Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Mistakes Were Made Part 1: The Sorting
The thing that was tricky about preparing to leave was that the future was rather uncertain. (Truthfully, when is it not?) But in this case, we didn’t enjoy the usual illusion of certainty. We didn’t know how long we were going for, we didn’t know when or even if we were coming back to Phoenix. We didn’t know what we’d need soon, or later when we settled down, whenever that would be.
When I used to teach the art of decluttering, I spoke about releasing in these four areas: paper, stuff, activities, and even people. Once we decided to go, we began to tackle the first three categories. In our process, I really didn’t tackle the people side of it for a couple reasons. On the business front, I planned to refer new clients to my contractors, so I didn’t really spread the word that I was leaving. On the personal side, I fully expected to stay connected with my friends. (I came to discover that this expectation was unrealistic – but that’s a later post.)
So we began choosing what to take with us, what to store, what to sell, and what to donate. But we had to do this sorting while keeping the house show-ready.
(It’s so funny – I’ve been staring blankly for a while now as I attempt to recall this time. There are flashes of memory, but they are from the milestones like when we finally sold the house, or were having the estate sale. I’ll have to ask Raymond but I truly am blanking on this letting go process. Was it that horrible? That painful? As an organizer, I saw over and over again the process people go through in releasing their stuff. It’s never just “stuff.” Each thing holds an energy; an energy of a good memory, or of a failure, or a reminder of the person who it was from, or guilt, or joy, or puzzlement [as in, “Why do I have this?”] or, taken as a whole, a rush of feeling overwhelmed. So I must be blanking for a reason because I know it couldn’t have been easy. Perhaps the excitement of the journey ahead made it bearable? I honestly don’t remember. Weird.)
So in decluttering our home, I do know I was ruthless. If I didn’t love it or need it, I let it go. Raymond and I had been married 12 years by then, and a lot of our stuff was ready for upgrading, so instead, we let it go. For example, I had been wanting new dishes for a while, so out went the old ones. Things that you need to run a household, like step ladders, were fair game. I didn’t want to a) pay for storage and possibly b) pay to move a $20 item to a new state or even country when I could easily buy a new one. So with that thinking, we got rid of more stuff than we should have, had we been able to see into the future and know that we would regret getting rid of basics like the food processor.
As I said, mistakes were made. I’d never before regretted being too ruthless in the decluttering process. (Oh, the former organizer in me so does not want to write this! I hate the thought of giving any support to the tendency people already have to keep too much!)
I got rid of some things that we ended up needing (and therefore had to pay to replace) as well as some things with sentimental value (I honestly don’t know what I was thinking). It created some hurt feelings when some people became aware of things I’d let go. I still feel bad about some of it. And in all the moves, I’ve lost stuff, too. That’s never been me. I’m just not one of those people who loses things, yet I have.
So if stuff has energy, looking back now I can see I did not want to feel all the feelings connected with my stuff, and that had me make rash decisions. I was going through literally everything I owned, choosing what very small bit of it to keep – no wonder I felt overwhelmed. Not to mention leaving the town I’d lived in since birth, the people I knew and loved, my home… whew. I actually have to hand it to myself for doing as well as I did.
And mistakes were made.