At six am, the lumbering sound of the recycle truck interrupted the morning silence as it traveled through the neighborhood. I heard it stop in front of my house, and empty the full contents of my recycle bin into its container. No going back now with the choices made over the weekend to lighten my load, and get rid of things.
Since my daughters left the nest, a new-found energy to downsize infused my life. I feel ready to move to a smaller home. I do not want to manage stuff, and desire a smaller living place so that time, money, and energy are with friends, traveling or visiting my girls.
I sifted through boxes of things, and more things – stuff, papers. The last 30 years I kept magazines, newspaper articles, and old school papers from my college days and from my daughters’ school years – elementary through high school! I have boxes of cards celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, get well, bereavement, cheer up, friendship and thinking of you expressions given to me throughout my life. Not only cards mailed to me but I managed to secure and store cards sent to other members of my family.
The cards document our journey through life. Sentimental evidence difficult to discard because it is proof I was here, went to college, had a family, and belonged to a community of friends. Occasionally I need visual, written evidence that I loved deeply, cherished my daughters, and enjoyed incredible friendships over the years.
While working on my undergraduate degree, I enjoyed social history research. Before Facebook and email correspondence, I cherished the excitement of sifting through primary resources such as letters or cards. For example, a love letter between a famous writer and her partner provided a unique historical glimpse of issues that impacted their lives.
As I picked through the stacks, I thought that my daughters might be interested in reading through old letters, journals, or greeting cards for a bit of family history. I also came across letters from a childhood friend who recently died of cancer and wondered if her children or grandchildren would want to read the news and thoughts she wrote about her beloved family to others.
My mom condensed my childhood collection of schoolwork and pictures into a box. Throughout my life during difficult decisions and tumultuous times, it helped to read stories I wrote as a child or comments that teachers made on my report cards. Not to drown in memories or the horrible quicksand of would have, could have, should have – rather to gain glimpses of reference points into characteristics that distinctly belong to me and light a path for future endeavors.
For the time being, I downsized from five boxes to three, and that is not a bad beginning. As for schoolwork from the girls’ collection of stuff, I saved selected artwork and all of their writing. I think they will one day enjoy reviewing the poems, journals, and essays they wrote from elementary to high school.