In a recent post, I wrote about some of the “voices” that keep me from moving forward with the task of downsizing. In that particular post, I talked about the voices of my “inner ecologist” and my “inner altruist.” And I promised to introduce you in a future post to my “inner collector” and my “inner archivist,” both of whom also have plenty of reasons (some, though not I, would say “excuses”) for not getting rid of certain kinds of things.
But what I completely forgot about at the time is one of the MAIN culprits many people encounter when downsizing–and that is the “inner sentimentalist.”
Probably at this point I should mention that the reason I forgot about the Inner Sentimentalist is that our book does such an EXCELLENT job of helping to rein in the Inner Sentimentalist that dwells in many of us, and getting her (or him) to allow us to proceed with the task at hand, that I completely forgot I even had one! (This is actually true!)
I often tell people I know that our book is a good and helpful one because it has helped ME get rid of many things that, had I not had the experience of writing our book, I certainly would not have been able to get rid of–or at least, not nearly as easily.
One of the things we talk about in our book is how it is important to separate the memories from the objects--because often it is the memories we really want to keep (and they take up so much less space!). Often we don’t really need to keep the objects to which they are attached, once we have found a way to celebrate, preserve and otherwise keep the memories.
And so, as I have been involved in peeling away the layers of “getting rid of stuff” that I have had to do in recent years, my Inner Sentimentalist has made scarcely a peep. (She knows it is the memories, not the objects, that count!)
This is not to say that she is entirely dead (or, I suppose some would say, though not I!–entirely cured). She still pipes up once in a while, making her feelings known when I am weighing the value of some very sentimental object, or artifact, against the weight of holding onto it any longer.
A good recent example is when I thought I had lost the ceramic figurine my grandmother gave me when I was 10 years old.
This figurine is rather important to me mainly because it is because of her that I had figured out (perhaps erroneously, not sure yet!) that my grandmother really didn’t like me very much.
That’s a whole ‘nother story that I am not about to tell here, you will have to read my memoir one day, when it is published. For now just let me say that this little ceramic figurine played a key role at a key moment in my life, a moment in which I questioned whether a notion I had held onto since childhood–that my grandmother didn’t really like me–was true.
Anyway, none of that matters for the point I am trying to make here. The point I am trying to make here is that the figurine was important to me, and I thought at a certain point in the process of getting rid of things in my storage locker that I had lost it.
In the past, this would have been EXTRAORDINARILY upsetting to me. (I mean, how important is that? A figurine that represents such a very important awareness about one’s life, and one’s grandmother?!)
And it was even more important because I had kind of pictured that figurine possibly being worked into the book cover of my memoir one day. (Most writers have fantasies along these lines, and I am no different in that regard…)
Anyway. Here’s the point. When I thought I had lost her, I will not say I was not upset, because I was.
But I was more annoyed than anything like devastated. (I think before we wrote our book on downsizing I would have been more or less devastated.)
As it was, my thought process went something like this:
“Damn! I can’t believe it! Did that box go off to the thrift store by accident? Damn!”
But I did not stop to mourn the possibly-missing figurine. I did not stop to cry about it. I did not stop to look frantically everywhere for the box in which the figurine had been. I just kept doing what I had to do.
I knew I had taken a picture of the figurine, so my potential book cover was safe.
I knew that if I didn’t find the figurine, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
And so, when I did find it (after all), all I thought was, “Oh! Here it is! (after all)…”
SO MUCh less sturm und drang than there would have been in the past!
Here’s the thing: once you know, really know, that it’s the memories, not the objects, that are important, then this kind of annoying thing (which takes place unfortunately QUITE OFTEN in the discombobulating experience of moving and downsizing)…Anyway, once you know it, really, really know it?
Losing things doesn’t have to be as upsetting.
And there is a wonderful kind of freedom in that.
Janet Hulstrand is a writer/editor, writing coach, travel blogger, and coauthor of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home.