TIME FOR LETTING GO: PART TWO
In August, we said goodbye to our college kids in Time For Letting Go: Part One. I called it Part One because I was already saying another goodbye and planning Part Two in my mind for a future post.
Or perhaps instead of saying “another goodbye,” I should say I was saying “other goodbyes;” plural vs. singular.
Goodbyes that turned out to be joyous releases, not sad ones. Goodbyes that were probably meant to be said a long time ago.
On August 1st, I accepted a challenge Gail posed to me long ago, a challenge that I didn’t accept then, but decided to accept now. She and I both decided to accept it now.
Suzanne didn’t need to accept it, probably couldn’t accept it. She didn’t have 497 material objects she could part with. Gail and I did—and then some. Suzanne was already living bare-bones, and Gail and I needed to take a cue from her.
Recall in Lessons From the Sea Creatures—And My Sister, that I packed way too much stuff for the Florida trip with Suzanne and her daughter Julia in July. Recall that I was lugging my way-too-heavy carry-on bag through the airport while Suzanne and Julia breezed down the airport corridors en route to our gates as weightless as feathers. Recall that (at least) three kind strangers rushed to catch up with me to give me back the things they picked up that had fallen out.
Recall that I look up to Suzanne in many ways, one of them is because she is a minimalist.
On August 1st, I got rid of one thing. On August 2nd, I got rid of two things. On August 3rd, I got rid of three things. You get the idea. By the end of August, I should have been on schedule to get rid of 497 things.
I gave them away, threw them away, sold them or recycled them. I gifted some, I returned some recent purchases, and I donated some.
By mid-August, I stopped counting. And I kept going. It felt too good to stop.
Big things like the broken wicker basket. Little things like a stray golf tee. Pairs of things like socks—they counted only as one.
Extra things like coffee mugs. Ugly things like the totem pole that sat in the corner of my room for years. Pretty things like the scarf that my friend liked more than I did, so I gave it to her. Useful things like pens—I simply had too many. Useless things like an old phone charger.
Bags of things like clothes that I wore perhaps once a year—perhaps 30 pieces of clothing or so. My delightful step-daughter-in-law Lindsay is a willing recipient of many of my cast-offs; she and I have roughly the same size and same tastes. Either I am hip and cool, or she is mature and matronly in her tastes. Or maybe I should meet in the middle and call us both classy. Either way, we like many of the same styles and same brands, so we are a good clothes-swapping pair of women.
Soon, perhaps even by the time I finish writing this post, she will be able to wear most of her old wardrobe again—as well as the new ones, because she is due to deliver our second grandchild any moment.
We are so fortunate to be able to share their lives in such close proximity, just 100 miles down road. Now back to business.
Unbeknownst to Suzanne, and also in honor of Suzanne, Gail and I made a pact that we would indeed purge at least 497 things. We did this primarily to get rid of stuff, junk, crap—whatever, but also to honor her minimalism. We both look up to her—the little sister—in this respect, as well as many others. We want to honor her because she is honorable in many ways. We thank her for her good example to her older sisters, who, at least in this manner, are not wiser.
I must make it abundantly clear that it is not in my nature to be a minimalist, nor is that the effect I am trying to achieve. I must be honest to all of you in saying that this was really hard for me—at least at first. And, I must be honest in saying that—sigh—this really hasn’t made a dent. Just ask my husband.
But I continue.
I purged 36 books, and books are next in line in importance to my family in my heart. That was hard. I parted with a few CDs too; they are next in line after the books.
I should have buckled up these bags of books in the back seat–they are precious cargo, just like my children. They made it to the thrift store safely.
And the clothes. What was too hokey for Lindsay, I needed to realize may have been too hokey for me as well. Someone, perhaps, will like them. That vest that I looked at several months ago and thought I can never let that go, today became that is the ugliest vest I have ever seen.
Shoes—I don’t need all those shoes. I refuse to tell you how many pairs I had/still have, but I have parted with five pair.
Most of my home-health patients are relatively short-term; 1-2 months tops. Some, however, I keep for a longer term due to various factors. One such delightful patient has an equally delightful wife—we’ll call them James and Lucy—whom I’ve gotten to know quite well with frequent visits since early this year. We chat throughout our sessions, and I told them about this challenge. Lucy thought it sounded like a good idea, thought about it for a few days, then took off like wildfire with it. She told her sister about it too, and she was on board.
Every visit, we would discuss the day of the month, how many things we should have ridded ourselves of and how we likely exceeded that number. She kept me motivated, and I thank her for that. She, too, stopped counting, finished out the month, and kept going. Their home already appeared to belong to minimalists, but she said the basement was full. It was always neat, tidy and clean. I thanked her for that too—I told her I would eat off her carpet, and I meant it. I doubted she had that much stuff to get rid of, but she assured me that directly below us was a basement full of stuff, waiting to be purged.
I could write a book about all the homes I have been in during my career in home health therapy—perhaps 300 or so. I have seen everything from minimal and tidy, to full-on hoarding. Most are somewhere between. Most are comfortable and welcoming, some are scary. In the scariest home, I came home and threw my clothes away. That’s one way to get rid of stuff.
My parents moved off the farm in 2000 into a small house in town. They got rid of everything except the bare essentials, and special things from us. That was a gift to us, because when it was time to clean out their house, it was still hard, but as simple as it could possibly be. I will be forever grateful to them for that.
