My husband lost his grandmother last weekend.
Losing someone you love causes a great deal of complex emotions to surface, and confronting them is not easy. For those of us who have trouble letting go of things on a normal day, it’s downright impossible to throw anything away after a loss. I’m looking at boxes of random crap I don’t need, and staring back at me instead are bits and pieces of proof that I existed. That I was important. That I was somebody. All that will be left of me once I’m gone is the stuff I’ve left behind. That is the basis of anthropology, isn’t it? We are all reduced to our trash, in the end.
But then, I started thinking about Nannie. She was a wonderful, sassy lady who lived a rich life surrounded family and friends. She raised ten kids, often on a shoestring budget, and didn’t take crap from anybody. How dare I reduce somebody like that to her stuff.
Memories are not tied to mementos of things that happened in the past. They live inside the hearts and minds of our friends. Of our children. In the hearts and minds of their children. Death is a condition of life, but it doesn’t mean that we vanish from existence. In the end, your stuff is irrelevant. Your friends and family don’t miss your stuff. They don’t talk fondly about your stuff, or laugh about the memories you created with it. I don’t want to give my children the responsibility of dealing with the random stuff I leave behind. I’d rather they spend that time together, celebrating our memories.
And so, I took a brief hiatus from my downsizing journey. But I am back at it now with an even more determined resolve than ever before. I am not going to reduce myself to my stuff any more. I am important. I am somebody. I do love my stuff, but it will not celebrate my life when I’m gone. My friends and my family will.
If you find yourself in a situation that tests your resolve, as I did, focus on the bigger picture. When you see yourself standing at the end of your journey, free from your stuff, what do you see? Who is with you? What are you doing? How do you feel? Keep that in the back of your mind when you’re faced with an obstacle that halts your progress in its tracks.
But don’t forget to give yourself a break. Celebrate small victories, and move forward. You can do it!