I’ve been cleaning house lately, opening boxes in every nook and cranny in an effort to simplify my life and pair down my possessions. I hoped that I could take an inventory of what I have, what I wish to keep, what is garbage, and what I can finally let go to another home via a local charity.
I. Hate. It.
I ended up with piles not unlike dividing loot three-ways after a bank robbery (don’t read this as a confession): keep, pitch and donate. In reality, it’s not easy to open a box that had been crammed packed 20 years ago and check it out in a matter of minutes. No. No, I to go through every scrap and examine each item so I’m not just holding on to worthless crap for another 20 years.
The culling process takes time, focus and emotional energy.
The keep and donate piles came easily. The trash piles, though, contained some ghosts and shadows of the my past. Deciding what to keep and donate made me feel good; realizing what trash I had held on to for far too long scared me and made me a little ashamed.
Why is it that we hold on to yesterday when it’s gone? At times we hold on to bad things to punish ourselves as a form of penance that can’t possibly please any God. Other times, we hold on to good memories and attempt to keep them alive in recalled scraps and souvenirs. Which is just as bad really—don’t you think?—if those yesteryear memories prevent us from embracing our todays and tomorrows.
As a result of my process, I’ve encouraged my children to view life as a series of doors that we pass through. Each door entered closes some opportunities to us while opening others. And while they should embrace the moment in which they find themselves in at the time, they should do a perpetual house-cleaning to make sure that their homes and their hearts don’t get too cluttered along the way. Not only will that ongoing maintenance keep space for new experiences and new memories, but also it minimizes the possibilities of them uncovering ghosts or shadows that they’ve carried from their pasts into the future.
Take out the papers and the trash, the Coasters suggested in their 1958 song “Yakety Yak.” Get all that garbage out of sight.
I wish I had practiced the words to that song years ago, and then maybe my work here would be done.
What ghosts and shadows have you kept with you long after the time you should have let go?