I come home from some home visits and feel motivated to get rid of more stuff. I see what I don’t want to become; what I don’t want to leave my children with.
I saw James and Lucy today, and Lucy continues to inspire me to get rid of more. “It’s time for the season to change. Time to purge more stuff.”
Thank you James and Lucy. You both inspire me.
Speaking of books, I did write one several years ago. I kept all the first drafts in print: corrected, edited, trashed, changed or otherwise. I thought that someday, it would be interesting to re-read them to see just how much I’ve grown as a writer.
Why, I now asked myself, would I plan to bring myself down like that in the future? Why would I want to grimace at my novice writing skills, and my obvious mistakes? I wouldn’t, I decided, so I got rid of the whole box (it only counted as one thing). Now, the (almost) error-free version is available on Amazon, if you would like to check it out.
Jettison: to throw or drop something from an aircraft or ship; to throw away as no longer useful.
I included this word and definition in Lessons from the Sea Creatures—and My Sister, and proceeded to put in writing that I was committing to jettisoning some of my possessions at home. I said that I was trying to recognize some of the patterns in my brain that lead me to repeat futile actions, such as accumulating more stuff.
Since I try very hard to be a woman of my word, and because I put it in print for the world to see, I kept my word. I went home from that trip in late July and began the quest on August 1st. I haven’t stopped.
Just today, I have jettisoned the following items from my home:
*the stinky lotion in the pretty bottle
*the paisley curtain I will never use
*2 aprons–I have several others
*4 stained and/or torn tea towels. I sent them to the rag box in the shop. That counts.
*the sponge in the shower—I thought it was his; he thought it was mine
*2 beautiful pieces of blue glassware—I offered them to my neighbor because she likes blue more than I do. She can pass them on if she doesn’t want them.
*a meaningless refrigerator magnet—I have plenty of others
Gail was busy today too. She made two piles, and donated them to her local thrift store:
You get the idea. Large or small, new or old, useless or useful, these things needed to leave my home, and Gail’s too.
Greater than that, the act of purging keeps my brain thinking in that direction. It keeps refreshing my eyes to look at possessions with this question in mind: Do I really need that?
I follow two guidelines, one provided by each sister:
1: From Suzanne, because she recently experienced a move: If I were moving, would I take it along?
2: From a plaque on the wall in Camp Gail: It must make me feel good.
This means that, even if it was a gift from Aunt Madge or my friend Sally, I don’t have to keep it if it doesn’t bring good vibes. Or even a gift from Gail or Suzanne. We made a pact that it’s okay to pass it on if it’s time. Or, if I spent too much money on those jeans, but they aren’t comfortable, they’re history.
Less is more, and less is also less. In this case, less is good. Not only does my brain look for more material things to lighten its load, it has opened my eyes to the fact that I possess other non-material things I don’t need to hang on to. This is how my brain works, and if you are open to it, yours just might too:
Getting rid of that old heavy coat can make you realize that you don’t need to keep that heavy grudge either. Perhaps they didn’t even know they hurt you.
Letting go of that ugly sweater can dismiss that ugly regret too. Neither of them are serving a purpose anymore, if they ever did.
Those worn-out shoes served their purpose too, as did that worn-out friendship. Like shoes, not all friendships are supposed to last forever anyway.
Expired mayonnaise will make you feel about as good as that expired romance. Get rid of them both. I had a few in my single years; trust me on this one.
Suzanne, unaware that Gail and I were conducting an ongoing purge in her honor, continues to purge useless stuff. She and I talked about having a garage sale, but never fully committed. She had a Friday off work several weeks ago, and I kept the day open just in case we decided to throw our stuff together and have garage sale at the last moment.
Knowing the life is short secret, we opted instead to take a field trip one hour south to Hutchinson, Kansas, home of a famous salt mine that stores Hollywood memorabilia. Below, like a good Kansas Girl, Suzanne is posing next to Dorothy II from the movie Twister. Along with many other props from many other movies–including some original movies reels, it is stored there for dry, safe keeping.
We lunched at our favorite Mexican Restaurant, and shopped at my favorite store: TJ Maxx. Yes, I did bring home more stuff, but less than I would have, had I not undertaken this effort. I had several things in my cart that didn’t pass the would you take this with you if you moved/does it bring me good vibes test, so I put them back. Having Suzanne there was a good reminder to ask myself that question. Seeing her empty cart helped too. Unbeknownst to her, she was passively policing my purchases, and I thank her for that.
I know myself well enough to know that, at least not at this point in my life, I won’t completely give up on bringing more stuff in my house. Whether it is from a garage sale or TJ Maxx, there are certain things I like to buy. I am more careful now when I make that decision, and I am bringing home less, which is actually more. I am more careful now when I consider the usefulness of things in my home.
We took our potential garage sale stuff and gave it to a charitable thrift store. Hopefully, someone else will find treasures in everything we jettisoned.
November 1st is several days from today. Consider giving up one thing. Then, on November 2nd, give up two things. On November 3rd…
Thank you Suzanne for your inspiration, and to Gail for challenging me and joining me as well. Thanks also to Lucy—and her sister—for keeping me motivated to continue.
Thanks also to my minimalist husband Mark; he has infinite patience with me and my stuff.