An important of midlife seems to center around stuff. I worry about this because I need to keep a lot of stuff. I like my stuff. I’m always thinking about how I will use my stuff and afraid that one day, some situation will call upon my need for that one thing I decided to throw away. So I have remedied that situation by not throwing anything away.
Don’t get me wrong I don’t hoard. I looked up all the signs and symptoms. You can easily pass through the entrance of my house and the hallways meet fire safety requirements. I have not packed the rooms left vacant by kids who have grown and put down roots elsewhere with anything new, or piled them high with cartons of mysterious contents. I can dust ledges and shelves just fine. Although not sleek, modern or minimalist by any means, I think I can say quite honestly that to any friend, family member or relative stranger, my home looks warm and lived in.
However. And that’s a fairly large font, bright colored HOWEVER. I have a stuffed dog that is fifty plus years old—mine from birth? At some point in my early years, I had torn off the eyes, nose and mouth, (oh that poor looking thing) and then at some later time, colored them back in. It isn’t soft, it doesn’t look at all appealing but I hold onto it like it’s my grandmother’s pearls. There’s the doll from Japan that fell off a shelf about forty-three-years ago and lost most of her face. For years I just turned her around so that only the fabric of her kimono was visible.
I have matchbooks and sugar packets in many different languages. And the dress I wore to my brother’s Bar Mitzvah when I was eight-years-old, hangs in my closet. That day ranks high on my list of wonderful life moments. It remains as beautiful as the day I slipped it over my head and went to the party.
There are old phones and televisions that don’t work and a turquoise typewriter I rescued (I don’t understand that one.). I have dog bowls and leashes from dogs long passed. I hold on. They make me laugh and cry. They make the memories more vivid. Stuffed in the back of my closet are even the jeans I wore in the last hour of our dog’s life. They make me cry. I cannot bear to throw them out.
Some might call this behavior irrational and at the very least impractical. I’ve heard reasonable people warn that we will never be able to move out of our house. I think they are wrong. Letting go doesn’t have to be a jarring process or a super human feat. It can be a slow and steady clearing. The day to say goodbye to the stuffed dog, the dress, the doll, (o.k. the sugar packets and matchbooks can go now) isn’t on the calendar but one day it will be and I know I will be ready.
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