I know– “autumn” cleaning just doesn’t have the same ring as “spring” cleaning. Something about the changing of seasons always encourages a fresh start, a desire to unclutter an area of my life. Six months ago, I wrote about spring cleaning, and this past week, I was bitten by the same bug.
My target this past week was a large steamer trunk full of uniforms and random memorabilia from my years of military academy and military service time. It’s been years since I served and far more years since I graduated. Why did I hang onto this stuff for so long?
Peter Walsh, author of It’s All Too Much, says:
“We hold on to our possessions because we believe they’re important–to ourselves, to others, to our family, to our dreams, or to our own personal story. […] While there is definitely a sentimental component to this clutter, it is usually much more about the sustained effort, the hours of practice, the brute strength, or the personal sacrifice that went into reaching a specific goal. Part of you is afraid that if the item is lost, so, too, will the sense of achievement and even the effort that was required so long ago.”
Four years at a military academy definitely constitute “brute strength” and “personal sacrifice.” I think I was afraid that if I got rid of a lot of the stuff, I was getting rid of the “proof” that I did it.
However, just as having a book doesn’t automatically impart its knowledge to you, not having a book doesn’t mean you lose that knowledge. No one can take your experiences away from you. Memories are yours and don’t require material evidence. If your belongings don’t improve your life in some way–by bringing you joy or making a task easier–they have no place in your home.
So the stinky old uniforms and awards are gone and now I’m faced with a new dilemma–what do I put in this giant, empty trunk???