You’d think after getting rid of more than 2,000 items, the last one wouldn’t be so difficult.
In the month of September, my family challenged itself to toss 2,017 items. In an effort to declutter our lives, we wanted to either donate or throw away an item for each year anno Domini.
At first, it seemed like a ridiculously high number. I couldn’t imagine we had 2,000 unused, junk items in our house. And I was right, we don’t have 2,000 unused, junk items; we must have had 5,000 or more.
When I really started digging through my stuff, I realized my burden of old T-shirts I never wear, ties with food stains and even socks with the elastic stretched out too much. I wiped out the first 100 pretty easily.
That was just me. My wife and children did the same, and before we knew it our tally jumped by hundreds at a time.
Whenever we found something still in good condition, we donated it. The larger chunk of the job was simply acknowledging things you’d held onto are simply trash.
We’re far from hoarders, but once you start really evaluating your belongings, you see disturbing trends. I forced myself to recycle 10-year-old notes from committees where I serve. It was surprisingly difficult, even though I know I’ve never looked back on those notes in that time.
Once you remove the junk from your life, it’s so much easier to find the things you do value.
Those last items, however, were the hardest. On Saturday morning, we had an impromptu ceremony, where we each chose one last thing to toss. What we chose said a lot about who we are and what we value.
My oldest daughter rid herself of some fabric baskets she once bought but never really needed. My middle daughter tossed a talking panda toy from her younger years. My youngest daughter finally acknowledged we had too many stuffed animals, ridding herself of one more.
Then the eyes turned to my wife and me.
My wife decided it was finally time to toss her paint-splattered, worn-thin sweatshirt from her college. The kids joked she’ll finally be wearing something different in our pictures from Christmas morning. I know it was her favorite sweatshirt the entire time I’ve known her, but she decided it was time to retire it.
As for me, I dumped 20 years worth of newspaper clippings that I’d held onto. When I first started in journalism, I started keeping a copy of everything I’d ever written. By the time I returned to the area, it filled up a large tote, weighing in at 97 1/2 pounds.
I haven’t added to the tote since 2005, proving its insignificance to my current life. Everything I’ve ever written for The Lima News — more than 1,200 articles — more conveniently fits on the Internet. Now my early journalistic works await recycling day.
It’s hard to let go of stuff, and it’s hard to let go of the past, so it’s doubly difficult when those overlap. Still, it’s calming in life to be able to clear life of all this clutter — even if sentimentality tries to stop you.