January 18, 2012
Letting-go

Letting Go: Getting Rid of the Clutter

We live on a hill surrounded by beautiful mountains but the 2 ½ hour commute to and from work every day is a killer. Although we love our surroundings we know we have to move. We’ve moved before and have always taken our precious stuff with us. This time, it’s different.

Retirement and Downsizing

We are close to retirement age and desperately need to downsize and find a smaller place to live, plus I have to do something about my lengthy commute. Our realtor, in a helpful and kind manner, suggested that if we want to sell our house we have to rethink what to do with all our stuff. I knew this was coming and really dreaded the thought of sifting through what seems to be a ton of lifelong belongings in the house and garage.

Where to Start

This is daunting – not only because of the volume of things we’ve carted around for years but I was reluctant to take a nosedive into all those boxes full of memories. The garage presented its own mountain of memorabilia and it was hard to figure out where to start. Start at the front, my husband said, so I began my exploration through the many boxes stacked at the front of the garage.

Sorting It Out

It became clear rather quickly that I needed to begin a sorting process – things to keep, things to donate, and things to throw away. So far, I’ve left over 60 bags for the trash and have more to come. It became more difficult, however, to weed through the stuff to keep and the stuff to donate.

Memories, Memories and More Memories

Many of the boxes in the garage haven’t been opened in over 17 years. That’s when I moved things from my parents’ home after they died. I even had a number of boxes from my Dad’s restaurant (Al Maharas Steak House) which opened in 1924 and closed in 1967. After 43 years in business there were all sorts of things I kept; menus, promotional postcards, the light that hung above the cashier’s stand, pictures of famous people who frequented our restaurant, an old French phone, white handled steak knives, mugs, paintings that decorated the walls, chef hats, and more. I was close to my Dad and so all of these things meant that I still had a part of him living with us. I thought divide and conquer would be the best tactic here so I split everything and gave half to my brother who lives close by.

 A Lifetime of Belongings

Now for the things that were from the family home and were just mine alone. The year books, the letters from old boyfriends, the stuffed animals, the dollhouse and especially Poor Pitiful Pearl (my beloved childhood doll), figure skates in sizes that fit me from age 3 to age 16, and more things than you could possibly imagine. Many items were discarded but a lot went to charity and some were kept for the great nieces and nephews I hope to have some day.

My Love for Books

Then, there was my parents’ library of books; some of which dated back to the 1880s. This has been the toughest yet. Books say a lot about a person and I felt that my parents’ choice of reading material were reflections of them that my family and I could cherish. I spent a lot of time figuring out what to do with them. There were too many to keep so some went to my brother, some I kept, some went to our local library and some were given to an independent bookstore to be sold. This is a great resource but you have to watch that you don’t increase your book supply again after you get the bookstore’s coupon (to be used at that bookstore) from your books sold.

A Cathartic Experience

Clearing out can make life simpler but the process, at times, was a hard one. There were happy and sad times I revisited as I went through those boxes and there were days I just needed a rest from it all. The upside is that we’re almost done and what started with letting go of things has now moved into losing a bit of myself.

When I started the process of letting go, unburdening myself turned into a physical one. I’ve since started a weight loss program and have lost 15 pounds and counting. Overall, it’s been a good journey.

Now it’s your turn – tell me about your experiences of letting go.

About the author:

Marian Maharas is the Director of Marketing for Front Range Community College. She lives in Evergreen, Colorado with her husband, assorted wildlife, a dog and two donkeys.