My garage is now full of boxes. Last weekend, I emptied the attic, utility room, garage shelves, and backyard shed. I had no idea there was that much stuff packed away in those out-of-the-way spaces. And now I’m going about the arduous work of sorting out what needs to be kept and what needs to be given away.
There’s a practical reason for this sorting ritual. We’re moving in about a month because I have a new pastoral appointment starting at the end of June, and I have this feeling that much of what I’ve stowed away over the years is just not needed anymore. But figuring out what goes is no easy task. In fact, I see some boxes that probably should have been left behind in the last move.
Among the obvious keepers are the boxes of things that we need: reference books that will come in handy, Christmas decorations, art supplies, tools. These are items we use on a regular basis. And there are boxes that contain memories: memorabilia from my teen years, old photographs from pre-digital days, special baby toys my kids played with, keepsakes that remind me of meaningful events and times. I usually happen upon these boxes only when I’m moving or rummaging around in the attic for something else, and I’ll spend a few nostalgic minutes happily reminiscing. Sure, these memories take up space, but I’m OK with being a sentimental guy so they’re coming along.
And then there are the boxes and items that simply need to be left behind if I can just bring myself to let go. These are the tough ones. Assorted t-shirts from a decade of running races, decent books read once upon a time, a couple of old broken lamps I thought I might repair, bicycles that the kids outgrew, decorative items that haven’t decorated anything for 20 years, a hoard of Mardi Gras beads, a rusted red wagon, and a mystery box that’s remained unopened over the last two moves: these may just be taking up space and unnecessarily adding to the effort and weight of the move.
Still, though, what if I just might need that one thing later? I might actually fix that lamp, right? Should I keep that just a little longer…just in case? After all, I’ve sent things to Goodwill that I later regretted giving up.
What’s taking up too much space in your life? Is there clutter that you’d be better off without? What’s adding to the effort and weight of your move? Is it time to lighten the load?
Sometimes it’s hard to identify what needs to stay and what needs to go. And sometimes we know exactly what needs to go but can’t bear to leave it behind.
We hold on to things too long because we think we can’t do with out them. We hold on to grudges and anger because we feel it protects us. We hold on to harmful habits because we don’t realize our own suffering. We hold on to ideas that used to make sense but now only blind us and harm others. We hold on to self-destructive situations because we can’t fathom a better way. Maybe we simply can’t imagine life without the stuff. Maybe we think we’ll fix what really can’t be mended. Maybe we just have a hard time letting go.
It’s possible I’m getting way too philosophical about the junk that I piled up in my garage, but I do know I need to do something about it because delaying the work is keeping me from moving forward.
So here’s what I’m going to do. In situations like this, I know I can’t do it alone. I know I need help sorting through the piles and boxes of questionable possessions. And fortunately, I have a partner who can help me out. Doing this kind of work is rarely successful as a solo endeavor.
And that’s not a bad idea for how we sort through the metaphorical piles and boxes we’ve stuffed into storage. Sorting through the stuff is arduous work, and on our own, we have a hard time recognizing what we need to keep and what we need to give up. Asking for help is an uncomfortable but courageous step in moving forward, and it just may be the most important first step in organizing, identifying, and offloading. Find someone with a compassionate spirit, an objective viewpoint, and a discerning eye–especially someone who asks insightful questions rather than gives all the answers.
This weekend, I’m going through closets and bookshelves. Sorting through the stuff is an ongoing process, sometimes difficult but always necessary. And thankfully, I don’t have to do it alone so maybe it won’t be so bad.
And by the way, I might keep that unopened mystery box just a little longer… maybe… we’ll see.