well. My mother moved into that condo a widow. In the midst of this upheaval, more belongings and history was destroyed. 

We do strange things when we are grieving and cannot think or reason well. 

So today you’d think I wouldn’t have too much left to burden me… but I’m pretty good at squirrelling away great volumes of Stuff.  I think about it… and it almost seems like too much. 

This is how it happens — you put it off until one day… the decision, the question, is out of your hands. 

What to keep and what to throw away?